Editorial – Why stealing photos is wrong

Have you ever entered a store, taken some food, and left without paying? And do you imagine yourself answering the cashier who asks you to pay “I’ll give you credit”? […]

Have you ever entered a store, taken some food, and left without paying? And do you imagine yourself answering the cashier who asks you to pay “I’ll give you credit”? Or “Sorry, I won’t do it again” after you already ate the food?

Think of it this way: this is exactly what happens when images of professional photographers are being used for free, with no authorization. Just like everybody, photographers need revenues in order to do their work and cannot accept seeing their work being stolen. We do know that authors’ rights and images rights are quite difficult to understand for the general public and copyright laws are complex issues and vary from one country to the other. But to make it simple, the vast majority of copyright laws on the planet clearly forbid unauthorized copy and use of copyrighted material, including taken by agencies wherever they are published.

Top players have to abide by the rules too.

As a player, you might wonder why you can’t use images of yourself playing? Being the subject of a picture doesn’t make one the owner of the copyright. Ask yourself the question: as a player, would you participate in a tournament at the other side of the world, paying everything yourself, if you didn’t have some kind of financial compensation, whether it’s for the prize money, from your federation? Your sponsor? Well, think of it this way. Neither do we. We can’t afford to work for free. And that goes for top players too. Some who have the means to pay for them, but sometimes won’t bother. Some others are great and very respectful, and we also find it unfair to them when they pay and their colleagues don’t. That’s called justice and we believe that, as people involved in sport, you would believe in justice too or a sense of morale.

Hard work

Taking photos in a sporting event is hard work, and, in badminton especially, with very little money involved. We’re not football. We’re not tennis. We all struggle to make a living with badminton photos. The few photographers involved in the sport often do it as a passion aside from their other daily jobs. They sometimes spend money to take these pictures, hoping to break even. For the rest of us, who are trying to make it a professional business, the money is just not there – it’s never been and the increase of prize money and sponsorships didn’t help us a bit – we still struggle. We spend fortunes on cameras, lenses, on reparation of the latter. Because, like a car, cameras need fixing and it doesn’t come cheap. Not to mention the travelling, the air fare, the hotels – which are often not as fancy as where the players go because we just can’t afford it. And at the end of each year, we hardly break even. Yes, you heard it right – there is hardly any profit in this sport yet, in spite of the long – very long – hours court-side (it must be one of the most demanding sports in terms of conditions and working hours). Don’t get us wrong here.   We’re not complaining. We love our job. But it comes at an expense. With lots of sacrifices.

Yet, we do it, for the love of the sport, and because we like to do our job well and please the fans, the players. We even have made tailor made packs for players at the very minimum cost. But yet, we can’t accept it when people take it for granted that they can just come and steal our work.

About respecting others’ work…

For 15 years, we’ve been nice. We’ve tried to improve the conditions of other photographers shooting badminton. We’ve tried to make it a professional sport on our end too. Respecting players’ privacy. We have ethics too. We don’t sell images of players to the fans, because we respect the players’ rights too – if we were to sell the photos, we’d ask the players for their authorization because we respect their image rights. We strictly follow the rules, and we want other people to follow it too.  Numerous times, we see our photos used, on social , on newspapers – by outlets, fans, players – and we keep reminding people not to do it. But you know what? We feel like the badminton photographers who are passionate about our sport might lose the interest because of the fact their work is being stolen. And that might result in some famous names in the circuit taking up on other sports, or other activities. And that will be a loss for the sport.

Of course, there are good clients, who pay for the use of our images, who respect the rules. Thanks to them, we are able to survive, but we need everyone to do that. Not just a few people and institutions. Everyone. You the fans, you the players, you in the media. Be responsible. Play fair with us, too.

Raphael Sachetat is the Chief Editor of Badzine…and also one of the regular badminton photographers on the circuit.

Raphaël Sachetat

About Raphaël Sachetat

Raphael is the Chief Editor of Badzine International. He is the founder of the website together with Jean François Chauveau. After many years writing for the BWF and many publications around the world about badminton, he now leads a team of young and dynamic writers for Badzine.