Photo theft doesn’t only happen in the dark outskirts of the web, but front and center in the public eye. If you thought that Tesla/SpaceX entrepreneur, the innovative Elon Musk, would be the last one to steal an online image, you were wrong. The controversy exploded this week when Elon Musk tweeted a picture of lightning striking, with the caption, “Ride the lightning!”.
The photograph was shot initially from a bus near a SpaceX launch pad by photographer Richard Angle. Although the picture contained Richard Angle’s watermark, in the left bottom corner, Musk did not link to @RDAnglePhoto or directly credit him in the caption.
The Elon Musk Copyright Infringement Controversy
When Musk shared the image on August 6, 2019, with his 27 million followers, Angle was surprised to find his picture online. Within a short period, the image had wracked up thousands of comments, likes, and retweets.
Noticing he wasn’t explicitly credited, Angle tweeted, “Well this is cool, my watermark is there!”
Members of the photography community recognized his sarcasm and began tweeting their own replies to the image, suggesting to @elonmusk that he should credit photographer @RDAnglePhoto.
In response, those accounts were blocked by Elon Musk’s page. Although some Musk fans suggested that Angle and fellow photographers should ease up on the complaints, since the photograph in question was taken of Elon Musk’s SpaceX rockets and designs, Richard complained that he had 900k to a million impressions (for his Twitter stats) but no prints sold.
Musk’s team eventually took down the image and Angle later tweeted:
I appreciate everyone that said I deserved credit for my work, we all do […] I [I appreciate everyone] who got blocked by Elon. I don't think you should have, you are just doing what's right.
He also told his followers that he did thank Musk and his team for posting his image.
How do you feel about the handling of the situation by both Angle and Musk? Should Elon Musk have credited the image and not only relied on the watermark? What about Musk or his team blocking any accounts who complained about the copyright issue(s)? Was Richard Angle right in speaking out in the way he did or should he have handled the situation differently?
If you’ve been on the receiving hand of photo theft or not being credited for work shared by others on social media, how did you take care of the situation? Was it quickly resolved or did you meet resistance in the same way Angle did?
If you’re concerned about your images being stolen, go to Berify. Search your most popular or favorite photographs and find who is using them and on what platforms. That will give you the ability to ask the poster to credit your work or remove the image.