COMMENTARY: Thou shall not steal photos By Keith Bacongco

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/12 Aug) — I was browsing the official Kadayawan sa Davao website on Wednesday morning to check for upcoming events when I noticed a familiar photograph of then Vice Mayor (now Mayor) Sara Duterte hailed by her supporters outside the Commission on Elections (Comelec) office after filing her certificate of candidacy for mayor.

I thought it was Ruby Thursday More’s photograph because it was not posted on my Flickr account, where I usually upload my dispatched photos. But when I checked on the sent folder of my email, it turned out it was my photo after all.

To confirm it was, indeed, my photo, I checked my archives and found out that it was taken on November 30, 2009. So I wrote an e-mail to the secretariat of the Kadayawan 2010 via its online email form.

I told them, in a note dripping with sarcasm, to please rename the filename of the photo especially if they grabbed it from somewhere so that it would be a little harder for the owner to trace or recognize it.

Unfortunately, the photograph they posted at Kadayawan website still bore the file name format that I have been using for AKP Images’ dispatches. This only shows the laziness of those running this website. I don’t know how hard to rename the file. In short, katangahan!

This only shows not only the laziness of those running this website but their brazenness in using someone else’s photographs without permission, without care they would be caught. And caught they were. Surely, the city government can afford to hire better web designers to have a more presentable website? Then again, surely, the city government can afford to hire honest web designers?

But that’s another story.

What really irks me is that the photo is not even posted in my online galleries. And yet it reached the hands of the Kadayawan Secretariat? How?

Minutes later, I received an email from the City Tourism Office:

“Sir, we apologize for the negligence. Which photo man, Sir, so that we can give you proper credit? Or if you would really want us to remove it, we will do so. “The photos are from the files of the previous Kadayawan Festivals compiled by/submitted to the City Tourism Operations Office. The other photos are from the Documentation Team of the previous Kadayawan Festivals. Our apologies, sir. Sensya na gyud kaau in behalf of our office.”

It was signed by Ian Garcia.

Mysterious source

I told him that it does not belong to the Kadayawan Festival. The photograph, in fact, wasn’t taken during Kadayawan. Most of all, the photo was not dispatched to the city government or the city tourism office, to be specific. So how come it reached Kadayawan Secretariat or City Tourism Office?

I checked my “sent” folder and found the photograph, along with three others I think, was dispatched only to Davao City-based Mindanao Times and Daily Mirror, two national dailies and three online news sites.

But Mr. Garcia, who also writes for Mindanao Times, had the gall to ask me if I want to be credited in the website. No thanks, Mr. Garcia. Worse, the photo they selected for the 1st Mayor Inday Sara Duterte All – Women Aero Marathon does not match the event. It does not symbolize or represent the event at all! It is an election-related photograph!

It would have been better if they posted a photo of Mayor Sara Duterte taken during the previous Kadayawan Festivals. Common sense.

And they could have asked a photograph from the City Information Office which is funded by taxpayers and which should have a photo of the mayor.

Designers can suggest

I don’t believe webmasters or designers only follow what their clients say. As a designer myself, if I would be given an inappropriate photo for a certain page, I would demand that an appropriate photo be given me.

A festival website could draw hundreds of thousands of viewers to check on events so the website must be presentable enough and the materials posted, appropriate so as not to mislead the public.

The Kadayawan Secretariat should maintain an archive of photographs so that when they need materials for promotional materials, they can just easily retrieve and not grab someone else’s without permission.

I believe the Kadayawan Secretariat has a budget for photo documentation every year. After all, this is the 25th Kadayawan, right? So where are your photographs? Why resort to stealing someone else’s work? Note that the photograph in question was not posted online. So how did it reach the Kadayawan Festival Secretariat? Mysterious.

Common problem

Although my photo has been removed from the page of the website, the issue doesn’t end there. The issue is stealing photographs. It’s an issue of professional dishonesty. Respect the photographers, please, even if grabbing and reposting someone else’s photo is a common crime in the World Wide Web.

This is a common problem among photographers who maintain online galleries. Watermarks are not enough to protect your photographs given the power of photo editing software these days. Many photographers also complain of illegal downloading and reposting of photographs.

Well aside from simply downloading from the websites, photographs can now be easily slipped from one digital drive to another. I believe this is what happened to my photograph of Mayor Duterte.

But the question is, from whose computer did they steal that photograph?

It’s hard to stop this problem. But for us who belong to the media community, we must show some respect to our fellow journalists.

Jimmy Domingo, photojournalism faculty of the Asian Center for Journalism at the Ateneo de Manila University, told us: “Once you upload your photograph on the Internet, nanakawin talaga yan!”

In this digital world, we cannot really control Internet piracy – from music, videos, artworks, photographs and other digital files. Personally, I won’t mind if the photo has been grabbed from my online galleries. I’m ready to face the truth that once it’s on the net, somebody’s going to steal it.

Whoever you are, and the rest of those who are stealing photographs: please remember you did not just steal my photograph. You also stole my livelihood.

P.S. The Kadayawan Secretariat must remind Digilution, the site’s host and developer, to totally delete my photograph from its online storage. It’s still there, as of this writing. I know how to trace it.

(Keith Bacongco is MindaNews’ webmaster. He is one of the founders of AKP Images, and he has a Diploma of Photojournalism of the Asian Center for Journalism at the Ateneo de Manila University.)