Recently, there has been an increasing controversy in the isopod hobby over photo theft. Under the Copyright Act of 1976, photos are protected under copyright from the moment that they are created by the photographer. Photos should never, ever be used without express permission from the owner. While this does not necessarily mean that the thief can be sued for theft, the platform used to share the photo may ban the user or the entire website is at risk for removal if it is reported to the domain host. Photo theft is taken very seriously by social media platforms and domain hosts. If the photo is protected under copyright, whoever stole the image can be sued for a hefty fee. Stealing photos also attaches a bad reputation to the brand or business, as this is a relatively small hobby and people take note of these sorts of things.
Frequently, the excuse is “the photo came up on google, I thought it was safe”. Well, every image that appears on a google image search states “images may be subject to copyright”, so that doesn’t hold up. The next big excuse is that “the web builder selected the photos”, and even if this is true, this is terribly inappropriate because what if the photos are of the wrong species? Vendors have a responsibility to the customers to ensure that the animals (and product) are being represented correctly.
The expression of isopod mutations and even general appearance may vary between cultures kept by different people. Isopods have a stunning amount of variation, even among wild types. For example, some wild vulgare are a solid color- almost all black. Other vulgare have yellow speckling along their backside, and some vulgare even have more of a variation to the base color to be a brown caramelly color. For mutations, the isopods may trend either way of the spectrum of color. Some vulgare may be more yellow, others redder in a particular “orange vigor” culture. When it comes to isopods with patterned mutations, like dalmatian or piebald, there may be more or less pattern contrast in culture. Using photos that are not your own increases the risk of ending up with a terribly disappointed customer because what they received is not what they expected. Some people prefer certain colors; others are expecting more or less pattern contrast. Using accurate photos is the first step to avoid customer conflicts.
So, let’s say you are a vendor, without the ability to take your own photos. The camera setting on the phone doesn’t work, or you don’t have a method to upload the photos. You aren’t concerned with the photos matching the animals exactly. That’s ok, we all start somewhere. There are still options available outside of outright theft. Stock photo sites have a huge selection of photos that also include many isopod species! Hobbyists sell their photos to the stock sites, who then sell the photos to consumers. When purchasing a subscription to a stock site, read the fine print carefully because there are different subscriptions for different photo uses. Is the stock site still too expensive? Contact people who take photos directly! Many hobbyists sell their photography for a modest price and will be flattered that they were even asked.
In the case of photo rights, it is always better to ask for permission than forgiveness. Theft is treated swiftly and harshly. At the very least, the account will be placed on hold from posting for a penalty period; at the worst, the entire website domain may be suspended. People are often very willing to help others, so a quick message requesting permission to use or buy the rights to use an image can’t do any harm.