* I started this post several weeks ago and never bothered to publish it, but since I’ve slacked on my blogging so much, I figured I might as well give you something non-baby to read about *
An interesting situation arose last month, which has since been resolved. This little story pertains to my work with the Twin Cities Restaurant Blog but since this blog is private and I will not be naming the restaurant, I feel comfortable sharing the story here. I have told this story a few times in person so if you’ve already heard it, feel free to stop reading now, I hate being redundant 😉
Okay, so you know how I write reviews about the different restaurants I visit?? (or used to anyway) A huge part of the process and one of the biggest appeals of the TCRB is the photos I take of the food. I know that my photos are “out there” on the internet in a ton of places, which is why it is important to me to watermark all of my photos with “www.twincitiesrestaurantblog.com” …… it serves to both give me credit for the photos and also advertising for my site. I get many requests from restaurants to use my photos on their websites and I am fine with it as long as they ask and give me a photo credit or link back to the TCRB. One such restaurant discovered the review I wrote about them back in Feb 2012 and the owner nicely asked me in April 2012 if he could use my photos on their website and if I would remove my watermark. I agreed after he offered to send me a generous gift card to the restaurant and a link to the TCRB on their website. It is a very nice restaurant that we really like so that sweetened the deal.
Fast forward to a night in early February this year when I am driving down the interstate and I see a GIANT BILLBOARD for this same restaurant with two of my food photos on it!! At first I was shocked, like “holy shit, my photos are on a billboard!” but then I thought, they never asked me if they could use my photo on a billboard! WTF?! Coincidentally, later that night at dinner as I was looking through the City Pages Newspaper, I came across a full color ad for the same restaurant with another of my photos!! No mention of the TCRB and no photo credit. So the next morning I go to their website and see my photos all over the place but no link or photo credit (I know it was there when we made out original agreement!). That’s when I really started to get mad about the situation, as I felt as though my photos were stolen by the restaurant as their own. So after some quick legal advice from my SIL Amanda who is an attorney, I decided to contact the restaurant owner. I reminded him of our original agreement, which included use of my photos on their website with a link to the TCRB. I told him that we did not have an unlimited use agreement for those photos and that I felt like they had stolen them as their own and that I would expect compensation for the use of my photos on his billboard and in other ads. He responded with the following
Kristi, I certainly apologize for what was apparently and clearly a mistake on my part. I certainly did not intend to abuse the use of your photos and honesty do not recall the specifics of our discussion about the link or photo credit, although I am happy to add that to my website. Sorry for that. I do truly apologize if that was part of our discussion. Following our website update, I placed those pictures in a folder which contains hundreds of pictures of our food which I pull from for many different media outlets. I would certainly like to compensate you for the past use as well as discuss the opportunity for us to continue using them in the future as to date they are the best photos we have seen taken of our food. We are only a small restaurant with a limited marketing budget, but I hope you can accept my apology, I am only a restaurant owner/operator rather than a marketing specialist and honestly did not intend to exploit your work for my the benefit of my restaurant. I do appreciate your blog, follow it religiously and recommend it often. I look forward to hearing from you and discussing how we can work together in the future and please let me know your thoughts and if willing, a fair price for the use of these photos.
This was good enough for me. I wasn’t trying to get rich off the deal, I just wanted a fair amount and to let him know it wasn’t okay to use photos without permission. I asked for an amount that was comparable to what I would charge any restaurant for a professional food photo shoot with rights to all the photos. He happily agreed and sent me the money within 24 hours. He also told me he would hire me to take photos for him when they wanted new ones. Cool!
The billboard is still up and I literally drive by it every single day. And that is the story of how my photos became larger than life.