Yesterday a friend forwarded an email to me from BPwines which features a photograph I had taken of empty Sine Qua Non bottles in my wine cellar. The ad is for a private collection BP had just required which was full of Sine Qua Non "from a SoCal collector and is in pristine condition, all bought on release." I live in Southern California, I am a wine collector, and I have bought all of my SQN on release directly from the winery. What the ad implies is that the private cellar BPwines acquired is mine. Not so.
I emailed Stefan Blicker, the author of the ad which was sent to my friend and who knows how many hundreds or thousands of people:
It appears you have used a photograph taken by me of my private cellar in your most current email. Not cool. Please remove.
Stefan emailed me back. His response: "It's not on our site or anything."
My irritation grew with his nonchalant attitude. I posted a picture of the ad and my disclaimer on the Facebook page and on the Twitter feed of my wine blog, Swirl Smell Slurp. I emailed Stefan back:
The photograph implies that the cellar you acquired and are selling is mine. Why you thought this was okay, I cannot understand. I do not want those people who have seen my cellar and collection in person, and/or this photograph (which has appeared on both my personal blog, my wine blog, and my Twitter feed) to assume that I have somehow consigned my wine to you. Especially not Manfred Krankl (a personal friend) and fellow SQN collectors.
I received notice of the advertisement from a friend who is on your email list...so this damage has already been done.
Finally Stefan seemed to understand the dilemma. He wrote back, apologizing for his error in judgment: "You are quite right, I never did actually put that together....I NEVER meant to imply that as I don't even know you."
It is true, Stefan and I do not know one another, but Facebook reveals that we have 10 mutual "friends." I also have 5 mutual friends with his partner, Cory Wagner, although I am not "friends" with either one of them. Their company is in St. Helena and they both live in Napa Valley. The photograph in question is from my old house in Yountville. It's a small valley and I am sure at some point I sat at the bar at Bouchon or somewhere else with at least one of them in the eight plus years I lived there.
Concluding his email, Stefan asked what he could do to make the mistake right with me. I immediately thought: "Send another email out saying you are a big liar and use false advertising!" But I didn't. I actually felt satisfied with his acknowledgment that what he had done was wrong. And in my response I said so, but also gave him some advice:
....as a common courtesy and to avoid potential legal problems down the line I would suggest that you give credit when using photographs that are not your own and when possible contact the artist to get permission to use them. If this is burdensome for you, BPWine may want to consider using stock houses that offer free licensing. Because your company's use of images is to sell product, not doing so could become potentially litigious. As a graphic designer and artist, I am especially concerned with Creative Commons and intellectual property issues such as these. As a business owner, you should be too...There is no need to dwell on your use of my photograph further.
Why air this all here? This morning I received an email from a (different) friend asking if I had consigned my SQN to BPwines.