Bombed and Infringed

This mural is in the parking lot of a downtown Phoenix theater/bar called FilmBar. They serve up indie films, beer, and popcorn. I’ve never been inside yet but everyone I know who has gone really likes it.

This mural is done by EMT. I don’t know anything about him/her/them. But after the next 2 close-ups, I’ll tell you something interesting I found while looking for the artist’s/artists’ name(s) online today.

While googling for the information, I came across a website/blog called the Phoenix Taco. I sort of hate to give them credit or a link because, as some of you know, for over 2 years here on my blog, I have been documenting downtown Phoenix murals–of which there are a lot–and I also am an occasional blogger for another blog belonging to the Downtown Phoenix Partnership, that has published my mural photos. I have been approached on this project a couple of times by Arizona State University (my alma mater) and University of Arizona journalism and graduate students asking to use my photos for database and video projects and happily complied for just photo credits (and the fun of being “discovered,” of sorts).

But on the Phoenix Taco site, I came across 4 posts (with a total of at least eight photos) that used my photos, uncredited, and without permission. It was obvious they were my photos because the shadows, clouds, and cars parked in front of some of the murals were exactly the same and 2 photos even showed the sensor dust spot that my camera has and that I usually crop out but sometimes forget to (yeah, I should just get the sensor cleaned, it would be easier).

I just contacted them by email informing them of their infringement. I do still have all of my photos on my computer, complete with the EXIF data from my camera. I requested they go back and credit all my photos…they have tons of uncredited photos so I imagine they have “borrowed” most of them. I also included this information for them:

Copyright is a form of protection, authorized by the United States Constitution, that gives photographers, artists, authors, musicians, choreographers and architects the exclusive right to use and reproduce their works. Essentially, all original works can be copyrighted. This includes photographs, art works, sculpture, writings, music and computer software. Virtually all works created or first published after January 1, 1978 are protected by copyright. Many works created prior to 1978 are also protected.

The Copyright Act is federal law, not state law. Consequently, the law is uniform throughout the United States. Also, since the United States has signed several international copyright agreements, copyright protection is effective essentially all over the world.


In the case of photographs, it is sometimes difficult to determine who owns the copyright and there may be little or no information about the owner on individual copies. Ownership of a “copy” of a photograph – the tangible embodiment of the “work” – is distinct from the “work” itself – the intangible intellectual property. The owner of the “work” is generally the photographer or, in certain situations, the employer of the photographer. Even if a person hires a photographer to take pictures of a wedding, for example, the photographer will own the copyright in the photographs unless the copyright in the photographs is transferred, in writing and signed by the copyright owner, to another person. The subject of the photograph generally has nothing to do with the ownership of the copyright in the photograph. If the photographer is no longer living, the rights in the photograph are determined by the photographer’s will or passed as personal property by the applicable laws of intestate succession.

(from U.S. Copyright Office)

I imagine they assumed that the art is what needed to be credited and that photos of it were sort of in the public domain but that is not the case. Have your photos been plagiarized? And did it tick you off?

UPDATE: Phoenix Taco contacted me, apologized, and said that they would give me credit, also asking permission to keep the photos up. I said yes, of course. The photos were apparently submitted to them with no source. I’m not mad anymore 🙂 but it is a lesson that your photos can wind up anywhere…which I knew but this was my first experience finding them like that.


8 thoughts on “Bombed and Infringed

  1. I certainly understand you taking umbrage, and I hope “Phoenix Taco” complies. Thank you again for giving me permission to use your photos for my mural database project. It’s a pleasure for me to acknowledge not just the original artists, but also the people who, as a labor of love, share their street art discoveries via the web. You deserve to be asked permission for the use of ANY of your work, and to be given credit if permission is granted.


  2. Sorry to hear your photos were lifted, but I’m glad you discovered it and are getting well-deserved credit.

    Although I imagine it would be challenging given the sheer number of photos you’ve got posted, TinEye reverse imagery directory might be a useful tool.


  3. NOTHING makes me angrier. I have come across my material online before and it just makes me shake with fury. I am so glad they apologized. Folks need to realize the internets is not a grab for all. Photography and writing are art forms.

    (And thank you for documenting these murals. They are beautiful. And so remind me of home!)


  4. That was an interesting experience. I bet it happens a lot more than we know about, and probably just because some folks don’t even think about using other people’s photos, sadly enough. I’m glad to see that those folks came clean!


  5. A fine series of murals. I’m glad you persisted in following up by emailing them about your pictures. They should be embarrassed that they’ve been found out! Good for you!


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