'The Sting' Revisited

Aug 26, 2015

Photographers are frustrated, and rightfully so, with all the thievery on the Internet.

Like many other photos, "The Sting," is being used illegally for commercial purposes. It's appeared on sites like PhotoBucket where unscrupulous people sell it as canvas prints and holiday cards. It's popped up on Flickr, with clients claiming they captured the image.

It's appeared unauthorized and uncredited on coffee cups, iphone covers, t-shirts, tote bags, posters, games, YouTube videos, album covers, avatars and is available for "free downloads" on shady websites hoping to draw in more traffic--and spread a few viruses. Yes, it's even on porn sites to draw in prospective clients. If you Google "bee sting photo" you'll find it.

It frequently appears on pages showing "the world's most perfectly timed photos." It's landed on the websites of pest control companies advertising bee removal. health care merchandise, and medical products. It's on "funny jokes" and "funny animal" sites. Funny? What's so funny?

Several computer artists created an animated gif and copyrighted it. Most just crop off my copyright and add their own or their URL.

Filing a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) complaint to prevent its illegal commercial use is time-consuming. And, it's like "whack a mole": take one down and 100 more crop up. Many are overseas copyright infringements.

One guy argued that it was a wasp sting, not a bee sting and "look at that long stinger!"  (It's abdominal tissue.) Some say I Photoshopped it.  Others say it was posed and that I spent all day in the lab killing bees to get that image. Not true. I don't kill bees; I photograph them. Others say "Finders, Keepers: If I find it on the Internet, it's free and it's mine." If I find a painting I like in an art gallery, does that same rule apply? Or a Ferrari parked outside our home?

"The Sting" now has a life of its own. It's a living, breathing thing that just won't fade away. Worker bees usually live about four to six weeks in the summer, but this one isn't going to die anytime soon. "The Sting" has become "The Sting."