Home > Uncategorized > What were we thinking?

What were we thinking?

Sometimes you see the dumb things companies say and you wonder, “What were they thinking?”

I never imagined that happening to us, but we did something so dumb in a blog post, we’re now looking at each other blankly and asking, what were we thinking?

The post was about image theft and we used examples from pro photographer Valerie Schooling’s site and gave the impression she was doing things wrong, which she wasn’t.

To make matters worse, we somehow embedded screen captures of her site without asking her permission.  If it weren’t such a dumb thing to do, I could explain why we did it other than the obvious: she and her photos are awesome.

Naturally, her friends and other respected photographers in the industry asked us what we were thinking, and unfortunately the honest answer was, “We weren’t.”

We learned a lesson we’ll never forget because we also betrayed ourselves, since we are photographers.  We apologize for the time and angst this caused a lot of wonderful people.

Chris MacAskill
President & co-founder
Not usually so clueless

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. March 28, 2012 at 4:46 pm

    And the fact that you owned up to it, made it known more so than any other media outlet could have, just goes to show what kind of company SmugMug is.

    Frankly I would consider it an honor to have Smuggy accidentally grab an image of mine, I know with a single email or phone call I would be more than fairly compensated.

    • March 28, 2012 at 9:08 pm

      I think you have some very loyal users. Thank you for owning up. That takes guts! I agree with James and other posters. Yes, you did the right thing.

    • March 31, 2012 at 3:30 pm

      if only politicians could be so forthright!!!!!

  2. March 28, 2012 at 4:51 pm

    Stuff happens. Hard to fault you on this given your prompt admission and apology.

  3. Jeffery Kordsmeier
    March 28, 2012 at 4:52 pm

    This kind of honest response, owning up to the mistake and taking responsibility, is why I love SmugMug.

    • March 30, 2012 at 2:57 pm

      I completely agree!

  4. March 28, 2012 at 4:52 pm

    Good job getting the word out, SM.

    Swung by her SmugMug gallery and wow. Love the clean presentation on her site. Also a bit surprised by the lack of watermarking and allowing original downloads…

  5. March 28, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    You guys are some of the nicest people in this industry. Things happen. Mistakes are made. What you do on a daily basis far outshines this small thing.

    • April 4, 2012 at 2:13 pm

      I couldn’t agree more!!! If only more companies could treat others as you all do, it would be a perfect word! :)

  6. Carrie (whose images will probably never be stolen...)
    March 28, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    so you stole an image while discussing image theft….ouch!! I hope all is well again in smugmug land, we love you guys!

  7. March 28, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    Awesome job Smugmug, fessing up that is. Proves what a high caliber company you are. We all live and learn..sometimes the hard way. You guys handled it wonderful. Keep up the great work and if ever want to use mine for blogs or articles feel free.

  8. Russell Adams
    March 28, 2012 at 4:59 pm

    Chris,
    I applaud your honesty and sincerely appreciate it in a leader.
    As a former Smugie (had to cancel due to lack of funds), I can avow to your organizations quality. I am glad to see that it starts at the top. Keep up the good work. With leadership like this, I definitely want to return to Smugmug when I can afford to do so.
    Keep up the good work.

    Russell Adams

  9. March 28, 2012 at 5:00 pm

    Takes courage to admit mistakes. Glad to see it.

    Has Valerie responded?

  10. March 28, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    ….she’ll probably get more traffic today than ever before in history….please please may I someday have the (mis?)fortune of you doing the same thing to my website.

    • March 29, 2012 at 6:12 am

      And probably ZERO additional business. Although she might get an additional bill from her hosting company for the excessive traffic.

  11. Kathy
    March 28, 2012 at 5:13 pm

    Very candid and honest response. Good for you guys! It sucks when a mistake like this slips by, but I commend you for owning up and taking care of it. Thumbs up.

  12. Tom
    March 28, 2012 at 5:22 pm

    Big Props for the Me Culpa… it is this ethic and integrity (and candor, humor, etc..) that attracts me as a customer every year… Well done on the “learning from the mistakes” department…Now Go To Your Room! :-) Tom

  13. March 28, 2012 at 5:22 pm

    Good lesson on how to deal with a mistake. Well done SmugMug

  14. March 28, 2012 at 5:31 pm

    Everyone falls down, it’s the ones who get back up and learn from the fall who show character… nice job holding yourself accountable without whining or making excuses… now if you could only run for President…

  15. March 28, 2012 at 5:31 pm

    It’s the easiest thing in the world to make a mistake (especially in publishing) and the toughest thing to own up and take responsibility. Your “no excuses” response is to be applauded.

  16. March 28, 2012 at 5:34 pm

    I applaud your apology. As a friend, and college of Valerie’s I was in shock yesterday! And as a subscriber of smugmug I was appalled. Thank you for the public apology to a trusted and fantastic photographer. I am curious though as a subscriber, photographer and practically her next door neighbor do you regularly use images posted on smugmug for your blog?

    • Chris MacAskill
      March 28, 2012 at 5:43 pm

      We do use both screen captures and images from SmugMug on our blog frequently, but usually we do it right and photographers are thrilled. Thanks for your comment.

      • March 29, 2012 at 1:04 am

        As a professional, screen captures make me nervous and my clients… former clients. Can you kindly clarify exactly what “usually we do it right” actually entails??

        Good apology from a good company, maybe not a good practice…

      • in_awe
        March 29, 2012 at 10:41 am

        For an interesting discussion about how surgical outcomes in the US and Europe took a big favorable turn when a tool developed for use in third world hospitals was pilot tested here first. It was: a checklist.

        Read “The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right” by Atul Gawande (a fascinating writer). He shows how the more expert and experienced you are, the more you will benefit from a checklist. He cites the hospital tale as well as others from the aerospace industry, construction project management and other areas that prove the value of a well thought out list of steps.

        I believe Chris when he explains how this happened, but I encourage him to report back on what checklist he has devised to guide future blog postings.

  17. timkingphoto
    March 28, 2012 at 5:56 pm

    Refreshing to hear such honesty. Glad to be a client of such a solid core team of people, who I think have good intentions. These things happen

  18. March 28, 2012 at 5:56 pm

    The information was very helpful though! It definitely made us take a look at our gallery settings!

  19. March 28, 2012 at 5:56 pm

    Just keeping digging, you guys are founded in honest and up front work. We call that the “Speed Of Trust” things can happen well and fast when we work with the speed… No worries and thanks for sharing and your integrity which is all we all have.

  20. March 28, 2012 at 5:57 pm

    Everyone makes mistakes. It’s how we handle ourselves in the face of those mistakes that really tell the world who we are and what we represent. The way you have handle this mistake only makes me a more staunch Smugmug user. Thank you for having the stones to say and do the right thing.

  21. March 28, 2012 at 5:57 pm

    Nice to see you addressed the issue and hopefully brought further light to a constant problem. Still love SmugMug and nice to see that professionals accolade issues and address them.

    Richard Shoaf
    Richard Shoaf Photography
    http://www.RichardShoaf.com
    Twitter @RichardShoaf

  22. Vickie Riley Photography
    March 28, 2012 at 5:57 pm

    It happens to the best of us. Your integrity is honorable.

  23. akismet-8ad3ee632ba7f79128390b4d441dbdd1
    March 28, 2012 at 5:57 pm

    Holy crap… a company run by human beings… you should be ashamed! In other words… you made a mistake and owned up to it. Kudos. Glad to be a smugmug customer.

  24. March 28, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    Super appreciate your willingness to own up and take responsibility. It takes courage to admit you messed up – which we all do, right? Way to handle it with grace. I [heart] SmugMug.

  25. March 28, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    Holy crap… a company run by human beings… you should be ashamed! In other words… you made a mistake and owned up to it. Kudos. Glad to be a smugmug customer.

  26. March 28, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    I vote with my dollars. It’s not about whether you make mistakes, it’s about how you deal with those mistakes. My subscription just came up for renewal and you confirmed why I won’t be shopping around. My dollars stay with Smugmug. Character means a lot to me. Thanks for the honesty.

  27. March 28, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    I had no knowledge of what was going on, but I think it’s very honorable of you to make public your error and ask forgiveness for it. I love SmugMug btw.

  28. March 28, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    Hard to say more than what has already been said. Thank you for being upfront about your error in judgement. Proves me right is putting my faith in you to have care if my images and why I am so proud to be a little piece in the ‘family pie’ as a SMUG leader and promote SmugMug to all I meet!

  29. March 28, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    I would imagine that the photography you wronged will be receiving a minimum of a lifetime free membership with smug mug?

  30. March 28, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    Well, getting caught up in the moment gets us all once in a while. Nice recovery Guys. It’s nice to have someone take responsibility for their mistake – Long live SMUGMUG

  31. March 28, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    Integrity is such a rare commodity these days. That’s why I love SmugMug.

  32. March 28, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    Well done SmugMug. Way to be honest. Way to be real.

    If anything (though I’m aware it was not your intent) this incident has only increased my respect for you and your team. People make mistakes, this is not a problem. Not taking responsibility for mistakes is. Keep it up guys.

  33. Cindi-withaneye
    March 28, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    Live and learn. Apologizing and forgiving yourself is the first step to others forgiving you.
    Forgiven.
    LOVE YA smuggly!

  34. Brenda
    March 28, 2012 at 6:01 pm

    Honesty is the best policy! And this is why I use Smug!!

  35. March 28, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    It’s always so refreshing when someone admits that they made a mistake and apologizes.

    In this world of “spin” with liars running rampant, you are a shining example of owning up and making no excuses. Good job SmugMug.

    PS . . . and you have the best damn customer service & tech support anywhere!

  36. March 28, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    Well done!!! ALWAYS BETTER TO DO THE right thing!! Smug Rules!!!!

  37. kayakcreative
    March 28, 2012 at 6:03 pm

    You are forgiven, oh smug one…

  38. John Donovan
    March 28, 2012 at 6:03 pm

    Chris – proof again that you and your team are a class act. Make a mistake – own up to it – offer a sincere apology – make it right – move on. There’s a lesson here ….

  39. March 28, 2012 at 6:03 pm

    I agree with those who applaud you for your honesty and coming forth to tell all your customers. Everyone makes mistakes. I love it that you always add humor into everything you do as well. Thanks! I love smugmug!

  40. Don
    March 28, 2012 at 6:04 pm

    People make mistakes but the better person quickly admits them, Props to SmugMug for announcing to the world they made a mistake and immediately fixing it. Best photo site ever…

  41. March 28, 2012 at 6:05 pm

    What a fantastic example of decent, thoughtful behaviour – period. A beacon of decency in a sea of modern day spin. A truly fantastic 21st century company.

    Scott

  42. March 28, 2012 at 6:05 pm

    Easy to make a mistake…good way to fix it…feel free to use any of my images as screenshots…i’ll take the free marketing…lol

  43. yosemitebear62
    March 28, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    I think as long as it was an honest mistake, you realize it, own up to it and apologize then it should be water under the bridge. I appreciate that the site is run by photographers, there is a support staff you can actually talk to and that things get worked out very fast with you guys. I tell everybody the site I have is the best photo sharing site I have ever seen and it’s why I continue to use you guys.
    If you don’t know I have become very famous on YouTube with my viral video “Double Rainbow.” Even though I was the 6th most watched video of 2010, 2nd most Favorited video of all time I still don’t know how to talk to anybody at YouTube. It says something. Yes YouTube is free and Smugmug is not but knowing I can get a real person to help me is worth the annual fee I pay.

  44. March 28, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    I can’t tell you how many emails like this I’ve sent out to people. Well done smumug! such an honorable thing to do and we all respect you more for it!

  45. Brian Fischer
    March 28, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    Apology done right!

  46. March 28, 2012 at 6:10 pm

    Yesterday was a really rough day for me. Yes, SmugMug really screwed up, and at my expense. I had to decide what was the right thing to do…and with the eyes of others in my industry watching. (As it could have happened to any of us.)

    We ALL make mistakes, and when we do, we hope to be shown grace by those we’ve offended. Given we can’t undo what was done….I can say I am nothing but impressed with the sincerity of SmugMug’s apologies, and the time they’ve spent taking action to make things were made right again.

    I have always enjoyed using SmugMug’s service…but now I am ever more confident that I am doing business with an honest company that truly cares about doing the right thing.

    Thank you everyone for your amazing support these last two days. I am truly blessed to have such amazing friends and professionals by my side, both in good times AND in times of trouble.

    I can’t explain a “tone of voice” and “sincerity” in a written message, but if I could, let me assure you this company is full of good people, and when they say they’re sorry, they truly mean it. I respect them for the time they took to sincerely apologize and I accept…and WILL continue doing business with SmugMug with absolute confidence that they won’t ever let this happen to me, or any other pro, ever again. Just because they screwed up doesn’t mean they’re a bad company.

    • March 29, 2012 at 5:30 am

      I am so proud to know you Valerie! I cannot imagine what the past 48 hours must have been like for you. Both responses shows true character strength, integrity and forgiveness.

      • March 29, 2012 at 8:14 am

        Valerie! You rock, sister! It’s times like these and how we navigate through them that speaks to our integrity and character! Looks like you’ve watched for the lessons and blessings through this little bump in the road. I don’t even know you (yet! :-) but I’m proud of you. :-)

    • March 30, 2012 at 7:36 am

      as a result, I visited your site…. amazing artist! I am a fan. someday when I grow up :)

  47. March 28, 2012 at 6:10 pm

    SmugMug staff: Did she file suit of provide a stern warning? If not, would we even hear about this. I know what it’s like to have stolen images used by both corporations and non profit blogs, in fact one lab smugMug uses and promotes; EZ prints (I have never used them) stole an image from me and has not paid the bill for using my image either…

    ~dr

  48. Maeryk
    March 28, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    Derp. It happens. And, making this mistake only highlights how _easily_ it happens in today’s right click day and age. Good on you for fessing up.

  49. March 28, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    Very classy approach to an error. Good for you guys…

  50. March 28, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    Bravo on the way you handled the goof. Now … GET ON IT and teach this method to every politician!!!

  51. anzac11
    March 28, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    Ahhh, that’s the pain of being human. We all make mistakes, even our heroes. ;)

  52. March 28, 2012 at 6:14 pm

    We all make mistakes, unfortunately we don’t all own up to our mistakes. Kudo’s to you for recognizing your transgression and making amends…………..

  53. March 28, 2012 at 6:15 pm

    Good handling of an error. That is what makes you # 1. Now move on. That article was outstanding and useful information. It was the first time I have received an email from you with that kind of information – and I have been a member for several years.

  54. Rogers Photography
    March 28, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    So much for the “right click save- disabled” feature. :) LoL. Like everyone here has said: Sometimes things get by us. You took responsibility, bought her a new car, enough said. ;)

  55. eddie@eddiefernandes.com
    March 28, 2012 at 6:18 pm

    Good for you guys. So honest. I wish your traits would rub off on others!

  56. Stanley Shelton
    March 28, 2012 at 6:18 pm

    I appreciate that all your fans love that fact that you guys fessed up to what happened. That’s what you do. In our business we are going to make mistakes. You set a great example. We can all learn from this. Happy to be here with you all. Thanks.

  57. March 28, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    Bravo!

    Everyone makes mistakes. Few companies have the integrity to respond honestly and immediately. It shows what kind of company SumgMug is and what kind of people make the company work. I’m proud to be a SumgMug customer.

  58. March 28, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    Honesty and integrity are rare in today’s world. But through your actions you have “shown” that you truly live both! We should all strive to be parents that have raised their family with these characteristics!
    Thank you Smugmug for walking the talk and doing the right thing!

  59. March 28, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    Nicely done SmugMug AND Valerie.

    • March 28, 2012 at 6:28 pm

      Thanks Michael! :-) And, it was done with no lawyers…just old fashioned kindness and honesty. That’s what I’m talking about right there.

      • March 28, 2012 at 6:39 pm

        I had an image stolen once. I elected not to sue but the …ahem… “person” that I dealt with at the ad agency sure made it hard for me to restrain myself. The point is, when it happens, it’s a huge violation. I’m glad that you were able to resolve the situation.
        :-) I’ll bet most people here haven’t been to your site. If the haven’t, they need to see it. You are TALENTED! Very nice work and such a wide range. Awesome.

        Go here people- http://www.valerieschooling.com/

        You’ll be glad that you did

  60. March 28, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    It is great to know we all make mistakes but Smug Mug rocks and wins my loyalty through it’s complete honesty. Not many companies admit their errors much less with the complete honesty that Smug Mug has!!

    Roger Marty
    Ice Fog Foto

  61. Chris
    March 28, 2012 at 6:24 pm

    Sent the e-mail to my family as an example of personal & corporate responsibility– nice example to set for everyone… Thanks.

  62. March 28, 2012 at 6:24 pm

    She should sue you.

    I am a member of the ASMP it is one of the biggest problems on the internet and your fessing up to it doesn’t satisfy me.

    This isn’t a simple screw up, this is theft and you could be financially responsible for the theft.

    For some strange reason there are thousands of people out there who find no offense at someone stealing their intellectual property. I do. I suggest you don’t steal any of my images.

    Read this: http://www.flickr.com/photos/johnmueller/6643032477/

    • Maeryk
      March 28, 2012 at 6:33 pm

      Sue them for what? What money did they make by mistakenly using her images? Mueller has a point, but any bill that shows up for use of that image is going to get laughed out of court so fast his head will spin.

      Your attitude is why companies seldom DO fess up when a mistake is made.. if the instant response is “Sue.. ????.. PROFIT!” it’s no wonder they lawyer up and make it impossible to even contact anyone.

      • March 28, 2012 at 6:46 pm

        Well said, Maery. This wasn’t a matter of malicious intent. They fessed up to it and it seems they contacted valerie right away to settle things. No need to for her to go overboard and lawyer up when things can be settled this way. There absolutely ARE times when one should be more aggressive, but I don’t think this was one of them.

      • Doug Bean
        April 1, 2012 at 7:39 am

        Whether Ms. Spooling sue is her perogative not anyone here.. Whether SM makes a profit from their act doesnt make them innocent of theft. Just because someone doesnt use or profit from their act doesnt make them exempt of theft. (try telling the cop your innocent because you didnt know the speed limit the next time you get stopped for speeding) Whether its done as a mistake or not doesnt make it not a crime. Whether she accept Smugmugs apology as being sufficient is her choice not any of yours. The fact that Smugmug doesnt mention a direct solution,compensation or how Ms. Spooling responded in their little public oped would make me suspect that this is not an apology to Ms. Spooling as much as an attempt to foster sympathetic opinion in their favor. Smugmug was being responsible? Being responsible would be to handle what SM did wrong personally to Ms. Spooling and make it right with her. If SM wants to offer how they made it right and Ms Spooling is ok with making that public then send out your blog. The problem with people today isnt that they are sue happy or that corporations fail to have integrity becauseof how people respond to their mistakes. Real integrity isnt dependent on public opinion. The problem today is that everything is tried in the court of public opinion and that behavior is acceptable.

        • April 1, 2012 at 7:47 am

          “The problem today is that everything is tried in the court of public opinion and that behavior is acceptable.”

          And you’re doing what?

          They resolved it between themselves. How they resolved it is nobody’s business but theirs.

      • DL BEAN
        April 3, 2012 at 3:22 pm

        I couldnt agree with you more Michael. Thats my point. Whatever they came to agreement on is their business and hopefully it is resolved and all the rest of this is unnecessary
        conjecture.

    • March 28, 2012 at 6:50 pm

      YOU are either what is wrong with society as a whole or a troll. SmugMug stepped up and owned up, great on them! There was no malice, no profit to be made, and they admitted the mistake BEFORE 99.9% of visitors even knew. They don’t need Valerie to sell their product and they have surely done more for their business AND Valeries by stepping up.

    • March 28, 2012 at 6:55 pm

      Your reaction is why our court systems are so back logged and those that need justice can’t get it! For 100’s of years people have dealt with each other honestly without legal involvement. They have found fair and amicable solutions to issues without wasting tax payer money or their own.
      The ones that need to be in court are the ones that do steal your images, profit from them, and never tell you about it. So it is time to stop frivolous lawsuits and allow the real ones to be heard!

    • Joe
      March 28, 2012 at 7:27 pm

      Get over yourself, Im in the ASMP too…It was a MISTAKE…did you ever make them?

    • March 28, 2012 at 8:15 pm

      I am also an ASMP member and you’re right about image theft on the internet. This was not theft. This was a mistake that was recognized and rectified. You’re right, there are thousands and more that think nothing of knowingly stealing intellectual property.

      But this is one example of a correction and they are shouting it from the roof tops. Good for them.

    • Joanne
      March 28, 2012 at 8:56 pm

      No way, they made a mistake and apologized. Everyone is too sue-happy! Plus, she’s gotten tons of positive exposure for her great work!

    • March 29, 2012 at 8:21 am

      I don’t agree she should sue Smug.. it’s over–they handled it and she’s fine, no real harm done. But! I did go read your flckr blog and love it! As photographers we go on blind faith that something isn’t going to get downloaded, screen shot and stolen.. but it happens all the time. We can do out best and keep an eye out… or not participate in the online world at all.. it’s really our choice. Like you and all of us out here–I choose to participate… with everything we do there are risks. BTW–That photo of your first sunrise of 2012.. is fricking awesome! I love it. :-) I plan to spend more time checking out your sets–I’m on flickr as well.

      • March 29, 2012 at 8:26 am

        If you look at the link that he supplied it has the name of the photographer in it. The name isn’t Mike. It might be PhotoguyMike’s but it sure doesn’t look like it.

        But you’re right- that was one heck of an image. He must have a nice camera LOL

      • March 29, 2012 at 8:28 am

        PS- if you post it one the internet- it will be stolen if it’s any good. Everyday people seem to think that the internet is “free”. I downsize my images as far as I can without severely compromising the way they look. I’ve been able to get image size down to under 100k. That somewhat helps

  63. March 28, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    LOVE Valerie’s reply. Love SmugMug’s sincerity and to-the-core attempt to make it right. You have both handled opposite sides of the issue with class, dignity, and professionalism.

  64. March 28, 2012 at 6:29 pm

    Honesty and integrity. Rare attributes in today’s world! Thanks for “fessing” up and apologizing. May God bless your business.

  65. March 28, 2012 at 6:29 pm

    I agree with the sentiment from most of the posts
    Things like this do happen with medium to large size companies.
    It’s your honesty and how you clean up the mess that’s makes the difference.
    Love what you guys do!

    Now just get a print lab in Canada and I’ll be really happy!!!

    Wayne

  66. March 28, 2012 at 6:30 pm

    Valerie, to make some good of the situation, I would think that you might like it if all of the people that are reading this blog entry give you a little publicity. I’m at your site and I see you’ve got a Facebook link. Would you approve of those in the SmugMug community that want to help a bit giving you a “like?” I intend to.

  67. March 28, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    Yes, it is nice that you are owning up to it.
    But sometimes words are kind of just icing; I think you should give her some cake, like free smugmug for the rest of her life, request her (written) permission to use her images (that she chooses) and then get her the RIGHT kind of publicity.

  68. March 28, 2012 at 6:35 pm

    I never make mistakes! LOL Just kidding… I have totally made mistakes. I think this makes you human or something.

    Smugmug rocks!

  69. March 28, 2012 at 6:36 pm

    Chris, sounds pretty human to me. Good to own up to it, get in front, and take your lumps. Now if you could just train my “fans” to be so conscientious.

    Hi to Toni & the family.

  70. March 28, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    No big deal, You guys said sorry.

  71. March 28, 2012 at 6:46 pm

    You are human. Unfortunately we dont all think about things all the same way. Hopefully she sees that it wasn’t meant to harm and to educate.

    If we (as your fellow smuggers) can assist you in expressing your apology… Let us know what to do!

  72. March 28, 2012 at 6:46 pm

    I am so impressed with how you have dwelt with this. Mistakes happen, dealing with it well is a mark of a great company

  73. Beeta
    March 28, 2012 at 6:47 pm

    Been there. You think you’ve done something wonderful in a very public forum – and, okay, maybe something’s nagging at the back of your mind but you’ve got to get it out there pronto and maybe there’s some added pressure for using some element of it – until you agree with the person who says, “Hey, this isn’t right.” Then your stomach does a major roller-coaster drop. You’ve owned up and apparently pronto. So, let it go if the photographer is willing to. Can’t learn unless we do stupid things now and then. Companies are companies, but individual people still are what they’re all about, and people goof.
    Keep up the good work. You’re so user-friendly, even I can enjoy SmugMug.

  74. wendy McClain
    March 28, 2012 at 6:47 pm

    Wow- I am impressed by your integrity and honesty, once again. Thanks for taking ownership of your mistake. We all make them, but few take ownership of them. Way to go Smug Mug!

  75. March 28, 2012 at 6:49 pm

    Wow! You made a Mistake? Kool, and you take responsibility for it? Even Kooler!
    So, this is why I will stay with smug mug…. this already makes you better than…lets say….facebook? lol….
    Oh, that is right, they don’t make mistakes….hahaha
    So, I will keep my Pro account with Smug Mug because I love a group that is not perfect and knows it. But has the cahonas to say it like it is. Such integrity, you can’t beat that in this day and age. Thanks, karshotz…

  76. Sharon McCarthy
    March 28, 2012 at 6:51 pm

    Good old Mercury retrograde. Sometimes our minds just stop seeing. Thanks for being so forthright in your authentic response.

  77. Bev Zuerlein
    March 28, 2012 at 6:51 pm

    One in a million company to take responsibility and attempt to right their wrong!

  78. March 28, 2012 at 6:51 pm

    I think you handled it the way you guys seem to handle everything else. With respect. Thanks for always being awesome guys, even in your mistakes!

  79. March 28, 2012 at 6:52 pm

    It is just so refreshing to see anyone let alone a large company take responsibility for a mistake. Kudos to you all.

  80. Tony Gilbert
    March 28, 2012 at 6:53 pm

    Wow… I have to say that was an impressive email and apology. If only ALL companies could hold themselves accountable to this degree! I sincerely hope other companies learn from this example. Sometimes people simply want validation and you provided that here (and then some.) I say “way to go” too. :)

  81. March 28, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    Stuff happens. We all make mistakes. I commend you for stepping up to the plate, admitting and apologizing. This kind of behavior makes me proud have a trusted partner like SmugMug. Keep up the great work!

  82. March 28, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    You are great!! still love you guys!

  83. March 28, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    I had the cover image of the Yellow Pages in Norfolk, VA in the late 80’s. Someone from their company purchased a limited edition fireworks photo of Waterside at an art show. I started getting calls saying I saw your photo on the cover of the Yellow Pages. Mind you there was not even a photo credit. These were people that owned the print. They had paid for a limited edition signed and numbered cibachrome print.

    I called Bell Atlantic and they said, “Hey we bought the photo at the Ghent Art Show”. I said that didn’t give you rights to use it that way. They said so sue me.

    I agree with the other poster, how about a pro account for life for her? Wouldn’t cost you much and it would go a long way with the community.

  84. vwonmaui
    March 28, 2012 at 6:55 pm

    No business life without SmugMug. No human life without mistakes. We are all human and it takes courage to admit mistakes. With your quality of service, I am sure you are taking care of Lady Valerie’s problem and life remains good.

  85. March 28, 2012 at 6:57 pm

    Smugmug, Valerie… You are all the best! A nice Welcome to the School of Life… the doors never close.
    You all be well… Always.
    Ara and Spirit

  86. March 28, 2012 at 6:57 pm

    Great response to an honest mistake. Win-win for you and Valerie. I remain a loyal SmugMug client because you all are great!

  87. chesterdawg
    March 28, 2012 at 7:00 pm

    We all make mistakes and it certainly is not the end of the world.
    You handled it well so lets all give one big group hug and move on.

  88. Jaime H.
    March 28, 2012 at 7:02 pm

    I’m just wondering how many friends did SmugMug call before apologizing – just to make sure you’d handle your PR effort in the form of social media? (AKA everyone on this blog basically saying something to the effect of “that was wrong….but we love you anyway”

    ….I got this email apology at 8:50EST. The board will filled with comments before the email was distributed from my vantage point. I’m an ICP alum. We talked about copyright frequently in class. You are correct that you F*cked up. However your apology doesn’t tell anything about the remedy and what you will do to avoid this from happening again. Saying you weren’t thinking doesn’t even tell us how it happened in the first place. You don’t strike me as remorseful at all for the photographer you stole from. I don’t think that you really believe that you’re “clueless”, right?

    As you know, if a major corp stole (used without permission) an image, and said sorry, a nice paycheck would follow. What were your damages Chris? Did you pay usage fees?

    “Applauding you” as many users have what appears to be strategically uploaded for this apology is like applauding a police officer after he or she watches a person drop their wallet on the streets of NYC, picks it up and turns a blind eye, doesn’t return it, get’s caught by the citizen, and gives it it back to them…and says sorry dude.

    After the citizen complains to internal affairs, the police commissioner sends out a press release talking about how the officers “weren’t thinking”. “I had no idea when we picked up the wallet that it was someone else’s”, but look – we did thr right thing and gave it back. The commissioner adds “And to the guy who’s wallet was stolen, it’s so great that you have a job and work to put money in that superb wallet of yours – you are so talented!

    Then to add further insult to injury – we as citizens are told to blog about what we think rather than hearing a comprehensive plan, what will happen to the officer and how he or she will be punished. Better yet, the blog shows 10 citizens have given these men/women in blue the purple heart of courage (wrong agency but you get the idea) for stealing.

    No offense officer “duffy” – that’s your job – to protect and serve. It is even worse to be a dirty cop as opposed to a citizen thief. You took an oath to protect and serve.

    No offense Mr. MacAskill, as photographers we need to know parking our intellectual property is safe at SmugMug. When we upload our materials to your site, we are trusting that you and your employees and agents will not infringe on copyright law for your own profit. You are figuratively law enforcement officials of IP as you are a Digital Asset Management company!

    Did you pay Valerie Schooling for usage rights without permission and damages?

    Now, that would be setting an example. Why don’t you write an apology to national news organizations rather than marketing your political correctness to your direct mail customer user-base. The tone and tenor of this email bothers me a lot more than the mistake itself. But the clincher: Future Prevention.

    Writing that you’re “clueless” is nothing short of pathetic for a President of a multimillion dollar company. Especially when you are clearly not.

    My questions:
    1. Who got fired or disciplined for this theft? What is his or her name and background?
    2. How much money did you pay for the mistake to the copyright owner?
    3. Why will this never happen again? When safety gap measure were implemented?

    Your email marketing “apology” campaign blows smoke. If you can answer the above questions, you might avoid once again saying (we) “…did something so dumb in a blog post (this time an email campaign)….(and are) looking at each other blankly and asking, what were we thinking?”

    I am quite certain as “dumb” as your mistake was to use your words, you don’t want an apology to look even dumber. For full redemption, answer these questions and your apology will be masterfully authentic.

    Respectfully Sent,

    Jaime H.

    P.S. If you haven’t already, hire a PR firm.

    • Chris MacAskill
      March 28, 2012 at 7:56 pm

      Hey Jaime,

      Thanks for your comment. I know a lot of companies and PR firms would say you need to fire the responsible party to make this right. For better or worse, I had only one simple thought: Valerie is the one who got hurt so she would be the best one to ask what, if anything, we could do to make it right. (A time machine was her #1 wish.)

      She didn’t ask me to fire anyone, which was a personal relief because I’m the responsible party. I had the chance to hire the writers, review the post, and everything else that led up to this.

      She was wonderfully helpful in getting me to understand the situation and what it meant to her. I passed the email/blog post I wrote by her before posting it because I wanted to be sure I understood and that she felt it was sincere.

      I’m trying to stay focused on the idea that this isn’t about our PR or me saving face, because we deserved the criticism we received for this. It really should be about her.

      Thanks,
      Baldy

      • March 28, 2012 at 8:41 pm

        Jaime was right Chris, I still can’t believe how flippantly you take this. At least it comes off that way. I would rather not have gotten your e-mail about this number one and secondly to be flamed on this board for speaking my mind on a subject you brought up shows the stupidity of some of the people on this site. The ignorance on copyright law, model releases and the like is astounding. I am a professional, I want to be treated as a professional and I want the sites and personal at these sites to treat me that way.

        From all my dealings with your company I find it lacking in professionalism and this is a self admitted example of your lack of professionalism here. It’s a great product you have, treat it that way. Treat your subscribers that way as well, or they will not be.

      • Jaime H.
        March 28, 2012 at 10:40 pm

        Thanks for your quick response. It is obvious that you are very interested in keeping photographers happy.

        The reason I was so direct with my remarks is because you poured salt in my copyright wound.

        Copyright law is the cornerstone of YOUR business as well as ours. It is the ONLY thing we have to sell and it is the reason we make a living as a photographer.

        Selling pictures is all about copyright law and abiding by it.

        My post has solely to do with honoring copyright and the penalties for not, so we photographers are all in business tomorrow.

        The apology felt to me like “I’m sorry, you’re great, we made a mistake”. While the photographer was OK with it, do you think photographers in general should accept an apology when a client reproduces our images without a license?

        The reason this bothered me is that SmugMug committed copyright infringement – the very thing we deal with that destroys our bottom line. Your public apology in the form of an email to your client base shows that you were somehow asked to do this as a remedy.

        This mistake has absolutely nothing to do with how good or bad your company procures printing and develops a community and customer service around photography/photographers.

        It has nothing to do with being perfect. I am not.

        It was the nature of the mistake, copyright infringement, that makes this in particularly frustrating to hear about.

        I want to know that SmugMug takes copyright seriously.

        For everyone who thinks I’m being too harsh, the next time you shoot an event or wedding, just remember how it feels when your client buys a 4×6 or an 8×10 – scans the image, and uploads it to SmugMug’s Consumer site (or a competitor) and prints it off for cost and profits from your work – the same exact products we sell for a profit. It sucks. There is no way to prevent it.

        If you are lucky enough to find out about it, and you confront the client, they feign ignorance. This has happened to me on two occasions, cheating me out of thousands in sales, despite a signed contract. From another poster, this happened in a publication.

        Now clearly SmugMug as a professional rights management organization wouldn’t do this knowingly, but would an apology be enough for me in that circumstance from a client. “no” unless the funds lost were replaced.

        This goes on ALL OF THE TIME, so the last thing I want to see is the company I am trusting to protect my copyright, caught infringing. It just doesn’t look good, regardless of intention.

        It makes me wish there was some way to quickly upload all digital assets to a main site (aside of US Congress) so it would be law that one couldn’t reproduce a pic without putting it through a pictorial recognition system. (I know I’m dreaming right now)…but a frustrating thing. I am certain that everyone here would be grateful for a system like that who earns a living through IP. I am just as sure that SmugMug wouldn’t knowingly publish or reproduce images knowingly that were copyrighted.

        Again, thank you for your response and for taking copyright seriously. I also thank my teachers and mentors for helping me understand early on why copyright is so important.

        Best of luck for your business.

        Best Regards,

        Jaime

    • Angus
      March 28, 2012 at 10:49 pm

      Get over yourself if you think you can make sure it never happens again by making heads roll. When is the last time any of us have informed all of your customers when we made an error on a clients order? (Or does that never happen to you?)

      As a user of SmugMug, I don’t care who got fired or disciplined. It doesn’t matter what is his or her name and background is. I don’t need to know how much money was paid for the mistake to the copyright owner. I don’t need to know what what safety gap measures will be any more than I need to know what accounting software SmugMug uses. I don’t care if a PR firm is being used because, that’s what big business do, the ones that only care about how they look and do business. The ones that don’t care about people

      SmugMug is different.

      As a consumer, I need to know, does SmugMug make it easier for me to look after my business? Do they provide a quality service to me? Are they cost effective? Do the people at SmugMug care about me, the consumer? Do they take responsibility if, and when, mistakes are made? Are they ethical in the way they do business?

      If I am not comfortable with the answers to these questions, then I need to look elswhere for the service they provide. I can vote for my favorite Photo Hosting Site with my credit card, and so can everybody else.

      I do feel bad for Valerie Schooling, I would hate for it to happen to anyone, and I hope she is able to make amends with SmugMug but whatever happens, is between them.

      The PR people would say “I don’t care what you write about me, just make sure you spell my name right”

    • March 29, 2012 at 6:35 am

      Regardless the positive sentiments and responses that pour in, I always applaud different sides of anyone’s story. Your angle came from a interesting standpoint, Jaime.

      The copyright points you make are indeed correct. The questions however, to me, seem to be a little more vindictive than I expected. (although I did saw your salted copyright wound note, so I can understand where you are coming from). Allow me to share what thoughts I had when seeing those questions.

      1. Who got fired or disciplined for this theft? What is his or her name and background?
      – why do heads have to roll?
      This creates an environment of fear ~ and I think we can agree that fear is rarely a producer of positive or creative energy. If someone were to get fired, that person got a lesson, and probably would never do it again… with their next employer. The newly hired person would have to be told to not do what his predecessor did. But I doubt that this would be remembered as well as the one who made the mistake. (Right Chris?)

      2. How much money did you pay for the mistake to the copyright owner?
      – why is it about money?
      This creates an environment where money supposedly fixes anything. And it doesn’t. I am glad to see that Valerie recognized that as well. Additionally, it also turns every Smugmug client here into a money-seeking watchdog each time they report a bug, a mistake, or a gripe. And Smugmug would most likely start to open their email box with a weary feeling about any email coming in…

      3. Why will this never happen again? When safety gap measure were implemented?
      – “Never say never” … no system is perfect, but in the blog, Chris does clearly state Smugmug’s editorial policy:
      “Our Editorial Policy going forward is to Ask First, Period. No image will ever be used in our blog posts, emails, or any other communication without your permission.”

      One element we all can recognize is that this single post/email/campaign/PR job/apology (choose any to your liking) is creating a lot of buzz and traffic to both parties.

      When a newspaper prints a mistake IN INK, they print an apology IN INK. However, if anyone sees it, fine. But it will be gone and forgotten by the time the bird cage needs a cleaning.
      In this web world though… this thread will last much much longer, and thus will be able to provide credibility to Smugmug as well as traffic and good karma to Valerie Schooling.

      This alone has value we cannot measure in dollars.

  89. Rick N
    March 28, 2012 at 7:04 pm

    Love you guys and hope to continue to be a customer of yours for many, many years to come. Thank you!

  90. March 28, 2012 at 7:05 pm

    I appreciate the honesty in correcting y’alls mistake. Gives me another reason I feel good about having a Smug Mug account. Now if we can get all of our politions to be as honest we’ll be doing great! ;)

  91. March 28, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    Well, what can I say that hasn’t already bin sed…

  92. March 28, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    Honesty has always been such a good policy.

  93. March 28, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    At least you all noticed the mistake and are appologizing for it and unlike every other company in the world are publicly leting everyone else know that you all messed up. How cool is that? Most people in general hate to say that they messed up let alone a company saying that they messed up. I think that Smugmug rocks and just like everyone else has said in this blog, you all are human and make mistakes just like the rest of us…. but you all are cool enough to tell on your self LOL.

  94. March 28, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    We are all human after all! Nice that you sent out such a public apology.

  95. Berel
    March 28, 2012 at 7:08 pm

    First, Valerie, you’re a great photographer. This event will only bring you more success. Second, Baldy, it took b–ls to get right on it and take the beating. You’ll only prosper as well. Large companies must learn that it is cheaper to come clean than pretend there is not a problem. Smugmug is right up there with companies I admire. I can’t say they have ever been short of outstanding.

    I recently ended battle over many months with a name brand industry manufacture regarding design failures. I had a letter from a key design engineer (employed by the same company) acknowledging that my complain was accurate after reviewing my equipment. But still I was treated with little respect. Why? If the word got out, there could be a recall and it could cost the company a bundle. I was offered a minimal settlement. I can’t say who or what they make, but I signed off agreeing that I’ll be quiet. I was told to take what was offered or “the deal was off the table.” Many other have this same equipment and may be dissatisfied. And they’ll never know the truth.

    As I said, it takes guts to fess up when you know it’s wrong. Smugmug did the right thing. They may be the first in the industry.

    • Chris MacAskill
      March 29, 2012 at 7:09 pm

      Thank you, Berel. We didn’t actually take as much of a beating as I expected and we deserved, because so many people have been so gracious.

      But I’m acutely aware that if we were to make mistakes more frequently or not have integrity during everyday business, people will not be as understanding.

  96. March 28, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    Please take mine if there is a next time I could use the advertising. You guy’s are awesome. It is nice to know there is a Real Honest business out there. I have had work stolen and only found out when I got called on posting my own picture. Someone had changed all the information and made claim to it. So I give you Kudos for your honesty.

  97. carlos cuba
    March 28, 2012 at 7:10 pm

    You guys are so nice and you could be even nicer if you provide us with a toll free number to contact a hero incase of any problems.

  98. Gordon
    March 28, 2012 at 7:11 pm

    Hard to fault someone for a “doh” moment!
    We’ve all had them, probably will have more, we appreciate the effort and, um, balls it took to admit a mistake in such a public forum.

    Gordon
    GT Photography

  99. Charlie
    March 28, 2012 at 7:15 pm

    Class, Just pure Class! You guys are awesome.

  100. March 28, 2012 at 7:15 pm

    Some times we make a O *** by show the Class of your place by Apology is good. I only hope we all learn and life must go on.
    Thanks for heads up.
    People who think above O *** don’t get it unless they think then can walk on water.
    Have a better day.
    Dan

  101. March 28, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    In today’s overly litigious society its a breathe of fresh air to read of a company admitting fault. I’m happy to be your client.

  102. March 28, 2012 at 7:25 pm

    You know that’s a real bummer when that happens, but I do love a company that will admit when they are wrong. I admire your willingness to own it and that is one of the many reasons I’m happy to be a customer!! I have been really thrilled with every experience I’ve ever had with your customer service! In fact, I just got my friend Ron Moore (www.photoopstudio.com) hooked up with SmugMug for that very reason and he’s had the same experience! You’re great and so are Valerie’s photos!! Glad to have stumbled upon her work!! Love to know how many hits you sent her way… may not have been a bad thing when the dust all settles. Keep up the good work!

    e

  103. Allen Round
    March 28, 2012 at 7:27 pm

    Having never made a mistake myself . . . I hesitate to cast the first stone. Or the Second or Third. LOL!

  104. March 28, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    My congratulations to both SmugMug and Valerie Schooling. I commend you all on the professional and ethical way this was handled by both parties!

    I have recently been witness to something like this that was dealt with terribly in upstate NY and for no good reason to boot…

    Hopefully, this will help set the tone for the future handling of such issues in our industry.

    Bravo and well done!

  105. March 28, 2012 at 7:31 pm

    How refreshing to have a company act like a “mench” in today’s “not my fault” society. I am proud to have a site with your company. SmugMug rocks!!!!

  106. March 28, 2012 at 7:32 pm

    Its one thing to take without asking, but doing so and not thinking it was wrong and then owning up to a mistake is a different ball of wax…

    Good Job for the initiative and owning up to a mistake others may have looked over..

    This is why I like SM…

    Great ownership..

    Doug

  107. March 28, 2012 at 7:33 pm

    Kudos for owning up to your mistake and giving an honest answer as to why.

  108. March 28, 2012 at 7:37 pm

    And that is exactly why I have my site thru smugmug. I know exactly who I’m dealing with, and I love you guys! Thank you!

  109. March 28, 2012 at 7:37 pm

    I tip my cap to SmugMug for acknowledging the problem and apologizing so quickly. Many CEOs would instead stick their heads in the sand, deny that an issue even exists and LATER, if at all, extend an apology. You did it right. A+ for “crisis management.”

  110. March 28, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    I hope you have at least pointed out to the individual your cluster?

    Vr,

    Bill

  111. March 28, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    In addition to my response to

    This Image Is Not Free

    which I loved reading and seeing, btw, I have a few suggestions.

    Smugmug, you have an honest reputation and people are watching how you handle this, even those of us that don’t usually write comments. Give her something for her trouble, don’t just apologize, do something tangible. If you did the equivalent in another kind of business what would have happened?

    Fellow photographers; If you look inside Photoshop you might have noticed that there is something called Digimarc; if you go to their website you might find something interesting in that they have a way to embed watermarks so that they are hardly, if at all, visible, and there is some traceability to your work. It is a paid service that has various levels of costs.

    http://www.digimarc.com/digimarc-for-images

    Also, on the great Lightroom Queen’s website is a free download area where she has several really nice watermarks; a huge embossed “C”, a semi-transparent band, and repeating text. Quick, easy, and varied enough to satisfy most who are willing to do some kind of watermarking.

    http://www.lightroomqueen.com/free-downloads/watermark-downloads/

    I am not a compensated affiliate of any of these entities. Here is how I am connected: I bought a “Pro” account from Smugmug and haven’t finished my site yet; I just bought a Digimarc account; and I buy everything Victoria Bampton (i.e. Lightroom Queen) ever sells because she bends over backwards to give good value to her customers.

    Valerie, it seems like you might become our unwilling poster child: You don’t HAVE to do anything you don’t want to, but if you could use your 15 minutes of fame to stand up for photographers, that would be very nice. At any rate, a lot of us will see your website who might not have otherwise.

    Thanks to anyone who made it all the way through this email!

  112. Dave Garcia
    March 28, 2012 at 7:46 pm

    This is why we love SmugMug! You guys have and are a stand up company. Glad to see the awesome starts at the top. Also just think of all the publicity she’s getting now :-)

  113. March 28, 2012 at 7:48 pm

    Am a loyal SmugMug user and have had nothing but a great relationship and am not surprised by the way they handled an honest mistake.

    Do however need to chime in on the way the “industry”(artists or budding ones)are so quick to raise such a stink. Times have changed and lets face it, the sheer amount of imagery have watered down the world of photo and video for that matter.

    Recently a friend raised a huge stink about a thumbnail image used on a very rarely visited Fakebook(not a typo) page and was talking about compensation and the image being worth over $40,000. This was a friend of his and the subject of the photo posted it up. The subject arranged the shoot and allowed the shooter into a very sensitive area. The shot for many photographers would have been a throwaway though the shooter is talented. Some feelings got hurt and the subject(an athlete) is now fighting feeling jaded and very gun shy to every shoot with anyone again.

    Think some times we all need to serve ourselves some “humble pie”. We are shooters, some of us amateur or part-time(like myself) and others are in it to win it but it doesn;t mean every image we capture is worth suing someone over or making people feel like they’re trying to ruin their career. Just my 2 cents.

    Again props to SM for taking care of this and keep up the good work.

    • Maeryk
      March 28, 2012 at 7:51 pm

      This is why you always, always ALWAYS get a model release. It should state what rights you have to the photo, and what rights the subject has to the photo. And it should be signed by both of you, and kept on file. That eliminates any questions about who has rights to what.

      • March 28, 2012 at 7:54 pm

        Unfortunately camera manuals don’t come with business instructions. In my humble opinion, the business side of photography can break (or make) a talented photographer.

  114. Maeryk
    March 28, 2012 at 8:01 pm

    Michael Lloyd :
    Unfortunately camera manuals don’t come with business instructions. In my humble opinion, the business side of photography can break (or make) a talented photographer.

    No, they don’t. But there are any number of good books out there, that explain it, in either fine or broad detail. Any time you are taking pictures of a person, you need an agreement on several things: 1) What future use is possible, 2) Any limits to said future use, 3) Compensation, either in total and up front (prints for a portfolio and limited use for them, usually), or a percentage if it’s going to be published, and a basic form.

    It can be as simple as :
    In exchange for consideration received, I hereby give permission to [ your name here ] to use my name and photographic likeness in all forms and media for advertising, trade, and any other lawful purposes.

    Print Name:

    Signature:

    Date:

    If Model is under 18:
    I, , am the parent/legal guardian of the individual named above, I have read this release and approve of its terms.

    Print Name:

    Signature:

    Date:

    or, for big shoots, much more complicated.

    When you delve into “in public” it becomes even murkier.. that lady walking down the street is “in public” so doesn’t need a form.. unless you are going to make money on the shot.. etc.

    Worth doing some research on!

  115. Deborah Carrion
    March 28, 2012 at 8:03 pm

    Thanks for stepping up and owning it. This company has always help with my questions and problems. I respect the way you handle your business.

    And as for Jaime H , lighten up dude!

  116. Murphy
    March 28, 2012 at 8:03 pm

    You would make a better CEO than Netflix has.

  117. Chad
    March 28, 2012 at 8:04 pm

    Everyone makes mistakes, that’s how we learn. You all made right by contacting her and apologizing.

    Speaking of watermarked images, I got mocked and bashed by one of your mods due to having a watermark on an image. The mod even made a “special” post just for me. That’s the only real problem I’ve had with smugmug/dgrin forums.

  118. March 28, 2012 at 8:05 pm

    This proves your company is run by humans! That’s wonderful! I LOVE SMUGMUG!

  119. James Parsons
    March 28, 2012 at 8:08 pm

    I had an awesome action sports photo that was copyrighted on SmugMug yet it was copied by another site and sent overseas. How could this have happened????

    • March 28, 2012 at 8:33 pm

      Hey James – Can you email our Customer Support Heroes with a link to your photo and when this happened? We’ll help you get to the bottom of this: http://help.smugmug.com/

  120. Ron Harris
    March 28, 2012 at 8:18 pm

    To those of us very few perfect people left on the planet…..we will hold it against you forever.

    The others will probably get over it.

    Not an issue……..

  121. March 28, 2012 at 8:18 pm

    Embarrassing screw-up, but a stand-up job acknowledging it and apologizing publicly. Well done on that. I wish more companies understood that mistakes are forgiveable, failure to admit them / put it right isn’t.

  122. March 28, 2012 at 8:19 pm

    I commend SmugMug for being upfront and forthright. I would honestly think that Valerie would easily agree and forgive such a mistake. As a SmugMug member of almost 8 years, I have nothing but great things to say about it and have referred others to use it.

    We are not free from error but we are all agreeing to one thing, being open about the mistake and sincerely apologizing is very honorable. It shows the integrity of this site and its founders/staff alike, which can only be acknowledged by saying simply…Thank You.

  123. March 28, 2012 at 8:26 pm

    Being responsible seems to be a rare quality these days, I’m glad to hear you guys owned up and have corrected the error. That alone deserves a high five SMUGMUG……..

  124. Dee
    March 28, 2012 at 8:26 pm

    Hey Smugmug…you guys did the right thing and it took integrity and “cojones” to do it.

    Great to be a customer of such a great company :-)

    Dee

  125. Dan H
    March 28, 2012 at 8:36 pm

    An island of corporate integrity in a sea of no contest pleas.

  126. March 28, 2012 at 8:41 pm

    Chris,

    I really appreciate your honesty. I wish more people in this world would take your lead. This is a perfect example of why I love SMUGMUG.

    Frank

  127. Maeryk
    March 28, 2012 at 8:46 pm

    photoguymike :
    Jaime was right Chris, I still can’t believe how flippantly you take this. At least it comes off that way. I would rather not have gotten your e-mail about this number one and secondly to be flamed on this board for speaking my mind on a subject you brought up shows the stupidity of some of the people on this site. The ignorance on copyright law, model releases and the like is astounding. I am a professional, I want to be treated as a professional and I want the sites and personal at these sites to treat me that way.
    From all my dealings with your company I find it lacking in professionalism and this is a self admitted example of your lack of professionalism here. It’s a great product you have, treat it that way. Treat your subscribers that way as well, or they will not be.

    Flamed? You opened with a flamethrower, and people responded with their feelings as well. OMG SUE! is not a rational response to an honest mistake.

    I don’t work for SmugMug, and don’t speak for them. but if you have that big of a problem here, perhaps your ideal site is elsewhere?

  128. joshua kennerly
    March 28, 2012 at 8:52 pm

    You make a liar of those who say an apology is a sign of weakness. On the contrary, it’s a sign of courage and integrity. Well done!

  129. March 28, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    wow!!! There’s alot to read here…I swear , i can never get away from this computer, although I’m not complaining because, secretly, I’m hoping that someday my typing will progress from woody the wood pecker to fast man. Good point discussing, Smug mug.
    You’re a good site. My photo needs get met. Thank you I’m sorry is good.

  130. Abraham Friedman
    March 28, 2012 at 9:40 pm

    I would probably never have known about this if you didn’t send a email fessing up to your mistake. That shows just the type of quality people there are at SmugMug. Even though I’m not involved I appreciate your taking responsibility and being honest about it. Keep up the good work.

  131. March 28, 2012 at 9:47 pm

    I can only imaging how many large corps would have handled this (having worked for them). Hats off SmugMug. Honesty is the best policy, at least if you went people to respect you. Go ahead and steal my photos all you want. Any publicity is good publicity ;).

  132. March 28, 2012 at 9:52 pm

    I love you guys. You messed up. You fessed up. No biggie. You’re still awesome.

  133. March 28, 2012 at 10:04 pm

    Thank you, I truly was being to think that honesty was a thing of the past. It is truly hard to people in the world of photography, however business are (at least you hope) to be trusted. You have absolutely taken your business to an all new level.
    I have had so many images stollen this is why I turned to Smugmug in the first place. I love knowing that the clients that are the thrives can no longer take them.
    As a professional photographer for over 30 years, I have seen a lot of changes and with those changes. Naturally security was the biggest change… So I thank you for your honesty and true professionalism and I wouldn’t use any other company!
    Blessings always,
    Anna Calabrese
    Captured in Time Digital Photography

  134. March 28, 2012 at 10:23 pm

    You guys are the example that sets the standard for customer service and responsibility. Seeing your response to this has led me to trust you more; not less. Thank you for the honesty and respect you give your clients.

  135. March 28, 2012 at 10:44 pm

    Perhaps the best mea culpa ever written! You need to send this to the PR Executives at BP to show them how it’s done!!! Brilliant guys!

  136. March 28, 2012 at 10:47 pm

    you are like a group of naughty children haha … you can steal my images any day :P
    dont be so hard onyour selves we all make mistakes.. and me the most…
    have a great day jane x

  137. Bhakti
    March 28, 2012 at 10:52 pm

    As a former Smugger (I plan on returning soon). And yet SMUGMUG has NOT deleted my images (Thank the Gods!) I can attest to the amazing staff and leadership in the industry. Not only that, I had major and minor new organizations take an image of mine without permission for “news” reasons (I’m sure they wouldn’t have taken an image that would be detrimental to advertisement so news worthy is debatable at best) and use that singular image for 90 days and in some cases those same global new organizations REFUSED to take responsibility to any degree. One did take responsibility and compensate me for ONE DAYS use, not the three months use, however, the attention I received for that use was not a fair trade. Since it took a copyright attorney to get them to pay a lick of attention to me and I didn’t receive ANY attention or traffic to my site. Smugmug is a superior place and I will speak highly of them no matter if I am a smugger or not. You have my word of mouth advertising for life! :) Good job Smugmug! Good job.

  138. March 28, 2012 at 10:58 pm

    To err is human, and it takes a big man to admit his mistakes… Besides we are family right? If it had been my site you’d used (and you are welcome to) I would have enjoyed the exposure and be loving this retraction ;)

    The question of DMR and protecting work for me is simple, but then I work on a client owned assignment imaging basis. Everything I create is prepaid and nothing goes publicly online that I’d have a problem with someone taking a skimpy low res version of… I look to the next assignment rather than what I took last week or year. My images are up there simply to show clients my general style. I like the protection smugmug gives and as I did my toe in for a current project find its function (and people) really cool. I hope this doesn’t blow up into something petty and messy!

    Bottom line is not about making mistakes but how you deal with them when they happen. I think your response it pretty noble in a cyber age of disjointed responsibilities.

  139. March 28, 2012 at 11:01 pm

    If only some of the corporations (like phone companies) could learn from your example. People (like me and the above) will forgive anything when honesty is at the forefront.

    Oh wait a minute is this a advertisement? If not it is a good idea for one.

  140. Ken Boddy
    March 28, 2012 at 11:12 pm

    By making such an open and what sounds like an unreserved appology is good. Things do go pear shaped some times and it learning from them that counts.

    Like other posts that support you I do also. The key thing for me is you (your team), that is, are very approachable as people: we talk to real people who are interested in us as people, not a far off hidden help desk who answer because we ask.

    Sorry it happened but life bites you some times.

    Kgb

  141. March 28, 2012 at 11:38 pm

    Glad to see the support. I respect your stepping up to the plate and for the public address.

    I hope Valerie has not been too badly impacted. Wish all the best to everyone involved.

  142. joho68
    March 28, 2012 at 11:45 pm

    Everybody makes honest mistakes, the same cannot be said for making sincere apologies and “facing the fire”. I think our “e-climate” would be a lot better if more companies did what you have done. Well, the second part that is :-)

    You’re still awesome!

  143. March 29, 2012 at 12:15 am

    Yet again SM has demonstrated , to me at least, that it is not the same as all the others out there, and that is most definitely a GOOD thing!

    To be quite frank, those who find SM’s way of dealing with this unacceptable, are, (from their posts’ tone), suffering from an excess of self importance, and a worrying lack of humour. Incidentally lack of humour is a pathology that is rife in the overworked and has the potential to be fatal. Seriously.

    SM’s humble and honest apology could not be bettered IMO, certainly not by the usual serious ‘corporate’ response which invariably come across as self- serving and disingenuous and frequently as hypocritical and pompous; that’s much more likely to alienate than to befriend.

    Those that have heavily criticised SM’s solution and attitude have confused ‘professionalism’ with ‘seriousness’. They assume being downright sombre and serious equates to being professional and efficient: it doesn’t. Such a mood is empty, it leaves no room for real contact on a human level, something photographers need in bucket loads, both for their clients AND for themselves.

    A solution without real human communication is not even like a proffering bunch of flowers, (even which are only going to live so long), but a solution with real human communication (only achievable with blatant honesty and preferably with a hint of self deprecating humour) empowers the hurt party, helps diffuse the pain and puts roots on the presented flowers.

    SM are right to adopt such a disarmingly honest and unembellished posture. Otherwise we’re left with the outmoded, myopic and ultimately inefficient modus operandii that most of us are sick to death of. Super-seriousness it is not as forward looking as some assume, in fact it is retroscopic. ;)
    :p

    I don’t agree either that SM need a PR firm, they are their own best PR, which they attain very simply by being themselves.

    A no BS firm. What a huge relief and very welcome change from the pondorous waffle and convolution merchants that we usually encounter. SM are trailblazers in this and long may they continue to be so, and long may they, and we, benefit from it.

  144. March 29, 2012 at 12:40 am

    Sir, I like you admitted your mistake. Any how kindly tell me now how you are protecting the same and our valuable images.
    I have full confidence on you
    Manjot

  145. March 29, 2012 at 12:53 am

    Chris,

    Ownership for your actions… Are you kidding me, are you human? Your corporate attorney must be out of the country or you tied and gagged him. Chris you are a breath of fresh air in a world that is suffocating! Am I really witnessing Integrity and personal responsibility or am I dreaming???. Your mom must be so proud of you! I bet your mom’s name is June Cleaver and you are the Beaver? The Beaver was the last known human who owned up to his mistakes and was proud of taking personal responsibility for errors.

    I think the theme for “Leave it to Beaver” was done before lawyers were invented. Now people just hire someone to lie for them. Seriously, I am the mother of six children (married to a lawyer, shhhh don’t tell anyone) and I spend every single day of my life trying to teach my children that owning up to a mistake is much more freeing than spinning a web of deception. The truth doesn’t kill, it sets you free! People actually forgive and forget if someone owns up to something honestly and quickly. My motto “If you don’t own it, you’ll NEVER EVER change it”.

    So just incase my words are falling on the deaf ears of my children and your mom isn’t Mrs. Cleaver, then Chris, I would like to adopt you. You’d be the perfect big brother that I could point to as an example of “what to be” in this world. I may still point anyways, since there hasn’t been much to point at in years.

    Ward Cleaver: “It’s not important what you look like on the outside. It’s what you are on the inside that counts.”

    Chris, your insides look really good to this mom.

    oxxox
    your smug lovin’ mom

    • Chris MacAskill
      March 29, 2012 at 7:20 pm

      Thank, you Debra. That means a lot to us. When I was briefed about this, the team behind the blog post was tied in knots because they had spoken to our lawyers, who advised them not to admit guilt. But (and I’ll never forget the look on their faces), they said, we did make a mistake.

      They were so relieved to be able to set aside the legal advice and simply ask what is the right thing to do for the person we harmed.

      • mathiaspettersson
        March 29, 2012 at 11:55 pm

        I love you man.

  146. dkeffyn
    March 29, 2012 at 1:29 am

    pretty east to make a mistake, pretty hard to own up to it publicly, kudos to you Chris.

  147. Walter Feller
    March 29, 2012 at 2:36 am

    Simply because I was invited to visit this blog entry, I’ll make a comment;

    I have no problem with SmugMug. Service has been excellent and I’ll continue to use it.

    I’m glad to see an indiscretion was apologized for and things can move along.

    What I do find disturbing, whether the photos were presented in a positive, or negative context, is the initial intent to use them without permission or payment.

  148. Greg
    March 29, 2012 at 2:40 am

    Things happen. The fact that you admitted that you made a mistake without making excuses speaks volumes regarding your integrity.

  149. Greg
    March 29, 2012 at 2:42 am

    But…we should make sure that we ask for permission before using others material.

  150. March 29, 2012 at 3:26 am

    Personally, I’m glad SM owned up to the mistake, and that Valerie took the high road. If SM had her images plastered all over their site as promotional material to attract new business (us), THAT would be a serious problem in my eyes(and I’d be on the phone with a lawyer pretty darn quick). Assuming the owner of the images wasn’t compensated. But to have them featured in a blog post that helps us all, I’m not so sure. The biggest offense I see is the implication that Valerie was “doing it wrong,” when in fact she was not.

    I’m no legal / copyright expert, but if a newspaper were to use these images in a news story to share the same information, wouldn’t that be considered “fair use”? As I understand it, no compensation, photo credit, permission, is needed.

    Thank you Smugmug for the way you handled this, and an even bigger THANK YOU! Valerie for the way you handled it.
    P.S. Your photography is outstanding!

  151. March 29, 2012 at 3:41 am

    If only the Federal Government fess up to their mistakes!

  152. bill c
    March 29, 2012 at 3:48 am

    thanks for taking total ownership of your mistake. makes me feel that my own $$ are going to the right place.

  153. March 29, 2012 at 4:35 am

    The wonderful thing about SmugMug, your site, and your people, is you’re so refreshingly honest. And I love that about you guys.

  154. Jacki
    March 29, 2012 at 4:47 am

    Awesome on both sides. Proud to be part of the Smugmug family.

  155. Lynnma
    March 29, 2012 at 5:06 am

    Ditto on all the good things. Proud to be part of Smugmug and any mistakes we make. Real real people, real good people :)
    xx

  156. March 29, 2012 at 5:08 am

    So how much is ole Vallery going to pay you for the FREE advertising. I am sure nothing as she runs her behind to the bank to cash the new referral checks she will be getting. Yeah, complain and Cha-Chng all at the same time. Pitty you could not time warp and rob her of her complaints and new found exposure. Would teach a lesson, don’t look a ift horsein the mouth.

    Love your word-smiting though. Nice job. Love your site. Gives me what I want.

  157. March 29, 2012 at 5:09 am

    Everybody makes mistakes. I make them daily, sometimes hourly. But not everybody admits to them. That takes courage. I respect you more now.

  158. March 29, 2012 at 5:19 am

    Seeing two names I like and respect in one post, and at odds with each other got me shocked. Then reading on, I see a level of personality and sincerity that can and most likely will turn this into a win-win-win situation.

    “He who does nothing, does nothing wrong..”

  159. March 29, 2012 at 5:24 am

    I just read the email this morning, but I still don’t know what EXACTLY happened. because to me, it sounded more like a ‘caught redhanded’ situation and smugmug is just doing some ‘damage control’.

    anyway, what’s done is done.

    what bothers me MORE is this sentence:

    “The post was about image theft and we used examples from pro photographer Valerie Schooling’s site and gave the impression she was doing things wrong, which she wasn’t”

    now, i am not a lawyer, but this screams LIBEL/DEFAMATION, doesnt it?

    • March 29, 2012 at 5:35 am

      just a follow up… I am not talking about the ‘email’ itself, but the “defamation of character” that happened in the THREAD…

      I am not 100% sure as i have not read the thread/posts regarding the matter.

      P.S
      VALERIE: A big kudos to you for handling this well! It is obvious (from the posts above) that if this situation happened to any of the photogs, that they’d be suing smugmug BIG TIME. and I LOVE YOUR WORK!

      again, I am one of the FEW photographers who are OK with sharing my photos as long as they are not being SOLD. Trey Ratcliff has blogged about this so many times and for me, it makes sense. what’s NOT OK with me, is the fact that a company is accusing/accused Valerie of something that she didn’t do without providing facts (again, i didn’t read the THREAD/POSTS about this, I am just basing it on the email I received)

  160. March 29, 2012 at 5:26 am

    James Henline :
    And the fact that you owned up to it, made it known more so than any other media outlet could have, just goes to show what kind of company SmugMug is.
    Frankly I would consider it an honor to have Smuggy accidentally grab an image of mine, I know with a single email or phone call I would be more than fairly compensated.

    I second this motion–that Smugmug stepped right up to admit and apologize for what they had done speaks volumes to me–positively.

  161. March 29, 2012 at 5:39 am

    As always: Smugmug you truly are awesome! Thank you with love, hugs & laughter!!!

  162. Shawn
    March 29, 2012 at 5:42 am

    We all make mistakes.
    It takes alot to admit it when we make them and I admire SmugMug for this.
    –Shawn

  163. March 29, 2012 at 5:56 am

    We’re all human and subject to making mistakes. How we correct and learn from them is what matters. Writing a post to acknowledge what happen, and apologize is another reason why I love SmugMug.

    Integrity goes a long way with me. Y’all ROCK!

  164. March 29, 2012 at 6:01 am

    I read the article and didn’t think there was a connection to the picture in the post. If that makes Valerie feel any better. It’s always good to learn a lesson though. It’s really easy to post someone else’s pic without giving credit to them. If their pictures weren’t so freakin’ awesome, then I guess people would never do that. ;)

  165. March 29, 2012 at 6:04 am

    Good (unintentional) example of how people can do wrong things for all the right reasons. If only I had a dime for every time someone “borrowed” an image from a gallery or website…..Reality hits you hard Bro’!

  166. Kevin
    March 29, 2012 at 6:17 am

    Thanks for stepping up like a respectable company should. This is one of those moments that can either make /reinforce or break a company’s reputation and I still feel SmugMug is one of the very best.

    The goal was to educate and help the photography world at large. I can understand how that desire blinded those involved that created this mistake. Sending the email and correcting the mistake shows SmugMug meant no harm.

    Keep up the great work.

    • March 29, 2012 at 6:34 am

      Your email was the first time I heard about the situation. While I appreciate the apology, I do find it strange that whoever posted the material to the blog on behalf of smugmug was either uninformed about copyright infringement or didn’t recognize it as a potential issue. This should be a concern for all users of the site, and even though smugmug has ‘owned up’ to the mistake, what is it going to do to try to ensure this type of situation doesn’t occur again?

      • Lisa H.
        March 29, 2012 at 8:28 am

        Could it be someone was supposed to contact the photographer and simply missed a step. We have no idea how it happened or what happened. Pulling all that information out would only bring more critics out and more bashing. I’m impressed they owned up to it. Lately that has not been happening by companies so it’s a good thing they were honest about what happened. they could have swept this all under the rug, someone could have complained on FB or somewhere else and begun bashing behind their backs and THEN they apologized. It appears that isn’t the way it happened, so for that, I applaud them.

  167. March 29, 2012 at 6:33 am

    WE all make mistakes, You said it was accidental & You were sorry. But hey, if you see any of mine & want to use them Please feel free for a one time use & give me the bi line.

  168. March 29, 2012 at 6:37 am

    Well played SmugMug. Everyone makes mistakes but you handled this one very well. Makes me happy to be part of this community and makes me proud to know I support this company. You can use anything on 96photo anytime you want :)

  169. March 29, 2012 at 7:28 am

    As the “landlord” there was very likely an (unconscious) sense of entitlement involved. Yes, infringement IS a big deal. However, I for one am satisfied with the public apology and the increase in our “landlord’s” awareness. The public admission of the illegal appropriation of images is what separates human run businesses from anonymous corporations. I hope Valerie Schooling is satisfied with the public apology. No doubt it increased her visibility – and maybe she even got a few months of free rent to sweeten the deal:-)

  170. March 29, 2012 at 7:30 am

    Love how you all handle issues- always with a solution, a smile, and attitude of partnership. I am a loyal customer because of your refreshing and winning customer service. Thank you Baldy and crew!!

  171. March 29, 2012 at 7:33 am

    I have been a Smugmug Pro (http://www.photographsbydixie.com) for eight years. We have all made mistakes over the years, and the proof of integrity of a person or company is how they handle those mistakes. SM handled this the way it should have been handled once the mistake was realized. I have never seriously considered trusting another service with my photographs in any of those eight years. SM’s response to this mistake has proven me to be correct in continuing to stick with a straight shooting winner.

    Now I will get on my soapbox for a few seconds. If we want to go after the real bad guys in the theft of intellectual property, we need to focus on getting laws like SOPA/PIPA passed and not let them be gutted because of the people making money by having SOPA/PIPA stopped or gutted of the very provisions that can protect us. I can not forgive Google, Yahoo, Wiki, Facebook, etc. who waged an all out campaign to stop SOPA/PIPA with out-and-out lies and misleading statements because of their greed. Since when is stopping the illegal trafficking in intellectual property considered an infringement of free speech? Distribution of stolen intellectual property has NEVER been protected by the 1st Amendment and never will be.

    https://www.facebook.com/notes/photographs-by-dixie/support-sopa-stop-online-piracy-act/319736431424122

    …and as a plug – I will accept all likes to my https://www.facebook.com/Photographs.by.Dixie page that I can wrangle since I need 30 likes to open up new features available only when one reaches that plateau. Yes, this shames me, but what is a guy to do when he is trying to get ahead in life? ;-)

  172. Doug Bean
    March 29, 2012 at 7:44 am

    Im new here, but this doesnt make me very confident of staying with smugmug.It may be a mistake, but more than just making images photographers make impressions. Part of what attracts people to our images is that impression. Your mistake directly corrupted peoples impression of this persons work. I personally would be livid over such an act by someone I placed trust in to promote good impressions of my work especially given how much time goes into perfecting one image. Your admission is great but I think what everyone else thinks about your act is irrelevant. What Ms. Spooling thinks and how you treat her is more important.

    • Doug Bean
      April 1, 2012 at 7:45 am

      excuse me…Ms. Schooling, not spooling

  173. Kevin
    March 29, 2012 at 7:46 am

    Those on this post that are hell-bent on knowing what was done outside of the email and blog post should really take it down a notch. SERIOUSLY!

    The issue that caused this forum for your legal rant did not involve you (only the “well it could have” logic). A mistake was made – one that would be hard to prove was filled with intent or a disregard for copyright law. The parties involved are SmugMug and a one VERY TALENTED Valerie Schooling. It was her choice to accept the mistake or seek additional damages and that (based on her post) has been satisfied.

    Seeking or calling for someone to be fired over a mistake at this level is just appalling to me. Under that same logic you should have your rights revoked to sell images, hold a camera or even call yourself a professional if you ever… even for one second… make a mistake. Not to mention that Baldy and SmugMug have learned something very important here. Do you really think that same mistake would happen again by Baldy? What about a new person who hasn’t gone through all of this? Think about it for a second before you turn on that ever present FIRE THEM… SUE… FIRE THEM… SUE… FIRE THEM… SUE THEM ALL switch.

    If it can be shown without question they did this to harm Valerie or prevent themselves from impacting their bottom line then it would be a different story. As talented as Valerie is… do you really think they NEEDED her images? SmugMug after all is made up of some really talented photographer and they could have used anything to show on their blog. I, personally, do not believe that they wanted to harm Valerie… I think they were just huge fans of her work and made a mistake. I think they want to help the photography world and to educate SmugMugers out there which blinded them from seeing something they should. As I tell my daughter all the time, YOU WILL MAKE MISTAKES… the IMPORTANT thing is how you deal with them and THAT YOU LEARN FROM THEM. This was not to directly benefit SmugMug’s bottom line… it was to help people out there in the Photography World… to educate. I would consider this a two for one lesson.

    Additionally, and I have not checked this out, but I would be shocked if SmugMug’s Terms of Use didn’t have a statement in there about being granted the right to use User Content. Not that they would need or want the right to sell or profit from User Content but the right to use it in educational material or on their sites.

    • Donn
      March 30, 2012 at 5:31 am

      Awesome Reply Kevin. Thats what our world is turning into. Fire, Jail Someone. We are human. Its a MISTAKE. They settled it. NO ONE ELSE’s Business on their settlement.
      Smugmug.. Your awesome. Keep the Human factor ALIVE in your Business.
      WE ARE HUMANS !!!

  174. March 29, 2012 at 8:13 am

    From what I have read it seems to me the blog was meant to help not harm. Lessons learned. Smugmug is a community of images and of the people, who create them. Thats what keeps me sharing my images here. M

  175. Ben
    March 29, 2012 at 8:14 am

    When its all said and down, how we view all this and respond reflects us as individuals and how we see life.

  176. March 29, 2012 at 8:20 am

    It’s impressive that you called yourselves out and apologized. That’s a rare thing for any company nowadays–no equivocating, no excuses.

    Everyone makes mistakes. It’s great that the company I entrust with my precious photographs is willing to step up when that happens.

    Best,
    Diana Ost
    Pixelcat Photography

  177. March 29, 2012 at 8:26 am

    Your honesty is refreshing, and reflective of the kind of guys you are, and kind of company SmugMug is. That said, I wish you would actually tell us what you were thinking, and how this happened, rather than just posing the question and saying ‘we screwed up.’ We know you screwed up – and owned up to it, but how did the screw up occur, and what is being done to insure that it won’t happen again?

  178. March 29, 2012 at 8:35 am

    Badly and Smugmug Family!

    Great job on writing that email and your response to an error on your part. I can’t tell you enough how proud I am to be associated with a company like yours that willingly puts it out there–“yep..we screwed up” in such a positive and inspiring way. I’ve been in sales and marketing (even at the top of the food chain in management) for 22 years (just quit Jan 1 to run my own photography studio–it still scares the bejeezus outta me!) and never have I seen such humility and honesty in an apology message before. Really..GREAT JOB!!!!

    Life is about lessons learned through personal accountability–you’ve obviously learned a lot on this one. You can’t buy that kind of experience and growth so don’t sweat the small stuff (meaning any negative crap that may come your way at this point).. you’ve done your part taking the high road and you’re awesome! Let the dust settle and then get back to rockin’ and rollin’ like you always do!

    Take good care,
    Kristi Church
    Dreamcicle Studios Photography

  179. March 29, 2012 at 8:46 am

    Certainly a lot to read & personal “feelings” up above, but we are still dealing with a controversy. I like SmugMug, and their laid-back motto, but as a professional photographer, I am concerned for the future. I do not take this matter lightly, because a great amount of money (and yes, effort too) has been placed towards my business.

    In my opinion, SmugMug has done the right thing with a sincere public apology. The use of the “human” approach & touch was actually much appreciated. The lack of lawyer involvement and PR firm was a big plus. From a bird’s eye view and as a long-term SM member, however, I would have preferred seeing a remedy to follow.
    Apology (done)
    Remedy (not yet)

    As a pro, as a human who never wants to see unlawful use of my photos (ever), I am still a human and accept people making mistakes. I am realist but perhaps I am too demanding, because after a mistake is made, I always hope for the following “best scenario”:
    – No lawyers
    – Immediate, sincere apology
    – Volunteer remedy (we’ll give you this, etc… etc…)

    Perhaps the owner doesn’t want it or has denied it – but since we are publicly announcing an apology, volunteering a remedy & letting us know what that remedy is (would or could have been) would in fact go a longer way in feeling better about the situation.

    As of right now, SmugMug has taken a very (good) first step forward and towards making pro photographers feel better about our current copyright laws & the mistake SM has made. It doesn’t mean they should be “crucified” for it, but nor does it mean that I am yet satisfied.

    As professionals, can we expect a public volunteer remedy offer (to the hurt party)?
    THAT would make my business relationship with SmugMug that much stronger.

  180. March 29, 2012 at 8:52 am

    Ditto to many comments above, happens to all of us, we’re human after all and sometimes we just make bad mistakes. Owning up to it was classy and the right thing to do. Kudos to you all.

    ~ Erik Michael Photography

  181. March 29, 2012 at 9:05 am

    I’ve been victim to copyright infringements and they’ve been some of the most brutal experiences I’ve encountered…both personally and professionally. Some examples were innocent via lack of awareness, others were committed by “professionals” who clearly knew better but motivated by greed. I believe Smugmug’s ethical values are pure. This incident can’t be erased but we all need to appreciate human error and the management of accountability associated. The world is filled with cynicism but if we take this case at face value (I am), Smugmug really hasn’t had anything to gain. Smugmug has taken complete ownership of the mistake…an error that has generated the worst kind of PR for an organization. The misstep does, however, bring to light the profound significance of copyright law and how photographers need to stay informed/educated on the best avenues of protection. Hopefully this incident is helpful to many…especially those just starting out who don’t fully understand the devaluing result of “sharing” files in today’s digital world.

  182. March 29, 2012 at 9:05 am

    That’s funny. You guys are still great! I have been a satisfied customer with Smug Mug for many years and the service provided is fast, personable, professional and conscientious! Valerie I enjoyed your work and your humanity! For the rest of the sad closed mindedness, by ‘dwelling on the mistake you add to the offense.’ Thoreau

    • March 29, 2012 at 10:58 am

      Thank you! :-) And I couldn’t agree more. Ultimately, I want to do business with people of integrity. Integrity doesn’t imply perfection…it means honesty, sincerity and kindness, which was definitely displayed here.

      • March 29, 2012 at 11:25 am

        Became one of your fans on fb, really great work Valerie! Loved the UPS post :) Thank you for your response, I agree whole-heartedly and it’s moments like these that are a real inspiration, no mistake there..
        Bright Blessings!
        Loi

  183. March 29, 2012 at 9:07 am

    Thanks for taking the time to address this and I agree that most would be honored to have their work “stolen” and featured by Smugmug. Everyone makes mistakes and I agree that all parties involved have been very mature about this whole thing. Thanks for owning up to it and publicly addressing the issue.

    Emilie Bourdages

  184. March 29, 2012 at 9:26 am

    Your email was absolutely superb! It is one of the very few emails I have bothered to read from a company. Why? Because it was so candid, clear, and direct. I am a writer for Fortune 500 companies, and I can only wish they would emulate your behavior. You’ve made me a loyal customer.
    Thank you.
    Debra

  185. March 29, 2012 at 9:30 am

    It was an awful thing to do, but you corrected it as quickly and in as public a way as possible. This is why I trust SmugMug. I truly believe my pictures are safe here, and so are the people who are in the pictures.

  186. March 29, 2012 at 9:36 am

    Thanks for doing the right thing and publicly admitting your error in judgment. It is refreshing to see an organization step up and admit their mistake instead of denying, blaming others, or just hoping it will silently go away! Kudos to you and your ever-so-awesome team for impressing us again! It is human to error, but it is a testament to someone’s character to raise their hand and say, “yup, it was our mistake, sorry, won’t happen again”.

  187. March 29, 2012 at 9:53 am

    Hey guys,
    1) I think it is great that you are taking good measures to remedy this situation.
    2) You’re a good company, I’m happy with your services, and I will give you the grace that I would hope to get in a similar situation.
    3) For what it’s worth… As a husband, I’ve learned (the hard way) the importance of apologizing *well*, and that specificity is important. When you said, “We apologize for the time and angst this caused a lot of wonderful people,” your biggest concern is obviously, first and foremost, for the pain it caused to Valerie Schooling, followed by everyone else who was effected by the precedence that was set. Perhaps it would have read better: “We apologize specifically to Valerie Schooling for the pain we have caused her, and for the time and angst this caused a lot of wonderful people.” Just some food for thought… Love you guys.

  188. March 29, 2012 at 10:55 am

    Not sure I understand entirely what you did wrong, but you sure made a very humble and honest apology in my opinion. Hope she forgives you. I went by her website too, photos are awesome.
    I have used Smugmug for around 5 years I think. People I do photos for think this website is great. They love the metalic and lustre prints. Smugmug makes you look really good.
    keep up the good work smugmug.

  189. March 29, 2012 at 11:06 am

    How long is reply normally “awaiting moderation” prior to being seen?

    • March 29, 2012 at 11:46 am

      LOL

      • March 29, 2012 at 12:40 pm

        I take it you are telling me not to hold my breath. ;-)

    • Chris MacAskill
      March 29, 2012 at 7:49 pm

      Hey Dixie,

      I approved a comment of yours yesterday that I see in the scrollback. Was there another? I don’t know why wordpress put it in moderation except that it had a few links in it, so maybe there’s a setting to flag comments with more than one link or something.

      Sorry about that.

      • March 30, 2012 at 4:12 am

        No problem, Chris. It was probably the links and/or the fact that at the time I posted the reply I was not a member of WordPress. This thread made me get off my duff and join WordPress and start my own blog.

  190. March 29, 2012 at 11:45 am

    I sure hope you didn’t have to settle, or pay a dime, or give her anything for free!! Fact is this is the best thing that could have happened to ol Valerie. Weather or not this was planned or an accident. She should be thanking you. How many hundreds, I’m trying to down play this a bit, of hits or more as her site gotten since smugmug spammed her name. I googled her, found her site, browsed her images. Now I know her name, where to find her, and that she can take a picture. Priceless

    And if Valerie reads through any of these take the music off. Your photos, as they say, are worth 1000 words. Music on any website, that you don’t start yourself, is fail.

    To Smugmug: Feel free to spam my name, photos, the fact that I run two gongfu schools, with numbers and addresses, any time!! =)

  191. tiburonstudios
    March 29, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    As a marketing professional myself, I know companies are under a lot of pressure to keep up with frequent and compelling blog posts. It’s inevitable that human error comes into play. It does more often than people notice and definitely more often than people admit. I applaud SmugMug for addressing it both humanely and professionally.

  192. Terri
    March 29, 2012 at 1:22 pm

    We all have brain burps and make mistakes sometimes. Admitting it and apologizing are all that I ask for. This adds to the reasons I love SmugMug and it goes a long way to keeping me as a loyal customer.

  193. March 29, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    Thank you for “Coming Clean.” This is the very best approach. Time to move on. =)

  194. March 29, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    SmugMug? How about SmugLove! You guys rock, kudos to you.

  195. Gary Hill
    March 29, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    Let he who is without a brain-fart cast the first deadly pixel.

  196. martinjlacey
    March 29, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    Well done on taking responsibility and the honest and speedy manner in which you dealt with this. I’m glad to be a SmugMug customer.

  197. frankjreda
    March 29, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    Anyone can make a mistake. Making it right again is what really matters. Well done!

  198. DawnaJ
    March 29, 2012 at 5:14 pm

    Failure is the opportunity to learn…

  199. Teresa Pigeon
    March 29, 2012 at 5:42 pm

    SmugMug and Valerie were both very gracious in the handling of this. I’m impressed. I’m curious how this came to light?

  200. March 29, 2012 at 6:10 pm

    Dude! But at least you owned up to it.

  201. March 29, 2012 at 8:01 pm

    Makes me happier than ever to be with Smugmug! Thanks for your humble, straight forward honesty.

  202. Chris MacAskill
    March 29, 2012 at 8:01 pm

    The woman who wrote the blog post that launched this storm called Valerie this morning… I fretted a little about what could happen, because she’s devastated. But Valerie was incredibly gracious with her, for which I’ll always be grateful.

  203. March 29, 2012 at 8:39 pm

    I am encouraged and impressed that your apology seems sincere and prompt. Very, very few organisations are prepared to admit honest mistakes, and in a manner that sounds genuine. Well done guys.

  204. March 30, 2012 at 1:07 am

    Gee, I wish smugmug would “embed screen captures of my site without asking my permission..”

  205. Nana
    March 30, 2012 at 5:08 am

    This is typical for Chucktown—-always photographer drama ….

  206. March 30, 2012 at 6:00 am

    One of the biggest things I look for in a company is trust. I know that most of you that commented are the same way. If you can trust a company then you will do business with and even back up and protect that company. The sheer fortitude it took to own up to a big mistake is very admirable in itself, but now they have solidified the trust for me. Once and for all I now know the people that run SmugMug can be trusted to do the right thing, even if it hurts. Sometimes a little hurt brings great joy, and I know that once they posted that response and sent us an email they could say they did the right thing. Bravo SmugMug team!

  207. Jim
    March 30, 2012 at 6:23 am

    The true measure of a person (or company) is not the mistakes we make( because we ALL make them, and I daresay they are NEVER intentional) but what we do about them. Well done Smugmug. Honest acceptance, sincere apology, proper accolades to the affected party. That’s all we can ask of ourselves or anyone else in this world. Way to lead by example.

  208. tis
    March 30, 2012 at 6:50 am

    I feel like no harm intended and you owned it. I am impressed. I will continue to be a Pro and champion your site.

  209. March 30, 2012 at 10:10 am

    It seems most agree. The integrity of this company is admirable and I remain a loyal client due in no small part to this. Thank you. Please continue to use your powers for good. :)

  210. March 30, 2012 at 10:48 am

    Let the first perfect person cast the first stone. Jeez…

    Thanks for the integrity and admission of a mistake.

    You wanna use some of my pictures?????

    PS- when you get the time machine figured out, I will put an order in for one…

  211. Teresa Howell
    March 30, 2012 at 10:50 am

    My previous comment was suppose to be a comparison in an attempt in making a joke of the photography drama going on with the “other famous” photographers………Not intended at all towards Valerie……I want to apologize for hurting her feelings……….She is Charleston’s finest female photographer and a friend……..I stand by and stand up for Valerie……….she will prevail!!

  212. March 30, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    I loved that you took ownership of what you did right away, you do not see that on many other site. So glad i belong to the Smug Mug family :)

  213. March 30, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    I think it says an awful ot about a mans and an organizations character that when they do something wrong they fess up and don’t trop out a whole load of bullshit excuse. well done

  214. Anthony K. Girdley
    March 30, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    Has SmugMug been sold to Google or Facebook? I’ve been trying to log into my account all afternoon with no success.

  215. Angela O'Donnell
    March 30, 2012 at 7:37 pm

    That was a nice post…sounds like you’re feeling worse than anyone….it would be nice if the majority of the business community took responsibility the way you did…..and there was clearly a lack of intent on your part…..just one of those moments we all have……

    Now go have a cup of tea and enjoy your weekend.
    Thanks for being such a nice company….like the neighborhood place.

  216. March 31, 2012 at 8:00 am

    Your prompt and honest response to this issue is a sign of true leadership and corporate responsibility. Having been CEO of several companies, nothing gains a company more respect than confronting issues head on with honesty and integrity.

  217. March 31, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    Nobody is perfect. I have had not one problem since I joined Smugmug 6 years ago. Hopefully they will forgive you guys. Keep your heads up!!!

  218. April 1, 2012 at 8:14 am

    sequinminer :
    As a professional, screen captures make me nervous and my clients… former clients.

    You need to get over your nervousness because anything that can be displayed on a screen can be screen captured. I routinely do screen caps for my own personal reference and find it to be a great tool. I don’t use them for unscrupulous purposes but there are people who do. What it boils down to is this… don’t post anything you aren’t willing to have someone capture. That’s why I get permission from the subjects before I post portraits.
    We all want to get paid for our work but my philosophy is that if someone wants to use a photo from, or screen cap of, my site for educational purposes then that’s fine. I would prefer to be asked or at least notified, but I’m not going to get upset if that doesn’t happen. Attribution is the morally right thing to do (in the case of a screen capture that could be as simple as including the browser’s address bar in the capture) but if someone is going to use my stuff without attribution then there’s really not much I can do to stop them so why give myself ulcers? What goes around comes around and they’ll eventually get theirs. In the case of this Smugmug gaffe, they were forthcoming and made things right so their karma is clean.

  219. Shoganai
    April 3, 2012 at 5:46 am

    I just arrived, so let me catch up.
    Thank you kindly for the invatation.

    -Gwen

  220. April 4, 2012 at 6:29 am

    Reminds me of the “good-old-days” when people weren’t afraid to admit a mistake vs excuses. Obviously, all your “friends” (cients) feel the same…keep up the good work!

  221. April 4, 2012 at 6:42 am

    I am glad to be a small part of a company that knows what it is doing and knows when it makes mistakes.. We are all human and mistakes come with the territory. Thanks for being upfront and open it shows integrity.

  222. April 5, 2012 at 6:57 am

    If we make a mistake and then we explain our mistake to everyone then the truth is out and therefore there shouldn’t be a problem. Thank you for your honesty… it only makes me more proud to be a part of Smugmug.

  223. Meg
    April 5, 2012 at 8:41 am

    You’re human! Yay! I love working with humans! That’s what we all love about Smug Mug – you know your super hero suit is only a suit and you don’t really have superhuman powers. Every single person who has responded here has made an unintentional mistake that has hurt some one (probably just yesterday, probably at least 7 or 8 times). And each one of those people has received grace for many of those mistakes. Grace is a positive thing that is necessary in this life to have any working or personal relationship. Those who don’t show grace in the name of justice are soon islands with no friends and no relationships. Grace should be shown when appropriate – like in this case when some one was just being human and didn’t realize what they were doing. Compensation can and many times should be made in these instances. But grace can and must still be involved in the process. Smug Mug, I’m so glad you are human and you are a fine lot with whom to be associated. God bless your honesty, candor, and kindness. Forget the people who are claiming it is all about an ulterior motive or demanding that you should do more than you have. Let them go be an island where they will eventually feel the pain of loneliness… But better yet, may they change their hearts when they begin to see how many times a day grace is shown to them. Check out the ultimate example of grace – Romans 5:6-8

  224. Karen
    April 9, 2012 at 5:36 pm

    Your integrity is to be admired!!

  225. Shoganai
    April 10, 2012 at 3:35 am

    I have read and re-read the OP and all the replies. My initial response was kudos like so many others. To that, I agree with these statements:

    You owned up to it.
    That takes guts!
    Your prompt admission and apology.
    Honest response, owning up to the mistake and taking responsibility.
    You guys are some of the nicest people in this industry. Things
    happen. Mistakes are made.
    I applaud your honesty and sincerely appreciate it in a leader.
    Takes courage to admit mistakes.
    Very candid and honest response.
    Everyone falls down, it’s the ones who get back up and learn from the
    fall who show character… nice job holding yourself accountable without
    whining or making excuses.
    Your integrity is honorable.
    A company run by human beings.
    It’s not about whether you make mistakes, it’s about how you deal with
    those mistakes.
    Character means a lot to me.
    Make a mistake – own up to it – offer a sincere apology – make it
    right – move on.
    Both responses shows true character strength, integrity and forgiveness.

    But it was the ones that expressed different thoughts that forced me to really ruminate.

    Photoguymike, you are very articulate in expressing how you feel, and I can tell you are very passionate about this issue and your work. I admire passion. Please take nothing I say personal as I use your words as spring boards for my thoughts.

    I believe you and some others are standing on the grounds that a theft took place.

    photoguymike – “to be flamed on this board for speaking my mind on a subject you brought up shows the stupidity of some of the people on this site.”

    I think I hear you passionately disagreeing with and flaming Smugmug on nearly every level, and yet Chris did not call you stupid. However when people passionately disagree with your point of view, you called them stupid.

    photoguymike –“ I am a professional, I want to be treated as a professional and I want the sites and personal at these sites to treat me that way. From all my dealings with your company I find it lacking in professionalism and this is a self admitted example of your lack of professionalism here. It’s a great product you have, treat it that way. Treat your subscribers that way as well, or they will not be.”

    I think I hear you saying that an ENTIRE company that behaves like an honest real face-to-face human instead of a faceless company with lawyers writing scripts for nameless henchmen to puppet to the press is in someway not professional. For myself and my money, I far, far prefer the company model that Smugmug lives and breaths humanity with a strong moral compass. I think we as consumers, how been fed a steady diet on disingenuous, legalez, sideways, emotionless, black-suit-and-tie ‘apologies’ from companies and politicians, that we have lost site of what a REAL apology looks and sounds like.

    I don’t believe a theft took place because I can’t see any malice or ill intent as portrayed in the example below. In addition, the example conveys a culture of cover up, again I can’t see that in what happened.

    “Applauding you” as many users have what appears to be strategically uploaded for this apology is like applauding a police officer after he or she watches a person drop their wallet on the streets of NYC, picks it up and turns a blind eye, doesn’t return it, get’s caught by the citizen, and gives it back to them…and says
    sorry dude.

    The next thoughts I want to address are the ones that express feeling of loss of trust and the need to know all the details of what took place between Smugmug and Valerie Schooling.

    People want to know that Smugmug takes copyright seriously and some would like to hear the plan of action that Smugmug will implement to avoid this type of thing from happening in the future. In my heart, based on other interactions, I believe they do that copyright very seriously.

    As for knowing that precise details of how they will proceed from here, I don’t need to know because I trust this company because of the people that run it. Actions speak louder than words and I trust they will do what needs to be done.

    For those out there that feel they cannot trust Smugmug after this unfortunate event or are ragging eager to set the lawyers loose at the slightest offence without the possibility of honest, personal negotiations with the goal of arriving at an equitable resolution, then perhaps you could find a company more suited to your ideals.

    What happened here was like standing in a crowd at Rock concert with the music loud and everybody is excited. Someone bumps someone. Does the bumpee yell, ‘You just assaulted and battered me. I gonna sue you.”
    No, in most cases, “I’m sorry” is plenty good enough.

    Or it was like going to the bank, using the pen laying on the counter, in your mindlessness; you drop the pen in your pocket and don’t give it another thought. Then, as you get in your car, you realize what you’ve done, get out, walk back in, announce your thoughtless error, and say “I’m sorry”.

    Hamartia is what took place, not a theft as some would claim.

    Valerie Schooling said it best: “Thank you! And I couldn’t agree more. Ultimately, I want to do business with people of integrity. Integrity doesn’t imply perfection…it means honesty, sincerity and kindness, which was definitely displayed here.”

    What followed was a beautiful example of grace by both parties.

    Meg called it, “Those who don’t show grace in the name of justice are soon islands with no friends and no relationships.”

    To Baldy and the Smugmug team, people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. It’s this more than anything that has earned you the loyal, and loving following that boarders on an extended family from the many members of Smugmug, Dgrin and ADVrider.

    Be kind whenever possible, it’s always possible – Dalai Lama

    • April 10, 2012 at 6:41 am

      Not to belittle genuine crimes but this was a mistake not a crime. I’m sorry but from this side of the pond (UK) those in the USA who so freak out at this sort of thing and make “sue everybody” type comments have no idea how comical and stereotypical they sound. Some people just really do take themselves way too seriously.

  226. July 25, 2012 at 12:26 am

    That fact that you owned up to it was awesome. Now how about doing the same with your deceptive advertising and/or policies?

    You advertise that there will be “no ads or promotions” around a users’ photographs, and yet you force users to use the lame-looking, might-as-well-be-a-free-hosting-service SmugMug footer!

    Seriously? Do we need to review the definition of “ads and promotions” with you guys?

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