In Which I Cross All Limits To Acceptable Human Law


Enforcing copyright is normally a great deal of unwanted drudgery and web forms, but now and again a feisty infringer breaks the tedium by responding to a standard notice with an enlightening salvo of insults. Meet Zornitza, who runs a website called Our Breathing Planet. I sent the above takedown notice to her host on discovering one of my field ant images, misidentified, in a blog post as an Argentine ant. It was the second time I’d found their organization using my work without permission or credit. Our correspondence is pasted below.







For reference, the photograph in question is this shot of Formica oreas:


33 thoughts on “In Which I Cross All Limits To Acceptable Human Law”

    1. I gather from her first message she holds a “senior position at a large multinational”. So, make of that what you may. Plus, I do buy her argument about nationalities- some of the eastern European countries have little cultural conception of copyright.

    1. Thanks for pointing that out, Gwen. The phone number is public anyway. But I forgot about the address!

        1. Yeah, I remember that. Although my inclination is to side with photographers, of course, that guy had clearly not read the terms of service when he signed up for flickr. Totally in the wrong, he was.

          1. In that case, I was happy to make a change so only people who opted in had their photos shown. Problem solved.

            But both scenarios played out the same way: people had a hissy fit and damaged their own brand, without me having to do anything.

  1. This is outrageous! The ant photo is the intellectual property of Alex Wild, one of the world’s best insect photographers. It does not belong to Our Breathing Planet. Are they breathing? I think not. Anyone who hosts a website or serves as the webmaster or posts anything on the Internet should be aware of the U.S. Copyright Laws and the Berne Convention. “Ignorance of the law is no excuse,” as they say. Breathing Planet is not “entitled” to Alex Wild’s photos–or any other copyrighted photos.

  2. What a childish response to a simple request to stop breaking the law and stealing from an artist. “I will blacklist you”…..”my time is devoted to doing good.” Mmmhmmmmmm.

  3. That was an entertaining read lol. Clearly, she is not aware that you are a photographer of some renown in this field and not just some dude testing out a new macro app on your Android 😉

    I used to run a web magazine covering Canadian football and ran into all kinds of similar issues with photographs myself and staff took of athletes – even one of my youngest son in his football uniform. Someone had used it as a meme of sorts and I sent a cease and desist letter. They wanted ME to prove that I owned the photo, as they had cropped the watermark. lol

    Anyways… love your work!

    Have a good one

  4. I always love it when people offer to “give me valuable exposure to help my career” instead of, you know, paying me money?

    For me, it’s not a business, and that’s fine… that’s MY choice, but for many of my friends and colleagues it IS their business and by golly that’s why we have copy write laws.

  5. This is another example of what I would call the False Robin Hood Syndrome – the notion that just because I mean well (e.g., run a website dedicated to nature conservation) I am absolved from following the rules of conduct regarding ownership (of media).

  6. I think that if you “In Which I Cross All Limits To Acceptable Human Law” they have a bigger problem….If they think they can steal someone’s work and can do with it whatever they want they cross more than one limit, you didn’t cross one! How many Copyright Laws do they violate on their site? And if they don’t use any photographs of you any more, don’t care, good sites like yours are known by me and many more, theirs I didn’t know!

  7. Well, having no idea about any of this and just following a facebook post, let me say I’m just pleased to see some of your amazing photography. Being an amateur wildlife photographer and consistently getting less than perfect results, your beautiful photos are a testament to the craft you have developed over time. I’m glad I clicked through to see your photography, keep up the good work!

  8. Joseph Spencer

    I think the ease with which almost anyone can now reate imagery – good or mostly bad – has resulted in the casual attitude about using the photographic work of others. The difference between poor/average photos and really nice stuff is lost on most people, thus they don’t appreciate works of great effort skill and feel little need to acknowledge things that they think they could have created themselves. Most thinking persons would not populate their work or websites with unattributed text they lifted from a published work – clearly that is plagiarism. But images seem to be fair game, perhaps because they are so easily obtained with a Google search? Unfortunately, this unattributed use (= theft) of creative photograph work from web sources is rapidly becoming the way lazy people go about ‘taking pictures”!

  9. The country where I live in has not signed [the Berne Convention].

    I’m inclined to believe this. Since this person believes that “you attract more flies with honey than with shit,” they apparently live on Mars.

  10. I’m always amazed how these thieves think the so-called “exposure” they provide leads to some kind of value for the photographer. All that kind of “exposure” ever leads to is more theft. On the positive side, the link that led me to this exchange let me discover your stunning work. All that time I spent in Urbana and I had no idea such amazing photographs were being made.

    At first, I thought this situation simply needed a little explanation to Ms. Stefanova. That explanation was clearly communicated in Mr. Wild’s straight forward Copyright Infringement Notice. No threats… just simple facts.

    I went to the offending website, and I agree with the environmental concerns that are addressed there, but Ms. Stefanova has clearly stepped over the criminal line, when she insists it’s her right to gather content by abject thievery of images she knows are not legally hers.

    I’ve read all of the emails, references and the follow-up comments. I’m normally a soft spoken, happy, Zen minded photographer, but I found her responses to be rude, contemptuous, dismissive, and uncivil. Any admiration I had for the causes that she brings to public awareness dissipated instantly when I read her aggressive and irrelevant replies.

    As much as this type of piracy gets under my skin, Ms. Stefanova’s retorts were even more offensive. Her actions and her nasty attitude, (and that of other miscreant blood suckers like her), make me MAD AS HELL! It’s something I’ve have to deal with on a regular basis for 40 years!

    Instead of being a decent, polite, kind and honest human being, she resorts to her demeaning, degrading and shameful attack on the photographer she infringed!

    Her excuse?: “They do not link back to you in any way whatsoever. Therefore, we have absolutely no way of possibly guessing that that image is yours.”

    That’s an easy fix: DON’T BE A THIEF, Ms. STEFANOVA!!!

    Acquire your content through legal, ethical and moral means! Many photographers, including myself, would consider offering you a fair use of an image, just to support your cause, but your condescending attitude negates that option.

    It makes me wonder: If Ms. Stefanova sees a car parked in someone’s private driveway, and it doesn’t have a sign on it that says “Don’t steal my car”, does she think she has the right to STEAL it?… Just because she made NO EFFORT to find the owner, and no one was there, standing guard?

    Further on she vomits out her next contemptuous, dismissive diatribe when she says “with this attitude, quite frankly, even if I ever needed to use your photos, I would go out of my way not to do so…”

    ” Well, guess what, Ms. Thief? I bet Alex Wild would be quite happy with that! It sounds like just what he was asking for!

    To top that, she follows that up with another venomous and ignorant statement: “So instead of threatening me in such an aggressive way, you could simply approach me. I would then happily quote you or even more – recommend your work to our followers…”.

    Yeah, Right! Next time I catch a thief, I could say “Instead of calling you out for your repeated, unlawful theft, maybe we could have tea, and talk about how happy I will become, once you tell everyone where you stole my image from! Because that would certainly make up for any REAL money”.

    The real killer? When she says “I pray for you to become a better man one day…” How haughty and smug! Well, Ms. Thief, Mr. Wild seems to be a lot more of a decent man than me at this point! I‘ve had thorns like you in my ass for way too long!

    Too bad she can’t just see the error of her ways, apologize, and redesign her workflow so it doesn’t include illegal piracy! In other words, Fit into this world in a respectable, virtuous, law-abiding way.

    Also, I can’t believe Matthew Dutile! As a photographer, how he can say “This was handled pretty poorly on both of their parts.”? And then to follows this up with the accusation “…the photographer who is sending hundreds of take-down notices a week is either just straight up lying about that… or wasting his time”.

    Really? Does he think we LIKE to waste time policing the thieves to protect our livelihoods? Who’s side are you on? Your statement seems to give credence to her criminal behavior. It’s hard enough to battle shoplifters like her, but to get crap like this from another photographer??? Wow! I would have thought you’d have his back on this!

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  13. Would it be useful – or even wise – to create a blacklist of photo thieves (listing he website url, owner/author names etc.) and post it on your website? Maybe also with some stats regarding the infringements (and maybe links to communications such as the post above to illustrate the mindless belligerence).
    That way other photographers in the community of fellow pros, and also competent amateurs, can be alerted to who these thieves are and inspect those sites for possible infringements against their images too. If a habitual thief and their hosting company gets multiple takedown notices from multiple photographers they may just get the message.

  14. Hi Alex,

    You graciously allowed me to use one of your images on my blog,, and I appreciate it. Perhaps if people asked politely they would get a better response. As Mark Twain once said, “A clam is a clam and will never be an oyster.” Having once been in the creative field I am reminded often there are many clams.

    Thanks again for your generosity.


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