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Vernon artist discovers pictures of her work for sale on stock photo sites

Numerous photos of artist Michelle Loughery's murals were for sale on Alamy. As of Dec. 15, 2016, the company said it will remove all of the images within 24 hours.
Image Credit: Screenshot/
December 15, 2016 - 4:30 PM

VERNON - Vernon artist Michelle Loughery is used to seeing her work in a lot of different places. The well-known mural painter has made her mark on many buildings around Vernon and elsewhere in the Interior, but now her works are popping up in new territory.

Loughery has discovered photo service websites including Getty Images and Alamy are selling photos of her murals. Depending on the type and duration of usage, some of the photos can cost hundreds of dollars. 

“They throw a giant logo watermark on it. That watermark makes the assumption that the copyright belongs to them… But I’m saying my name is on the mural, and they never asked me for permission,” Loughery says.

Some of the images do include a description of the work along with Loughery’s name, but that’s not necessarily a good thing either, she says.

“I don’t know who they are letting use that image and I’m not comfortable with that. As a person you have a right to who you have your name associated with. All you have as an artist is your reputation and your good name,” she says, adding low quality reproductions of the images could also hurt her reputation.

Seeing a large corporation profiting from the images doesn't sit well either. 

“My thing is, if anyone should be making money it should be the artist, the building owner and the community, not a big company in the states,” she says.

It's not the first time the actions of photo service sites have have been called into question by artists. Getty in particular has been under fire after a photographer found out the company was selling numerous photos she previously made freely available to the public.

Michelle Loughery works on a new mural in Vernon. (FILE PHOTO)
Michelle Loughery works on a new mural in Vernon. (FILE PHOTO)

Getty and Alamy have so far not responded to written requests for interviews. When we contacted Getty’s corporate office, the operator told us they could not transfer us to media relations without a specific employee’s name.

A generic, automatic reply from Alamy’s copyright department states it doesn’t own or hold copyright on any of the images on its site — photographers and picture agencies provide the images and confirm they’re the copyright owner or have authority to license the images. 

Specifically, the email states that if the image is taken from a public place, has been shot in context and captioned as such, Alamy will take no further action and “the image will be fine to use for editorial use.”

In emails exchanged between Loughery and Alamy, the company states: “By adding the watermark to the image we are not claiming copyright, but protecting the image from being stolen.”

The Canadian Copyright Act states it is not infringement if a person takes a photograph of a “work of artistic craftsmanship” that is permanently situated in a public place or building.

However, Loughery maintains her moral rights — which are also explained in the copyright act — have been violated. According to the act, the integrity of a work is infringed upon if it is distorted, modified or used in association with a product, service, cause or institution to the prejudice of the author’s reputation.

It appears she's gotten the attention of at least one of the sites. By email today, Dec. 15, Alamy notified Loughery the images would be removed from its website within 24 hours. The company admitted no liability.

Getty has asked Loughery to identify the photos of concern but has not responded further. 

There’s a lot of grey area when it comes to copyright law in Canada, and Loughery admits when she started painting murals in the late 1990s it never occurred to her that she’d run into the problem.

Similar situations are becoming more and more common. Just this month, a Canadian artist spoke out about her artwork being used on clothing without her permission. 

Loughery hopes that sharing her story will lead to other artists becoming more aware of their rights when it comes to copyright law.

“It’s changed with the internet, it’s totally new territory,” Loughery says. “The person who takes the picture of the mural sometimes has more rights than the artist.”

Photos of Michelle Loughery's murals being sold on Getty Images.
Photos of Michelle Loughery's murals being sold on Getty Images.
Image Credit: Screenshot/

To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston or call 250-309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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News from © iNFOnews, 2016

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