UPDATE: This morning I received a call from the brand communications manager for Nike South Africa. He apologized profusely for the misuse of my photo and agreed to compensate me for the photo’s usage. Of course this doesn’t undo the damage completely, but I’m pleased that Nike owned up to the mistake and offered to resolve the situation in a reasonable way. Nike, you have regained a little bit of your coolness now, at least in my eyes.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
I’ve never posted an angry rant on my blog before. But there’s a first time for everything.
Earlier today I saw a Facebook posting about a new Nike-sponsored 10k race coming up in Joburg. I clicked on the link immediately. I loved participating in Run Jozi and was excited to sign up for the next race.
The link took me to the Nike Running ZA Facebook page, which has thousands of followers. Just a little way down the page was a photo of Alexandra Township. The photo was one of those “featured” Facebook Timeline posts, so it stretched all the way across the page. I looked carefully at the photo. It seemed familiar.
Alexandra Township, with Sandton City in the background.
I realized the photo looked exactly like a photo I took in Alex last year. I opened my blog and pulled up a post I wrote last October — Alex: Joburg’s Other Township. And there it was. Same photo.
I looked at the Nike page again. There was no credit beneath the photo. It took a while for the news to sink in that this photo was indeed mine, but Nike had used it as if it were theirs. On top of that, plastered above the photo was this inspirational message:
History is made by those who prepare for it today. Go further. Go beyond. Go as far as you can. The limit is only in your mind. When you reach it, break it!
The time has come for #everydayathletes to pave their own way to #greatness!
Come on, Nike. If you’re going to plagiarize my work, at least accompany it with something better than this drivel. And stop overusing the exclamation point.
I immediately commented on the post and shared it on Facebook and Twitter, expressing my disappointment and dismay. Many others did the same. Then I went out and wasn’t online for a few hours. While I was out, Nike removed the post but did not respond in any other way.
I didn’t think to take a screen shot of the post before it disappeared. Luckily someone else did.
Image courtesy of Willem Viljoen.
I’m not naive. I realize that online intellectual property laws are murky, and that online photos get stolen all the time. I realize that in a way, by putting my work out on the internet through my blog, I am perpetuating this problem. I make a conscious decision to do that because I feel the benefits outweigh the risks.
I often receive messages from people who want to use photos from my blog for various purposes. Sometimes I say yes, other times I say no. I probably would have said no to Nike, unless, of course, they offered to compensate me. Seeing as Nike is one of the most recognizable brands on earth, one would think they could afford to pay for the photos they use.
But it makes no difference what I would have told Nike if they’d asked to use the photo. Because they didn’t.
I’d like to surmise that the Nike underling who stole my photo didn’t know any better. But, come on. This is NIKE. They should know better, and they do. They just don’t care.
I know that my blog means little in face of “JUST DO IT”. I can scream and yell and Facebook-share all I want, but Nike will continue to screw people like me whenever it suits them to do so. Nonetheless, this blog post had to be written. Creative content is not free to be plagiarized just because it’s posted online.
Screw you, Nike! (See, exclamation points are effective when used sparingly.) And I’m not running in your stupid race next month. Unless, of course, you offer me a lifetime supply of free shoes. Just sayin’.
Readers, please share this post with your friends. Thank you.