Arianna Huffington is Definitely Not Invited to the Book Party

(yes… the New York book party on Monday night for “A World in HDR” is invite-only. See the event page and contact the event organizer for more details)

Huffingtonpost uses my son’s photo without permission, no credit is given, my comments deleted

Can you believe it? Surely you are as shocked as me. And because it was a photo of our son, my wife was especially outraged.

So here is what happened. The Huffington Post ran a story entitled, “Girlfriends’ Guide To Divorced Parents: ‘Hey Kids, Wanna Have a Sleepover with Daddy’s New Friend?”. They used a photo of my son from my website and did not link back or give credit.

Now, all of my work is Creative Commons, which means people are allowed to use it for non-commercial purposes as long as they link back and give credit. Simple. They did not do this.

But even worse, to me, is the context of the photo and the article. Who would want their son’s photo associated with such a topic? It was just crass and an all-around bad idea.  Maybe the article itself is acceptable and interesting subject matter, but the article title is quite evocative and that photo makes it even more shocking.

I received the photo below from one of my fans that recognized the picture. I then went into the article itself and left a few comments (I have screenshots) — telling them my issue. They then deleted my comments and never acknowledged them.

I never received an email of apology or anything despite repeated attempts.  I’ve given them plenty of time.  Anyway, I think it’s a pretty lousy thing they did, and I hope photographers think twice before they associate themselves with the Huffington Post.


Creative Commons is Great for Artists

The whole purpose of Creative Commons is to allow people to openly share photos and art with the world. I use the Creative Commons license that says people are not allowed to use my photos for Commercial Purposes. If people want to use the images here from the website, they need to contact [email protected]

99% of the time I have no problem with this, and people share and give credit.

A fantastic example of Creative Commons is from this recent Twitter contest we ran. People would send me a Tweet about a great photo they found online like:

“Hey @TreyRatcliff, I found a beautiful photo on the net for the #hdrbook contest! (Link to Photo)”

You can see the results over at John P.’s One Man’s Blog. All of these artists got their work promoted and seen by tens of thousands of people because of the greatness of Creative Commons.

So, as you can see, John P does it right. Ariana Huffington (by proxy via her website) does it wrong. For this reason, John P gets an invitation to the party and Ariana does not.

Ethan, Free as a Bird, Living Life on the Edge
Here is a happy picture of Ethan, free and joyous in Glacier National Park. It’s a one-shot HDR from a RAW file. See the HDR Tutorial for more info — the one-shot bit is just after step 6.

  • DCMA takedown notice maybe?

  • casusan

    Oh wow – that totally sucks and I totally agree – she needs to apologize!

  • This is another example of for profit companies stealing artist’s work to line their own pockets. They know it is wrong, but figure it’s to big a fight for the artist to pursue.
    So much for the Huffington Post standing up for the average person.
    I hope a protest goes viral.

  • that’s definitely not cool.

    maybe the author of the article was sloppy with giving credit, but at least they should have credited you first you comment on their site instead of deleting your comments. that’s just impudent behavior! hope you get this straightened out soon.

  • This is certainly unfortunate Trey.

    This is exactly the reason that I switched my license back to All Rights Reserved (ARR), as people think that a CC license allows them to use my work in whatever way they see fit. It sucks.

    It probably some new blogger at the HP that doesn’t know the difference and was late with their deadline?

  • You can find tons of examples of large websites who think Creative Commons is synonym for Public Domain. This is especially true of sites which take images from Flickr.

    I’d like to see more big sites called out for this.

  • Appology? Get a lawyer. I think Scott Bourne is rather adept at this with legal assistance. It a flagrant violation of your copyright.

  • Suzi

    This is unacceptable behavior from so-called professionals. I’m glad to see you are taking action. Seriously, how hard would it be to add a photo credit at the base of the article?!

  • I agree. This is totally unacceptable.

  • Rob Hanson

    And to think that I actually like HP. At least, I did before seeing this. We’re behind you, Trey! (Great picture of your son, BTW…)

  • I agree with the get an attorney post. This isn’t just about stealing your work, it’s an adverse exploitation of your children. In my opinion not to very distant from child porn. Something that every child has a right to be protected from. Whatever you decide, good luck.

  • It’s Ok. I’m sure that I’m much more fun than Arianna Huffington anyway. So, you’re not going to miss her. 😉

    John P.

  • Facebook User

    I’d be infuriated too! There is no excuse to not give credit. Perhaps they were worried you wouldn’t approve of the subject matter, but stock photos are used all the time without believing the subject is personally involved in the story. If they can’t afford to buy cheap rights to a surprised looking child, and would rather steal whats actually a work of art, then they deserve to get the sharp end of a stick.

  • everyone with a camera is now an artist or a photographer
    stop whining and get a lawyer
    now you have learned your lesson, don’t put anything on the internet if you don’t want anyone to see it or use it
    now you have had your 7.5 minutes of fame, what’s next?

  • I would be just as outraged as you are Trey. I have listened to Arianna on KCRW’s Left Right & Center for years and like her, so I am very disappointed her website did this to your photog, but perhaps she, herself, is not yet aware of the situation and it’s just someone in her employ responsible.

    @jimmy Umm, I think Trey has a lot more than 7.5 minutes of fame, and rather I believe his fame is continuing unabated, and rightfully so. I know personally I am trying my hardest to come up with the $125 to take both Trey and Scott Bourne’s (my favorite photographer, no offense Trey) HDR course in Tampa, especially since I live only 20 minutes away in Saint Petersburg.

    Good luck!

  • No matter what folks say, Creative Commons is NOT in the interests of artists. Proving what is and what is not commercial can be a very sticky thing. Seems to me that the image was used to illustrate an article, therefor it becomes (or at least could be argued) that it falls under editorial. There is no implicit third party endorsement, and the image is related to an article that is not selling anything.

    I am not arguing that it is right, just pointing out that they can argue that CC gave them license to run a non-commercial, editorial image to illustrate an article. Commercial is too gray a word, and hence my inability to comprehend artists using CC.

    I do hope it all comes out well for you, and please do not construe this as support for Huffington’s actions. I am not a supporter.

  • Thanks for the interesting comments all.

    Donald – I do not think they used it in a commercial way — I see it as a blog post. So, they can use the image, they just have to give credit. However, when it is a child associated with something like that, then common sense would say they should either contact me or buy stock image from an imagebank.

    But I do think CC is generally good for artists. We’ll agree to disagree. A small percentage of people do “steal”, but that is not enough to dissuade me from the benefits of the other 99% sharing the work widely, freely, and for the benefit of all.

    To me, art, like information, wants to be free (not caged). When art intersects with commercialism, there is room for all parties to benefit monetarily. But these events are usually rare, and obvious. I think of sharing my art online very much like a museum putting up paintings on a wall. Everyone can come enjoy them for practically free (museum entry fees are close to free)…

    So, obviously, I am not afraid of sharing my stuff widely online. There is a re-education period going on… and I’m happy to start the conversation about proper use of Creative Commons.

  • Facebook User

    This speaks volumes to Arianna Huffingtion’s world view.
    She seems to have no respect for anyones property except her own.

  • The CC aside, The fact that they deleted your comment is saying that they do not wish to cooperate with you, which seams to me a somewhat shady way to do business. I am amazed that after hearing that you were upset about the use of your picture they would not see what they could do to accommodate you i.e. give you credit. I hope that in the near future you receive some sort of apology, not to mention credit.

  • Sucks. What the hell are they thinking. Who doesn’t know the trouble of misusing people’s art?! One would think that these guys would check that as a standard. Especially that they could probably have gotten an OK to use it free with a link.
    I had that with a blog post of mine, before I put the CC license on.

  • Kathy

    Trey, I believe they have committed the tort of invasion of privacy against your son and I would hold them accountable. Your son has rights here as well as you. Invasion of privacy isthe intrusion into the personal life of another, without just cause, which can give the person whose privacy has been invaded a right to bring a lawsuit for damages against the person or entity that intruded.1) intrusion on one’s solitude or into one’s private affairs; 2) public disclosure of embarrassing private information; 3) publicity which puts him/her in a false light to the public; 4) appropriation of one’s name or picture for personal or commercial advantage.

  • Kathy

    I would definitely stay on them Trey. What is to stop someone from photoshoping his head and putting it on a naked child’s body and sending it around pedophelia hell. They all have rings and there are some sick twists out there. Remember this is more about Ethan’s privacy and his rights and they should have gotten your permission as a father to print that picture. To me this is nothing more than theft and invasion of a child’s privacy and putting him in a false light.

  • Dunno, Trey – I think this is commercial. I mean, yeah – it’s a blog post. They may be losing money, and they may be (I really don’t know) a non profit type of operation, but they’re still making money off of ads.

    IMO this is worse than wrong – it’s flat-out unethical. For a group that purports to make the opposing political party look evil, they’re doing a good job of making themselves out to be hypocrites.

  • Sam

    Love your pictures, love your comments. Perhaps pictures of your children should not be allowed to be used anywhere without your express permission. It’s kind of a private thing. On the other hand people who use your pictures in their blogs etc. properly is free advertising for you. so I think the creative commons thing is a good thing. I just like viewing your pictures. thanx

  • Dave

    The image was used on the authors website:

  • Don

    Trey, there have been many valid comments posted about this unfortunate situation. I have to agree compleatly with Paul Hailes. The fact that they deleted your comment speaks volumes about their character. It’s good to see that just about everyone sympathizes with your opinion.

  • She sucks anyway so what do you expect and not inviting to your book signing is a good idea ;-). The woman is not all there if you ask me. She was running for Governor of California when the Governator was elected.

  • I sent them a quick email – the one with for scoops.

    Hey Huffington Post,

    Here is a story you should follow up on –

    Seriously, you’re using the photo without abiding by the very liberal terms of use. I assume it’s because it’s a little guy and not Getty images.

    You need to do the right thing if you want to be regarded as a responsible citizen of the internet, or as a serious news source.

    Any chance you’ll cover this on your blog?

    Please let me know,


  • My $0.02. I don’t see this as much a problem of the Huff Po stealing Trey’s copyrighted material, but rather unprofessional dishonesty of the author Vicki Iovine. My understanding is that blog aggregators like Huff Po bring in content from writers who promise they have the legal authority to provide the content. Huff Po probably cannot verify everything that gets submitted to them; they have to take the submitter’s word for it. A similar thing happened to me recently with Fast Company online; at least my comment regarding self-promotion was not deleted by the author. We as content creators need to adapt along with the rapidly changing nature of mass media. I would love to trust the CC, but at this point, cannot. ARR all the way. How hard is it to shoot me an email?

  • jawsh3539

    Seriously! That is a bunch of junk. Sorry that happened…hopefully they will apologize and make it right.

  • Lyn Scott

    You have always been so generous with all of your information – photos and learning tools. It’s too bad somebody takes advantage of the nice guy, because it makes everyone suspicious…and the artcle they used your son’s picture for was awful. This just reinforces what we already know – that media people are not well thought of when it comes to ethics,integrity and getting the story straight. Don’t let this go. We can all blast whoever is responsible, just give us the word.

  • Facebook User

    Yes, I agree the issue is their refusal to comply after the fact. I’m sure you were fair an polite in your comments as well. To the post by user “jimmy” earlier, yes anyone who takes a picture can be considered an artist. This is obviously not an issue where Trey is “whining” however. The point isn’t about frivolous lawsuits, it is about a very simple ignorance of giving props to the artist. No matter what licensing trey were to use, this would have happened. He is kind enough to share his art with the world via this blog, not simply through exclusive art houses that the public never gets to experience. He serves as an inspiration and teacher to thousands of people due to sharing his material and processes. Its a simply problem that could be rectified without a dollar being spent on legal fees.

  • Ron

    Not surprising coming from the collectivist Huffingtonpissed. Oh well, Who is John Galt?

  • Martha M


    Have you contacted Vicki Iovine as well for using your picture in the first place on her own website?

    If so, what was her response to this? She certainly knows that HP is running her article.

  • Take a look at Ms. Iovine’s blog:

    It’s a copyright-photopalooza. Based on how Trey’s photo is used on her site, I’m going to hazard a guess that she doesn’t have permission to use these celebrity/news photos either.

    Sounds like a habitual line-stepper to me.

    In the case of HuffPost, I’m guessing a site editor grabbed the image off her site, assuming it was hers to use. My friend Tracy just had a similar experience with HuffPo and they offered to fix it quickly. They found the image elsewhere, not directly on her blog.

  • Eric
  • Luis Martich

    People like Arianna Huffingtion, makes voters be independent or switch to the Republican Party. She is a negative person who made her money being an online vulture. I am on with the boycott to anything related with her site or any sponsors on her site.

  • Gail

    This is no acceptable, Trey. I’m so sorry that good for nothing so called blogger did this to you and your son. To bad you couldn’t sue her!!! The picture of your son that you posted is really nice!!!! I’m not even going to put it on facebook in my Trey Ratcliff Album as I don’t want some other nut using it!!!!

  • Weak move by Huffers! I can’t believe she deleted your comment too. As if no one would find out?

  • Totally agree with you, which is why I’ve decided that photos of my family and people I love are not licensed as Creative Commons. The fact that they used the photo without proper credit aside (yes, that’s bad), the worst part is that yes, they used it on a story that was inappropriate. For that reason, I’m a believer in limiting access to family images to friends and putting a strict copyright on them.

    What’s really horrible is their refusal to change it even after you’ve asked.

  • Debra

    There’s two separate legal issues here, the way I see it.

    You’ve got Copyright, which solely protects the financial interests of a creator, so unless you’re interested in getting money from the Huffington Post, it’s probably not worth the effort (though whoever suggested a DMCA take-down would probably legally be correct so you could always use copyright laws to get the photo removed.).

    Then you have the privacy right issue. Ethan’s a minor, first, and secondly, you, as his parent, did not consent to his image being used in this way. You can’t just use the image of a person on a commercial medium without the person’s permission. It’s not like stock photography where those are taken and the subjects pretty much sign away the right to object to how the photos are used. The Huffington Post should’ve bought one of those pictures, and it was incredibly stupid to use a photograph like this.

    Good luck, Trey, the law is on your side I think!

  • john parkes

    Trey, my sympathies to your family on the use your sons image in an inappropriate way(one which does not have the moral approval of the parents).

    Beyond that, the way they abused the CC licensing has to be legally followed through on by the artists protected by the license or the entire chain of protection weakens. You best protect yourself and the CC license itself by not allowing this to go without pursuing a legal challenge and/or settlement.

    The most common attacks, and most likely to make the CC license a toothless joke, are the minor violations permitted to go unchallenged that build up until the perception is that it’s a week protection and an easy thing to get away with.

    Don’t let Huffington get away with this, it doesn’t have to be a full blown law suit, but if you don’t speak up, firmly, and loudly, demand reparations, you weaken the very laws that protect you/us/children. Beyond that the morally questionable use of your sons image has to be stepped on, for your son and the children of your contemporaries in the photographic community, I am personally angry that they abused a trust we all assume to protect all children, regardless of the law.

    I am a fierce protector of both children and the CC license as you can surely infer from my comment. As a father you have a responsibility to make sure people respect your children, and your work involving them. If you give them an inch they will take a mile unless you become fierce in your protection of both.

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  • john parkes

    An update to my previous post;

    I have just cancelled my H Post acct, included was a letter stating my disgust at what they did, and a demand for immediate action on their part to correct the situation, I also did the same with my H Post iPhone app.

    Thats as much as can be done on my end to redress this situation on your behalf. Good luck Trey.

  • Evan

    That’s BS that they did that, but believe it or not, I’m not surprised that HP would do something like that. Seems to be the way of the world these days. I’m glad you were able to get them to take it off of their site. They and their ilk are just plain reprehensible.

  • Thank you for all the comments and legal opinions. Also thank you for all the personal emails… I had no idea we had so many lawyers (good, mean ones!) that read the blog – thank you – we are looking at everything.

    Someone above asked if I did try to contact Vicki. Yes. It was her article, so I put comments on her article, which were then deleted. I assumed that it was either Vicki or someone at Huffpost that deleted them… although I did grab screenshots just in case they were removed. I was very nice and civil and explained the situation as plainly as possible.

    This is not normally a problem. My images have over 21 million views on Flickr alone, and I can count on one hand how many “legitimate” organizations have tried to do something like this.

  • Hey Trey I work at a big bad law firm in Dalls, you want me to sick some lawyers on her???

  • Facebook User

    I really don’t get it. You are not asking for compensation beyond a link. Is a link at the bottom of a blog post really so difficult? Although, I would guess it is the fault of the author and not the fault of Huffington.

    I run several blogs on various topics and even though I take lots of photos myself, sometimes I need something specific to go with a post. Because of that, I sincerely appreciate the photographers who offer photos via CC licenses and therefore I am glad to return the favor with a link back. I also am glad for music artists who provide songs via CC licenses. I use them for time lapse videos which without the music would not be nearly as interesting.

    Good luck pursuing this until the end. You are doing this on behalf of many other creative people who share beautiful works under Creative Commons.

  • sr
  • Justin L

    Let the world know of this breach of trust from the Huffingtonpost. Show your support and help the little guy rise up against the corporate lawyers and deep pockets. Lets get this on the front page of Digg.

  • Wow forgetting or omitting to link your photo is one thing but deleting your comments, that is ridiculous! I hope this gets straightened out, thats a pretty serious no no.

  • Umm, sorry but it IS the fault of AH. As the owner of the blog, she is ultimately responsible, just like I am for what is on my blog.

    This is just crap and indicative oh how people with those political leanings believe rules are for everyone but themselves.


  • Very disrespectful of Huffingtonpost. The similar case happened with Strobist.

    Very very sad of such people 🙁

  • Looks like the Huffington Post not only deleted you comment, they also deleted your picture. Probably the best outcome for all concerned.

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  • There are several sites that don’t care about CC. My brother’s pic got used for an article where the content was absolutely not in line with the original picture intent. It was completely turned around 180deg. The (radical catholic news site) site has a lot of articles where the photographer is mentioned, but most of the photographers would not comply with the use of their photos.
    He posted this and even set up a flickr group:[email protected]

  • Really not surprising coming from the Huffington Post. They have few moral qualms, be it with theft, lying for personal or political gain, or promoting anti-science that kills people (like anti-vaccination advocates).

    Huffington Post represents the worst of the web, and indeed the very worst of humanity. I am sorry you had an incident involving them.

  • I’m sorry that this happened but am glad that it appears Huffpo has removed the content, I agree with the previous commenters that, if your “nice’ approaches were spurned, its time to file a DMCA notice. If you need any help with that or any future cases, please let me know, I am only too happy to assist!

    Good luck!

  • Eric

    Interesting that the authors husband is in the record business, the same folks who don’t even want to recognize fair use.

    From her site (where she STILL uses your picture without attribution): “

    The writer has been married for 21 years to Jimmy Iovine, Chairman of Interscope, Geffen, A&M Records


  • Facebook User

    I have been vicitim of copy right violations several times on the net. (writing, short stories). If someone just posts my story, instead of linking it… bad enough. If someone even puts their name above it… I could scream and kick…
    I am pursuing this – without help of a lawyer – but the result often is minimal (things get deleted, no feedback).

    In your case, though, it is not just a case of violation of copy right and violation of the usage rights you provide to others (great that you do!)
    I see more impact in the violation of your son’s rights to his own picture and your own as well as your families reputation.
    The article talks of kids in trouble families with divorce background.
    The picture of your son is online, in a context of you family.
    In recognizing your son one could make false connections.

    I recommend getting a lawyer and showing an example. After you’re done: post about it and let the world know what CC means.

    People think that everything they find (especially) on the web is everybody’s property and they can use, sample, take, alter, re-shape it, brag with it and maybe even make money of it. When payday comes they all did not know… sad, really

  • steph

    Leaving a comment isn’t an effective way to bring something like this up. Use their contact page to send them an email:

    It’s much harder for an email to get lost than a comment.

  • zlord

    The photo seems to have be taken of HP, but it is still on this site:

  • I wrote to the offending author at her website. I think you should take her product and REBRAND it as yours, then make a mock-up photo of it, and email it to her and ask her how it feels. It’s a little tacky, but I think the message will get through. I recommend a Take-Down notice to her ISP though.

  • Facebook User

    I see some other comments of users talking about having similar issues to Trey. I highly recommend this web site See the section Stop Internet Plagiarism for how to detect and fight plagiarism or copyright violation of photography.

  • Mal

    Typical filthy behavior from Huffington et al; and, in the end, just another reason that I avoid them like the plague they are.

  • I agree a DMCA take down notice, bout bloody time that stupid law was used for something good.

  • Let’s make this go viral! Stumble it!

  • Laurence Cawley

    I work as a print journo in the UK and I’d be sacked if I made that mistake. Technically your son and you have been defamed, irrespective of the creative commons element . That’s because of the context of its use – i.e the suggestion that you and your wife have broken up and your son is struggling to come to terms with it. I am absolutely stunned they used the image in the first place (We would certainly mock up our own image without a child’s identity being on display). To not then check exactly where it has come from, who the child is and whether parental permissions (both) have been granted is simply incredibly shoddy.

    As others have said, the publisher (in this case Huffington Post) is responsible for everything they publish, not the person submitting an article. And, unlike newspapers, the article is published every time it is clicked on (rather than once, as with newspapers).

    I’d get a lawyer.

  • Sammy da Bull

    Ariana & Her Huffington Post SUCK!

  • Karl Larson

    I was looking for web sites that bag on Huff-Po, but this is nicer. The premiere photo web site and with thoughtful commentary.
    Back on point, Huffington Post has forgotten how to be professional.

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