I’m not a reader, Sydney Morning Herald

Sydney Morning Herald – What’s up?

Errr… Anyone heard of Creative Commons Noncommercial? Maybe someone involved with copyright there at the Sydney Morning Herald perhaps? I like how they say, “a selection of our readers’ photographs” — very sly. This both indicates that they have legions of readers and that all the photographs are from these adoring legions. I just checked my doorstep here in Queenstown, New Zealand. Nope, I don’t see the Sydney Morning Herald there.

My license, which is quite generous and clear on the site says noncommercial. Now, I know newspapers are commercial, even though they are hemorrhaging money as people flock online to get more timely news and better photos (which, apparently, they are doing too for content-mining). So, the commercial use is definitely a no-no.

But in worse form, I think it’s a bit rude not to give credit down there towards the bottom of the photo. Instead, they used that valuable space to indicate that “oh we’re just one big community with ‘our readers’ who take these pics for fun.” Oh no, I didn’t pay thousands of dollars to fly to your country and stay in a hotel and buy camera equipment so I could take photos of your duck to adorn your newspaper. /said in the voice of Tim from The Holy Grail when he said “I warned you, but did you listen to me? Oh, no, you *knew*, didn’t you? Oh, it’s just a harmless little *bunny*, isn’t it?”

HDR Photo

(thanks for the tip off on Google+ from Daniel Shortt.)

Speaking of Copyright Infringement…

I saw a comment on Google+ from CNET reporter Lexy Savvides

Hilariously timed +Trey Ratcliff given that the SMH [Sydney Morning Herald] last week recently posted pieces on photographers having content stolen. See this article?

Looks like it was used online too, littered with revenue-generating ads…

Good person “Dawnstar Australis” sent me this tweet that it is also being used online (image):

@dawnstarau: @TreyRatcliff Incidentally here’s the digital copy of the article with your image front and centre – http://bit.ly/VVQ4po

Harlan Ellison says it better than I could (and funnier!)

This is the famous Harlan Ellison, who I first came to know through his work on Babylon 5, but he’s also won the Hugo Award over nine times! It’s great to see him go off… I’m sure many photographers will really enjoy hearing him get angry! ๐Ÿ™‚

Thank you to good man Matt Fangman who left this video link below.


There has since been an article on another Australian media outlet by Nic Christensen where he got in contact with the editor of the SMH.

Daily Photo – Rubber Duck by Florentijn Hofman

I think it is a wonderful surreal work of art! Then again, I’m a huge fan of David Lynch and Twin Peaks. Anything surreal in my parallel universe gets a big thumbs up…

Artist: Florentijn Hofman

Rubber Duck by Florentijn Hofman

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2018-01-04 20:13:56
  • Camera
  • Camera Make
  • Exposure Time
  • Aperturef/11
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length14mm (14mm in 35mm)
  • Flashflash did not fire, compulsory flash mode
  • Exposure Programaperture priority
  • Exposure Bias

  • susan ratcliff

    Wow – this is such an awesome shot of the ‘ducky’! Too bad they did not give you credit – am sure they will apologize?

  • LOL!! Dude. That fish wrap stole your Rubber Ducky pic? I have no idea why, but that’s just funny. Not funny enough to not drop a hot suit on them unless a big check wasn’t in the mail, but funny.

  • A great Photo, I love how the serious drama of the photo clashes with the comedy of a giant rubber duck! sad that they stole your photo, Lunar park re tweeted one of my photos I took there with out asking me, not sure if I should chase them up on that!

  • I appreciate that the community helps to track down license violations! It is very sad that a newspaper is as shabby like that and not ask if they could use your picture. I’m quite sure you would have given them permission to use it if they had asked… not for free perhaps

  • gavz

    Great shot, shame about the licensing and attribution problems – you would think that the editor should have picked this up.

  • I assume you saw the SMH story last week featuring dozens of example of stolen photographs… Story here Hypocrites! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Trey Ratcliff

    Thanks for the feedback! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Matthew Nelson

    I really hope they are going to be making a massive apology and paying you for using it.

  • JK Blackwell

    So apparently on the SMH article, there’s a link for the public to submit a request for reprints/ permission to reproduce the article and/or image – and SMH will charge for it? Hilarious – so they used your image w/o first writing to you for permission let alone attribute you or remunerate you. Hope you have written to SMH / Adam Fulton about this.

  • Casper van Zyl

    Sad,don’t they have good enough photographers working for them that they have to steal. Great shot,love the mums action,the child does not look that fuss about it.

  • Oh I’m sure they’ll see this post and be just a little ashamed… A couple hundred of the 7+ million people that follow you will make sure of that mate ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • The crux of the issue is
    a. The people in their organisation who find these images and do not do the due diligence of securing the appropriate license;
    b. Their managers who do not do the due diligence to ensure that the appropriate licenses and/or consents have been secured;
    c. The editors who have overlooked the entire process.

    This isn’t to suggest that this is excusable – far from it. I wonder where the buck is going to stop on this one when the editor comes under fire. Someone is going to get a slap on the wrist tomorrow morning in the office (if the phone hasn’t stopped ringing already).

  • Luke Zeme

    Another good one is “Oh but isn’t the exposure good enough for your payment?” *laughable* … They need us creative types to help sell their papers and they shouldn’t be abusing that relationship.

  • Uprooted_Photographer

    Paying for it is only half of the issue. The SMH needs to realize what they did was wrong and issue some sort of major apology + do some serious internal staff educating.

  • Shit roles downhill, as they say… so whoever is at the bottom of the food chain.

  • Sue them! Sue them all!!!

  • My guess would be that your photo possibly inspired the whole article Trey. That’s one of the things that sets your photos apart from so many others – there’s always a special story in what you capture.

  • two words,- “sue them”

  • Veronica

    cool shot!!! i guess good photography is so ubiquitous now they take it for granted. not nice.

  • Well that sucks! go get-em Trey!

    They should know better!

  • Have you filed a complaint or contacted anyone at the paper? If so have you received a response? I hope this makes some waves. Good luck

  • Tony Beverley

    I posted a topic to the SIC forums back on Wed Sep 26, 2012 titled “Creative Commons, copyright and tracking your photos” and got no response. None! Nadda! I’ve recently re-posted it to the new SIC community on Google+ since I think I may get a response this time given the current outrage over the issue.

    You know what…I think I’ll paste the original post here also.


    Sorry if all this has been addressed before but I did do a search and could find nothing to address my questions which are;

    1. When does Trey “tag” or copyright his pictures with his identifying information before he uploads them?

    have watched a number of his “workflow” videos and I never see this
    procedure actually addressed. I’ve heard him talk about it but…
    2. How does one, or you Trey, track your photos once they are in the wild?

    Trey’s stuff is “tagged”, I’ve downloaded a number of Trey’s shots from
    Facebook, Smugmug, and here and I can’t find any metadata or creative
    commons or copyright information identifying anyone or organization in
    the photos.
    3. Given my reason for question number two, how does one check for owner information in photos taken from the net?

    4. I’m aware of a couple of methods to track work on the web but how do Trey and Stuck in Customs do it?

    While I’m not a prolific photographer I would like to make sure I’m
    recognized if one of my works happens to get noticed. Is there a
    documented step by step method espoused by Trey to address this main

    I view myself as somewhat of a Trey Ratcliff
    devotee and would like to get these answers from a source I view as
    knowledgeable and that I respect.




  • If they need any help understanding your perspective, send them this 3 minute rant by Harlan Ellison. Epic.


  • Tony,

    I responded to your Google+ post. I had sent you an email earlier, but I suppose it didn’t make it – sorry about that!

  • sortfn

    It is also possible that some enterprising reader submitted and claimed the photo as their own, and the paper’s not at fault at all.

  • The newspapers and such don’t want to pay for photos anymore. I have had 2 different local papers contact me about using my photos and when I mention that I want to be compensated, they say no thanks. They rather prowl the internet and find something that they can use for free.
    I hope you nail these guys……

  • olaf willoughby

    Trey I had a similar situation with a UK national newspaper who featured one my images from the Antarctic on a climate change article on the front page without permission. I contacted the leading circulation UK photo mag and asked if they would write an article on it. They lapped it up and put me in touch with a specialist lawyer. I contacted the paper and got an unreserved apology and a cheque in 7 days. That’s what I managed and no-one has heard of me ๐Ÿ™‚ You’re in a very strong position. I hope you get properly compensated. Best. Olaf

  • Trey Ratcliff

    @lukesic:disqus make sure you invite Tony to the new community on G+ ! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Trey Ratcliff

    Thanks for all the feedback – just woke up and reading through it now! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Trey Ratcliff

    Yes, we will see… I’ve yet to hear anything yet.

  • Trey Ratcliff

    Yes, first they fire their photography staff then they try to get free photos… They would not have had to fire their staff if they had maintained a profitable and growing organization by embracing the web earlier.

  • Trey Ratcliff

    I doubt it, since all the other photos in the article are properly credited, probably via an online form. My photo is questioningly bereft of data.

  • Trey Ratcliff

    Great thanks so much — I will embed this above… I love it ๐Ÿ™‚

  • L.

    Perhaps a reader of the newspaper didn’t download your image and uploaded it to them?

  • Neil Howard

    I had the same thing happen to me Trey when a Daily paper from Bristol used my photos from Alderney in a big travel article. My image was the centre point of the full page (similar to yours here!)
    I wrote directly to the photo editor of the paper, with proof that it was my CC image! He responded quickly, and told me that the travel writer had submitted the images with the article and claimed them as their own!!!
    The editor was actually ropeable, which was good! I negotiated license with him and basically named a price & I was paid promptly. – I received a communication not long after, informing me that the travel writer had been “let go” over the incident!

    I think that the situation may be a little different with you, but I do think that, IF you can get to the actual photo editor of the SMH, you may find that he/she had been deceived, and will be willing to try to negotiate out of it…
    Good luck mate!

  • These guys did exactly this to me via a twitter account that I run for a NSW RFS brigade, due to the context of it I’m not really that fussed however it shows there is either a lack of knowledge or blatant disregard for copyright on behalf of the paper. This is the article: http://m.smh.com.au/environment/weather/homes-under-threat-near-bungendore-jugiong-20130108-2cecs.html and the original tweet: https://twitter.com/BungendoreRFS/status/288452688188940288. You can see they used the photo and the tweet essentially as a caption and wrote source: Bungendore RFS – would have been nice to have known they’d taken it!

  • Kat Warren Photography

    Wow, that’s pretty brazen of them! As a writer and a photographer I’ve had both images and articles stolen and used without my permission or payment, mostly overseas. LOVED the video!!! I hope they compensate you in some way.

  • Crashoran

    Trey come back to Austin!

  • I am outraged at the injustice of this on behalf of all artists, struggling and successful alike. I think though, they picked the wrong artist to steal from. Trey, you have immense social media clout, and I hope the backlash from this teaches them a thing or two. I will be following this story and hope to see an apology from them. It’s the right thing to do.

  • I am outraged at the injustice of this on behalf of all artists, struggling or successful. I think though, they picked the wrong artist to steal from. Trey, you have immense social media clout and I hope the backlash from this teaches them a thing or two. I’ll be following this story and hope to see an apology from them in the end.

  • JB Josรฉ

    This is unacceptable. I hope they credit you and issue some sort of apology. The SMH had already become disreputable in my books and this is additional fuel to that argument.

  • Reflex Digital

    I wrote a letter to the editor regarding the herald’s “we’re being screwed” article and the fact they used one of my pics-uncredited, in the same issue as the article. It didn’t get published.

  • HI Trey, Have you heard anything back from them yet?

  • Trey Ratcliff

    Update: Another article ran just a few mins ago:

    โ€œPerhaps they have placed a handwritten apology in the pouch of a kangaroo and it jumped in the wrong direction, for I have yet to receive it (or any digital facsimile thereof),โ€ said Ratcliff.

  • Ockert Le Roux

    Hi Trey, whilst I followed the SMH blunder with interest, I had an email note from Gillie Schattner. She is the artist that designed the “Paparazzi Dogs” requesting permission to publish the photo of you and the “dogs” I recently took on Federation Square in her new upcoming book. If you don’t mind, I will grant her that permission, this time with you as the model! (tongue in the cheek) Anyway, Australia loves you and I trust SMH will treat you fair. Ockert le Roux

  • Casper van Zyl

    So true,the least they could of done is approach you and not pinch off you.

  • I’m curious to hear how this turns out. I’m not a lawyer, but I thought editorial use typically wasn’t considered to be commercial use, even though the newspaper is a commercial enterprise.

  • PJ Evans

    shame shame..kick his a** seabass!

  • CC is a legal licence in Australia and several have won their claims with CC. The journalist and the editor new exactly that they had no right on the image.

  • Mark L.

    This is the kind of BS that political types use to justify SOPA laws. Similar to school shootings and gun laws, it’s so blatant, it leaves you scratching your head.

  • Trey, you know I love your work, but if anyone wants to get super tetchy – did you secure a model release for the people in the photo? I’m also pretty sure that shooting commercially on Darling Harbour is forbidden without a release from the managing authority.

    And am the only one who sees irony in posting a link to Ellison’s rant – I’m pretty sure he would not approve.

    There’s a grey area when you talk about editorial and commercial use of photos – newspapers’ use generally understood not to be commercial, which is where it is used in a marketing or advertising sense.

    Having written all that, what the Herald did in not attributing the photo or checking its provenance adequately is absolutely wrong and I know they would take a dim view were someone to do it to them.

  • I meant to add that following Morel’s trumping of Getty Images and several newspapers last week, I would have thought the Herald would be more sensitive to such usage – http://www.courtroomstrategy.com/2013/01/getty-images-loses-major-case-brought-by-photographer-daniel-morel/

  • Des Harris

    Trey. Invoice them. You will get paid. I have done with others in the past. Stand your ground. If you need more help, contact me. Des Harris, Board Member ACMP.

  • sortfn

    Fair enough. That’s not apparent in the photo of the paper.

  • jenniferl

    I’m interested in the answers, too. Where can I find them? I couldn’t find the post in the SIC G+ community.

  • Mandy Jones

    Harlan Ellison – way to go!!!

  • Ed Boutilier

    I had a similar incident where my photos were used by a magazine in print, on-line and on social media. Unlike Trey I watermark my photos however that provides no guarantee of protecting them from
    copyright infringement. These people dismantled more than 10 of my photos and many other peoples by removing the watermarks and adding their own mark. They claimed it was an innocent error โ€“ umm yea OK.There are no excuses for anyone working in the media industry to do this. They need to be exposed and to pay for these “innocent errors”.
    My Story here: http://bit.ly/LgODz7

  • You don’t need a model release if the subjects aren’t clearly recognizable. Pretty sure the backs of their heads don’t do enough to prove who they are.
    While I have no idea what the rules are about photos at Darling Harbour, it appears to be public land and I doubt the legality of such a restriction. Not to mention, I’d have a hard time arguing that Trey was “shooting commercially” in this case.

    As a photographer, you should be smart enough not to take this as an appropriate behavior by the SMH.

  • Did you pay the person whose dock is in your photo or the person who made that duck. It cracks me up that, because you hit a button on a digital device and clicked a few times in photoshop you are given a soap box about who “stole from you” i can guarantee any single item in “your” 2 second photo took more time to design never mind execute than your picture. Get some perspective and be grateful for blessings.

  • MattyB,

    The image is used here and sold as a print with the artist’s permission. I won’t address the implications around your comments about Trey’s photographic skills and the merits of such, but copyright law and Creative Commons concessions are very specific and clear about these issues.

  • piersvan

    The link to the other journalists page doesn’t work (any more?)

  • That’s correct on the model releases. The person(s) in the photo must be clearly recognizable and a focal point of the image.

    Also correct on the public space comment. Lots of “managing authorities” of spaces like this, particularly in urban areas, try to take advantage of their right to ban tripods (for example) to bar commercial shooting. Of course, there’s a difference in this case between private and/or municipal regulation and legality.

    While there can be a grey area concerning editorial use, in this day and age the practical application (and it can be argued the original intent of the distinction) has more to do with removing barriers to the paper publishing pictures they obtain through contracted freelancers or employed photographers – not just grabbing any image anywhere and placing it in a paper. I’m not personally familiar enough with international law to know if the freedom of the press (often invoked in editorial use) provided via the Constitution has a counterpart in Australia.

    Again, not anything you weren’t speaking to in your comment – just adding some detail. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • PaperSmyth

    It seems that I finally, and sadly, now have something in common with you, O Great One. We’ve both had newspapers use our photos without permission. (Certainly not the commonality I was hoping for.) Any more updates? Apologies from them? Anything?
    Condolences, sir. I hope any publicity you get pays for their shady conduct.

  • Paul

    just saw this photo being used here…no idea if you gave license


  • treyratcliff


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