Copycat, Copycat, When Will It End?

The internet is an insanely powerful tool; it can do so much good, but it can cause great harm, too. Something that runs rampant on the internet is copyright infringement. As anyone who has ever published any type of copyable content on the web knows, it happens, it’s inevitable, and you could spend your whole day attempting to police it.

There is the day-to-day problem of individuals republishing your content on their blogs, social networks, and the like. It’s annoying, but it’s probably not severely damaging and less likely done with real harm intended. It’s not good. Copy and paste is your friend, but don’t forget to copy and paste the source of your content, too (and make sure you’re allowed to take such content and republish it). This is why I do appreciate things like Pinterest’s bookmarklet that automatically grabs the source so you can share easily but still attribute the work to the original author.

But there are more serious violations, and it happens when brands and corporations, who should know better, do so. About two years ago, e.l.f. cosmetics sent out a newsletter to their subscribers. I had several readers forward me the newsletter, because there was an unauthorized photo of my eye used in it (you can actually still view here. It sucks to have it copied without permission, but it sucks even more beceause the photo didn’t use any e.l.f. products and therefore I felt it was very misleading. e.l.f. also has at least two instances of using my images on their website (under Beauty Tips here for “Island Glow” and “Has your beautician messed up your eyebrows?”).

It took around six weeks to get a response out of e.l.f. regarding the newsletter image usage, and they apologized and said it was a mistake. Except, you know, that it was done twice more on their website, and those instances were never, ever addressed by the brand and despite the steps I’ve taken, they remain there. (It is, for the record, probably likely that whoever is in charge of sourcing the images did a Google Images source and copied and pasted willy-nilly.)  These are the reasons why I do not feature e.l.f. on Temptalia; e.l.f. as a company needs to accept responsibility for the actions of their employees or design teams and remedy them, not ignore or perpetuate those activities.

Swatch & Learn and The Swatchaholic have recently experienced something similar: Sinful Colors (nail polish brand available at mass) used their images without permission and published them in promotional pamphlets (and neither of them used Sinful Colors in their images!). Parent company Revlon recently addressed this matter this morning seemingly only a day or so behind when the incident was discovered–which is pretty quick for a major corporation like Revlon. What resolution Revlon works out with the individual bloggers is their matter, and ultimately what makes each blogger feel whole again is also their matter. (I just became aware of this incident this AM when reader Athena asked me about it and was starting to write something when Revlon posted on their Facebook.)

In all likelihood, somebody working on the pamphlet is at fault, and that person is hopefully found out and learns their lesson. I can’t imagine the CEO of Revlon sitting at their desk going over something as minute as promotional imagery used in a subsidiary brand, can you? But it does speak to the larger issue of how easy it is to use someone else’s work and pretend like it’s yours or that you have the rights to it.

Education of what you can and cannot do with other people’s images/content is what’s going to prevent future incidents like these. This is not legal advice (speak with your legal team/lawyer if you want to understand what is and isn’t copyright infringement).  When it comes to the etiquette of republishing content, the bare minimum is to provide a link to the original source and some indicating that they’re the actual source. If it’s somebody’s 100% original content, say a blog post and photos, it is unlikely that it’s okay for you to take the whole thing and put it on your blog. You might consider sharing an image or an excerpt from the post and then linking to it, so that people read and visit the original author’s site. You wouldn’t take someone else’s image and put your own watermark on it.

Brands need to make their teams aware that taking images without permissions is not allowed and it’s a bad practice (which could potentially cost them money, least of all customer loyalty).  I plead with brands to take five minutes to ask permission and work out those details, because getting caught is so much worse.  Instead of using Google Images and taking whatever you see of there (which is NOT your stock photo library!), cough up a few bucks for stock photography or use Compfight and look for images with the right permissions.

Update @ 7/26: I received this yesterday afternoon, but I just received permission to republish it this morning. e.l.f. reached out to be with this email:

Christine, My name is Joey Shamah and I am the CEO of e.l.f. cosmetics. I am writing in response to your blog “Copycat, Copycat when will it end” – We are in agreement that intellectual property is sacred and should not be reused and misrepresented by companies or individuals. We also concur that as companies grow and workload gets divided, it is not expected of all executives to review all creatives that the company puts out.

That being said, I can only apologize if an outsourced creative designer unethically took your images and misrepresented them as our own. I can assure you this that actions like these are not condoned by the company and we have built our business with fair and just business practices.

Regarding your decision on not featuring elf, I would ask that you reconsider – although I understand if you dont. I would hate for your readers and followers to miss out on a great brand because of the action of one individual. Thank you for your time


P.S. – all images have been taken down from our site – the email link you sent is being taken down momentarily. we are contacting our ESP provider to make sure it is removed asap.

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I completely agree here. It angers me that a company would blatantly steal other people’s work. When we were kids, we learned that it was wrong.  We called it cheating. In this case, they are cheating and taking credit for someone’s hard work.

Hi Christine!
Sad to hear E.L.F. do something like that without any real apology or action!! E.L.F. is a big makeup brand now and it is very disappointing that they aren’t professional about copyright infringement. I will be sure to email them linking to your post (if I may have permission). I suggest fans of Temptalia do the same. I know you, Christine, is not trying to start a crusade against E.L.F. I know you are (probably) frequently asked why you do not review E.L.F. (a question I have been wondering myself). This isn’t about shaming E.L.F., but it is about telling them their actions have consequences.
Disappointed in E.L.F.,

It rather bad for a makeup company to not take the day and do their own photo’s of the products. Even as a Graphic Design student we took to time to try to create our own images before relying on stock photography and it not that hard to set up.
I don’t bother watermarking as I know how easy it is to retouch it can me in larger images. eBay really bad for wig seller selling photo’s of cosplayer in wig without permission (and it’s not even their own wigs they adverting on the listing). Needless to say I recommend NOT buying from these seller when ever the question is asked on about X seller.
Even blogger will take photographer without permission or credit to either the photographer or the model.
It’s really is a matter of ethics that larger brand seem to lack if the project managers are OK with stolen images.

That must be incredibly frustrating, Christine. If they had asked you, that would be a different story. If a company asked me, depending on what it was I would be flattered. But to downright steal is utterly ridiculous. All that money and they resort to stealing? Ugh

That’s so scummy that e.l.f. “apologizes” for stealing your pictures and then still leaves them up there for years! They really should be embarrassed.

I admit to posting some of your pics on my tumblr to show my followers some pretty products I’m interested in, but I always put a source and link to the posts. However, it’s puzzling as to why a company would take your photos, especially when, as you mentioned, none of their products were used

Also (wow I feel lame replying to myself but I can’t edit my post…unless I’m totally blind and missing it as usual) it can’t be that difficult for them, as a large (? I think) cosmetics company to shoot their own photos

I am not sure but I think they have interns do the work trained employees should be doing. They scour the internet for photos the company doesn’t have the budget for and don’t ask questions…this is my guess. Tsk.

 @verybecca There are free stock photography sites (I use a lot), and Compfight, too – you can even sort by what kind of creative commons license it has, like whether you can use it commercially, derivative works, etc.!  But sometimes the photos they’re using are so small, stock photograph would be $1-2!

 @verybecca Don’t get me started about OLD NAVY and American Eagle. They chew through interns (including graduates I know personally) to crank out designs for their clothes, use those designs and let them go after there tree months are up. It doesn’t matter how good they are and use their designs they just don’t want to pay these designers full time and keep them on and actually pay them properly for their work.
Actually I can go into a rant, but I invite you to watch this it will only take 2 minutes.
This relates to all idea/creative driven industries as well. A person work will prove that they can do the job not wither a fickle client has a person interest in your ideas.
The shitty thing is no one want to pay for ideas either, a lot of client will ask for spec work on ideas, drop the design firm or individual and run with it on their own and get a student to do it for free.

It is disheartening every time I hear about a company that lacks integrity.  Thank you for letting us know about it.  At least we know there is one trust worthy source of information about cosmetics: Temptalia.

e.l.f. has always struck me as, for lack of a better word, cheap in a valuative not monetary sense. They are a big brand playing shady and it’s completely reprehensible! They should be taken by their shoddy ear to court and forced to pay damages. So glad I’ve never wasted any money on them, though I don’t believe I was ever tempted. Wet n’ Wild? Sure! e.l.f.? Not on your life!

It is definitely unprofessional and shady for brands to steal bloggers photos who put effort into having great photos for their readers. However, although I know it takes a bit of extra time and I know it can be retouched away, if you watermark your photos it will likely decrease the amount of stealing going on. I always watermark my photos in the center and set the opacity to low. Yes, the letters can be retouched away BUT chances are if that person is lazy enough to steal your photos, they are lazy enough to not want to deal with having to go through the trouble of trying to hide a watermark. They will try to find a different picture. All you can do is pity the people who do this. 

 @Nikki at RougeReflections My feelings on watermark (and they’re just that, mine, and I judge no one for using or not using them) is that they tarnish the image, and I take images for readers.  I understand you can strategically place watermarks and the like, but for me, it’s not the viewing experience I’d want as a reader or for my readers.

 @Christine (Temptalia) I definitely see both standpoints and can completely understand your thoughts on watermarking. In the beginning I also thought watermarking my photos would ruin the image as well. However, when I see watermarks on blogs it really doesn’t bother me at all and I just hope I watermark my images well enough for it not to be distracting. Hopefully my readers and future readers don’t mind the watermarks. I take pictures for readers (and the general people just looking for swatches) to see as well… but I also think I’d be really frustrated if I ever saw someone trying to steal one of my images. A decent camera is not cheap, so I treat mine like it’s my baby even though it’s not a DSLR and it’s just a fancy digital… I still love it, and think it has high quality photos which I work hard on. If I saw someone stealing one of my photos, it’d be like I feel like some is stealing money. I shelled out a good deal of money for my camera that I had been saving for a while… and I just feel like I couldn’t ever let anyone steal from that. Everyone is different, but I think if someone stealing your photos is enough to throw you over the edge and make you feel very angry, watermarking would be a good option is all =)

@Nikki at RougeReflections @Christine (Temptalia) … what a nice site you have .. your water mark photo’s are fine. In fact, I’m now curious about the Kat von D Mi Vida Loca True Romance Eyeshadow palette (sigh!!).

 @mpca66  @Nikki  @Christine Thanks so much mpca66! Glad my watermarks don’t bother you! 😀 in the beginning I didn’t set the opacity low enough, but I am getting the hang of it 😀
@Christine Definitely :)! I think it’s definitely brave of you to not watermark, I was just putting another option out there 🙂

 @Christine (Temptalia)  
 Thank you for thinking of your readers first with the idea of watermarking, they can be very distracting. A lot of times I check your swatches and would hate to see a watermark over the most important part of the image/swatch.

 @Nikki at RougeReflections The Swatchaholic has a very obvious watermark on her photos yet this did not stop Sinful Colours from using them. They just edited it out! easy as that.

 @jeneyg I mentioned that in my original post 🙂 I was just giving a ~suggestion~ that would help others. A watermarked photo opposed to a non watermarked photo is less likely to be stolen if a company is stealing pictures in the first place: Most likely they will try to find a different picture instead of having to go through the time and effort of removing a watermark 🙂

This must be so upsetting.
I once stumbled on a blog review of a product I had previously reviewed on MakeupAlley which used a few sentences (rather long ones, so it wasn’t a coincidence) from my own review. I was mildly amused and don’t begrudge it (although it would have been nicer if the blogger had quoted: ‘as one MUA reviewer noticed…etc’). After all, maybe the sentences just stuck with her so it wasn’t done on purpose. However, I am not involved in the field of beauty in any professional capacity – I am just a casual makeup lover, but my career is in an another field. I work in publishing as an editor/translator and that’s where I defend my original work with all I’ve got. But books are relatively easy to protect copyright-wise, and of course publishing houses have legal departments to deal with that stuff. But I never ever use another person’s content without crediting them, even if that person is long deceased and the copyright has expired. If, for example, I need a translated quote from Hamlet to put in a book I’m working on, I’ll always credit the person who translated it from English to my native language. In publishing, this is simply what you do, but for me it’s also a way of honoring somebody’s hard work. It really saddens me that this might not always be impossible on the internet.

It’s a rather sad truth as it’s easier to find thing on the internet and just save the link to that page you quotes. I take 2 seconds and even with image searches  you still can open the link to the image for the page it came from.  Even with I still contact the image creator about it’s use upside or school projects or anything that will be distributed.

@Ljana ..ah, sorry .. didn’t finish reading your post before I mentioned paraphrasing .. I work in publishing as well .. so you are already familiar with plagiarism..

Oh thank goodness! I am so glad you addressed this as I feel its something to be shared. Another blog I read had a post about Sinful Colors swatches and I commented about the story from Swatch and Learn and my comment wasn’t approved. I understand not wanting to add more drama but I feel like people should know. Ultimately it’s not my blog so I can’t say what it needs to post or allow as comments but I think it’s almost like hiding it from your readers and I don’t like that. I also think bloggers should stick together as this happens more than you think. Thanks Christine for posting about this and getting the word out.

I’ve read your remarks regarding e.l.f. in the past, Christine, so I’m wondering why you allow them to advertise on your site, but you won’t review them. It seems to me, that an advertisement is the same as an endorsement; at least with a review, you can state your opinion as to whether it’s a quality product, or not.

 @xamyx Hi Amy!  I didn’t know there were e.l.f. ads still running – whenever I have seen them, I’ve contacted our advertising providers to remove them, but unfortunately, they do get through the cracks, as there about 500-1000 ad networks that are able to purchase ad space, so unless I see it, it can be hard to track it (e.g. I don’t get a line item breakdown of what advertisers have advertised on Temptalia when it comes through remnant advertising).  I’m not sure how advertisement is the same as endorsement, since I’m not advocating anything about the product.  Like I see ads from Orvis about dog beds on the site… because I went to and looked at dog beds.  Endorsements are actually very different from advertisements, because that means I actually say I endorse such and such brand/product.  A review, on the other hand, is much more like an endorsement, whether positive or negative.

@Christine (Temptalia) I guess “endorsement” is subjective. It’s like when advertisers “pull” their ads from a show that may contain controversial subject matter; I see the reverse as holding true. That said, now that I know you’ve tried to get the ads pulled, your position is clearer. It actually makes them look even *more* shady, knowing they’re not respecting your feelings. It seems they run a banner at the top of the screen *every* time I visit your blog (which is why I’ve been so confused).

 @xamyx  I would say that online advertising is very, very different. I only know about maybe 5% of ads in advance of them running, *if* that, because I don’t sell directly.  I rely on larger advertising networks to work with advertisers and sell the space, and when they’re not able to, then it’s filled by remnant inventory.  The majority of online advertising is also behavioral, so unlike your TV show which can only show so many ads and are working directly with an advertiser, they can’t respond on the fly based on the show you last watched.  Online advertising can – a lot of the ads I see when I look at Temptalia are definitely based on where I was last, LOL! The idea being it’s more relevant advertising, therefore there’s a better return for the advertiser since you’re more likely to respond.  This is why one website can run 1000s of brands and never know it – I do see line items for some of our advertising networks, and I’ll never ever see an ad that it refers to, because it wasn’t served to me based on my behavior!
If you come across it again, if you could copy and paste the link that it takes you to (just right click and select copy the link) and email it to me (christine[at], that would help me ensure to block the appropriate URL.  We have as a blocked URL already, so that’s why I’m surprised to hear that anything is getting through!

 @Christine (Temptalia)  @xamyx   I’ve seen ELF products in your banner here for months and months on end now. Almost daily. I assumed it was because I bought some things from ELF but it was just ONE time (so why are they haunting me?! lol).  I did wonder since you’d once mentioned you refuse to review ELF but I never thought you had approved or endorsed the banner.  I do tend to see ads specific to what I’ve recently checked out on the web (and yes, I see a lot of dog stuff from Amazon. LOL) but the 2 I see most frequently are ELF and UD.  If it ever pops up again, I’ll do the right-click you requested below and send you the link, but I’m sure your efforts will have taken care of things by now. 

Oh, my dear girl you are too nice. There is not a marking manager alive that doesn’t know about copy write infringement. Photo’s get lifted from the internet because paid art work is very, very expensive. The company I work for phased out a really wonderful campaign for our customers due to the fact that the licensing for the artwork was too expensive to continue the campaign. And when I say expensive, I mean $30K for a bundle of photos, unlimited re-printing for a 1 year license and that was in 2007. So you can see why marketing folks look for free stuff.

Beauty bloggers get targeted because .. well, what are you going to do about it? Write the company .. big deal as you can see from your response from Elf. I would have hired an attorney to write a letter .. notifying Elf of their error in lifting images without your permission. Expensive yes, but it’ll get the offending company’s attention and make them think twice before shopping your site for photos.

So if the attorney route is out of the question .. do an internet search on image protection. An easy way to protect photos is to add a water mark, but there is also coding to prevent someone from right-clicking the photo too. Good luck and protect your investment 🙂

 @mpca66 The right-clicking is something we’re definitely aware of, but it prevents legitimate uses – like users who want to save it for later, use it for wish lists, etc. 
I think these days the obvious solution is to make a fuss over it on the internet/social media channels. It’s free and effective! Not always the right method, though.  Not everyone has the money to spend on an attorney – certainly at the time, I was not even close to being in the position to hire one.

 @Christine (Temptalia)  @mpca66 I’ve always been grateful that you don’t use an anti-right clicking script Christine!  I get why bloggers might use them, but as someone who uses the right click menu for a variety of legit reasons (navigating back and forward, opening links in new tabs or windows, starting google searches from highlighted text, etc.), it drives me nuts as a visitor!  Considering how many easy alternatives there are to the right click menu for stealing images (saving an entire page, screencapping the image and then cropping it in any image editor), I’m not sure that those scripts don’t cause more trouble than they prevent.

 @Christine (Temptalia) I agree!  Thank you for not using anti right clicking, Christine. 🙂  I have saved your blog’s images before in a folder where I have pictures of products I intend to buy later.  Also, if a company really wants to take the image without giving credit they can just print screen and cut the image anyways.

 @mpca66 I’m trying not to laugh, but there’s nothing short of coding your images into something like flash to keep someone from easily downloading an image off your website.  Most of those “anti-right click” scripts are javascript that I don’t even allow to run in my web browser.  All those scripts really do is annoy people trying to open links in new tabs or windows via the context menu, anyway.
A good watermark may be the best route to go.  That way, it’ll make someone wanting to pass it off as their own perhaps look for an easier one to use, and anyone innocuously saying “I love this” and putting it on tumblr or pinterest can lead their audience back to you.

@Quinctia @mpca66 @ Christine
Maybe adding one of those ribbons around the picture with a legend and the words do not remove or something. i have seen those big celebrity blogs using them and it makes more obvoius when the picture has been copied and posted, and egen if the ribbon has been cut.
Tnx for not watermarking, while I understand the reasons, it diminishes the experience if enjoying the swatches.

 @mpca66 Disabling right-click doesn’t do squat. As Christine points out, it prevents a legitimate use (saving stuff for later, right-clicking a link to open it in a new tab, that sort of thing), not to mention there are ways around it. I used to be a fan of watermarking (I even did so with some of my stuff; I’m into photography as a hobby), but now I’m not. These days, I think it can be distracting, and it can be especially distracting, IMO, with swatch photos or photos of makeup looks. And even watermarks can be removed or Photoshopped out. The only surefire way to protect your images is not to post them online.
Personally, I’m a fan of Creative Commons licensing (creativecommons(dot)org). It lets you dictate the terms of use regarding photos. I think the ideal one for beauty blogs like this would be No Commercial Use, Attribution required, No Derivative Works; or No Commercial Use, Attribution required, Share-Alike.

Elf must have seen this post and changed it post haste a hour ago I was able to see the two images now I can’t find anything when I look for island glow or about beauticians messing up eyebrows. 

 @yellowlantern Same!!! That didn’t take long! Funny they weren’t so quick before! To think a brand would do this is disgraceful!

 @yellowlantern The newsletter one is still up, unfortunately. I’ve known about e.l.f. stealing Christine’s images and refusing to take them down for quite some time now, and I refuse to buy from that brand for this reason. It’s about time they got a wake-up call!

It’s incredible -_____- companies don’t have enough money to pay a model and a photographer and take pictures using their own cosmetics??

I can see how this would easily run rampant in the beauty industry — there are so many talented bloggers that put time and effort into taking the best photos possible for their audiences. All it takes is one ignorant employee at a large company to snatch their photo up and use it. Or, worse yet, the person isn’t ignorant, and rather does it knowingly. I wish there was a better way to catch, punish, and prevent it from happening.

I completely understand it’s wrong to use others photos, especially when it comes to a larger company. I recently used a photo from The PolishAholic of a nail polish swatch to help my unsold nail lacquers on eBay sell. I gave her photo credit as well as leaving a link of her website on my listing, showing where the swatch is from. She still contacted eBay and reported my photo as her own when I gave her full photo credit! I think people like that are too extreme, it’s not like I posted it to a personal blog claiming it was my photo. 

 @KK27 Every blogger will have their own policy about what can/can’t be used, which is why if you really want to use something, especially when it’s something commercial, you should ask for permission (or read their policy, if they have one up).

 @KK27 Even properly crediting and linking a photo does not automatically give you the right to use it, especially in a commercial context.  I’m sure you had good intentions, but as a blogger myself I can tell you that the process of swatching, photographing, and editing can be very time consuming.  A lot of bloggers don’t want that work to be essentially used as free advertising for some random business they have no relation to.  Frankly, it’s a bit skeevy.  Scrupulous businesses will either take the time/money to get their own photos (that shows effort on their part, and people like that), or just simply ask.
Asking takes absolutely no time and it’ll at least open up the chance that the blogger will say yes.  If you just take a photo for yourself when there’s no indication that the blogger will allow it, you’re just setting yourself up for report.

@rockrollglam @KK27 I’m not a blogger, but even if I were, I don’t think I would take offense if an *individual* borrowed my photo for ebay; it’s not as if s/he is making a huge profit from it. In fact, I would find it flattering, and a bit of publicity. I don’t know, it just seems a bit petty. A large corporation, however, stands to profit, so they should at least offer up some money, or work out some other form of payment.

 @xamyx  @rockrollglam  @KK27 Personally I’m a little more lax than the nail blogger in question when it comes to independent sellers, but that’s my own policy, not the blanket policy for ALL beauty bloggers.  You might find borrowing without permission flattering, but other bloggers will think of it as just the opposite.  Like Christine said, every blogger has their own policy on image use, and it’s only polite to respect those individual differences. 

 @rockrollglam  @xamyx  @KK27  I do photography on the side but with my full time job I don’t have time to edit my photos in Lightroom until Uni starts back up and I am moved back to a part-time position! 🙂 I’m not saying that that makes it right to use another blogger’s photo by any means…but I feel like I at least tried to give her credit! People use my photos for various things and I don’t mind as long as they leave my watermark on the photograph. 🙂

I’m a small canadian blogger and it happened to me too. It is very upsetting because we work and take the time to take picture with the right angle and the right luminosity. I feel like you about watermarks. It’s the main reason with I don’t post some makeup look on my blog.

Another subject that gets me super hot under the collar!  A lot of small time tiny inconsequential artists such as myself store a catalogue of our work on Flickr.  It is a great vehicle for getting your work known and a perfect place for others to see samples of what you do.  Flickr routinely gets ripped off for images.  I found this out, again the hard way, and have subsequently changed my settings to disallow others from grabbing my images.  I was completely ignorant of the default settings and did not know they essentially allowed for a ‘free for all’.  It’s really too bad because it is a double edged sword as people can no longer share my images to Pinterest, etc which is for the most part, free advertising and a very powerful way of ‘spreading the word’.  However, it is also the perfect vehicle for others to rip off my work and pretend it is their own.
So, I’ve become a bit of an ostrich, I confess, on this issue.  I would almost rather NOT know when copyright theft actually happens.  Why, because I tear myself apart when it does.  A couple of times, I have confronted the people responsible only to be engaged in a pointless on-line war which rarely gets resolved and always gets insanely personal.  Consequently, I say what I have to say in a short note to the person/people responsible and leave it at that and distance myself from the whole thing.  Otherwise, I get angry and churn my guts out and waste valuable energy in a total negative fashion.  I’ve got enough on my plate with health issues and stress ain’t gonna help me.  I do not think this is the right answer for you, Christine.  But for me, in my microscopic world, it is far better.

This is a problem for which there is no excuse.  Not to minimize the amount of work that goes into swatching, reviewing and posting makeup looks, but if hobbyist beauty bloggers, and even those who blog full time, can take great pictures with their own limited budgets, time and equipment, why can’t a PR team with access to their own products and professional photographers not produce their own pictures for use in their promotional materials?  I get that smaller, low end brands like Sinful and ELF don’t have the PR budgets that their parent companies do, but I assume they do have interns and cameras. 

Well I think you and the other bloggers should get compensated and also received public letters of apology… After all that’s yours and the other bloggers work that they are making a profit off. I’m trying to start a bilingual english-spanish blog and this posts has opened eyes to the fact that lots of bloggers and you tubers  are being taken advantage off. Why if revlon pays Halle Berry millions of dollars, could not pay the bloggers a few thousands for their pictures? How come only famous people and advertising agencies can get pay for advertising a product and regular people like us on You Tube and blogs cannot?

Revlon was already dangerously close to crossing the line when they so blatantly duped very distinctive high-end polishes :/ If someone gave the order to remove the watermark, they knew they were using someone else’s material, and someone also decided not to contact the owners or credit them. I don’t want to think that Revlon doesn’t value the work of bloggers as material worth crediting, but it’s very hard to see this any other way. 

Well said. I recently had one of my images stolen and printed in a Belgian magazine, and I have been trying to contact the magazine in private to no avail. I’m so disappointed, and I can only begin to understand a fraction of what Mary and Jeanette must be going through. I fear that I will have to make a public “thing” of it, though I also wonder if that will even have the reach I need to be heard by an international company.
I wish brands and companies understood how hurtful it is to the people they steal from. 

I think intellectual property is something many people don’t really conceptualize unless they have given birth to an idea and put the labour and love to watch it grow. Watching others scamming your intellectual brainchild away feels so unjust. As an artist, it feels important to protect all mediums of my work, in the online or physical world.

The cosmetic company employees stealing photos know they’re committing copyright infringement. These folks have the benefit of marketing degrees and a giant legal team. They know. They do it to save a little money on photos and because they think they can get away with it.The best thing you can do when your work has been stolen and the company won’t make it right is to blog about it like Temptalia is doing here. If ethics won’t keep beauty brands from stealing, maybe bad press will. I for one won’t be buying e.l.f. again.
The other thing you should do when anyone uses a photo without your permission is to SEND THEM AN INVOICE. Give them the opportunity to pay for the copyrighted images they use, like they should have done in the first place. Often this is enough to motivate a site to remove an image, and occasionally they will even pay for the photo. The invoices are also useful if you decide to take legal action.

I hate things like this, whether it’s stealing pictures or stealing words or what have you. I’m a writer, and I’m part of various communities online, both fanfic and original fic, and while I’ve never been plagiarised, my friends have. In the fanfic community it’s not quite the same as companies stealing images for advertising, but it’s still theft of intellectual property, and it shouldn’t be happening. (Then again, depending on who you talk to, fanfic itself is infringement of copyrighted material. I don’t subscribe to that view.)
I do appreciate that your pictures aren’t watermarked, and that you don’t have a right-click ban. As someone who so often right-clicks to open links in a new tab, or what have you, this makes my life insanely easier. And while I think you *can* do watermarks that don’t impede the image, I prefer pictures that aren’t watermarked, so I thank you for your choice. 

 @blueraccoon I almost used fanfiction as an example – as some authors strictly prohibit fanfiction while others embrace it and still others begrudgingly allow it. There are arguments to be made on either side, but it’s one of those let the copyright owners speak. I respect their right to do what they will with their work, though it rubs me a little wrong since I used to read a lot of fanfiction when I had more free time *to* read. I always fell in love with totally unconventional couples so fanfiction was really the only way to see them come together… 😉
I also look to really large websites for guidance sometimes, because that’s also where I’d like to grow Temptalia to be, and I don’t really see huge blogs (whether beauty related or completely outside the niche) using watermarks. If I ever do, it’s on super, super exclusive content – e.g. in tech, if it has something to do with the iPhone. 

 @Christine (Temptalia) I actually belong to an organization called the OTW: Organization for Transformative Works- it’s a non-profit designed to protecting fanfiction and establishing its right to exist as transformative media. It has a lot of good projects, and a legal team to help authors who get caught by C&D letters from authors or estates (Marion Zimmer Bradley’s is one of the worst about this) who try to stop fanfiction. My best friend is on the board, so I hear a lot about it *g*  I’m all about the unconventional people–the rare pairings and so on. Although these days I’m more original fiction. </tangent>
I think you underestimate Temptalia’s audience if you want it to *grow* to be a large website *g* But I get what you’re saying – most sites I go to for beauty information (that aren’t blogs) don’t have watermarks. (Although this is usually my first stop for anything, just as a note.) I wish you luck!

I dislike the use of bloggers’ images by other companies without the blogger’s consent, and if the company doesn’t even use the same products the blogger used…that makes it even more deplorable. However, as a MUA, I know that it takes a lot of money and work to create an original photo. I can see why someone pulling a (seemingly) random photo from the Net would think it an easy solution if they needed a photo to enhance their website. I think we live in a time where people would rather do what’s easy and cheap (that explains the proliferation of reality TV shows nowadays) than take the high (and morally sound) road and create an image that is unique and belongs exclusively to the company. 
If they are going to take the image, they should at least pay the person it belongs to. It’s only fair. If they had organized a photo shoot with models and other staff, they would pay the photographer. I can’t think of a single photographer I have worked with who would be okay with a company just taking their image off of Google and using it for their website.

i’ve worked as a freelance photographer, makeup artist, and occasional filmmaker  for over ten years and i would constantly display my work online.  i stopped displaying my work online (except for my fb that is strictly private) in 2011 for many reasons, including frequent unauthorized use of my images.  it is infuriating to me when others steal peoples work because i know the amount of effort, time, and money that is put into creating your own work…and for someone to just go, snatch it and claim it as theirs…it is seriously damaging. 

Thankyou for this post, it is becoming harder and harder to know what is original material or what is borrowed. I have made it more of a goal to always link to source and acknowledge where I got it. But the fact that brands are doing it that SHOULD have an informed and educated team should at least, oh you know get the source material with permission and using products that are theirs. That is just lazy work. 

While the debates over blogger-to-blogger use and asking permissions are fine, the person who notes that the MARKETING STAFF at a COMMERCIAL COSMETICS COMPANY knew exactly what they were doing was RIGHT.  (Sorry, never used caps ever before in a post but so angry…)  These are the same companies that will fork out the equivalent of a luxury home to lawyers to chase anyone who might’ve possibly used their logo, images, product qualities, etc.  And I know first-hand that marketing, creative design and advertising staffs at such big companies get regular training on not violating copyright in their work.  They steal because they gamble that bloggers and others won’t come across the pirated works and if/when they do, will be easily stonewalled in attempts to get these corrected and make their contact information especially complicated to sort out.
So you can send a cease and desist to the legal dept (with a link to this blog post if it’s emailed),   Here’s maybe an easier approach:  send an email to their PR department, make sure you fill them in on your analytics and readership demos, hyperlink to this post and tell them that if they don’t stop stealing your intellectual property and creative works and send you some confirmation to that fact, you’ll make certain that your readership knows.  Nothing happens?  Provide all of us with their contact information (PR people and customer service details) with a post.  And while you’re at it, share the post and contact info with all the others on your bloggers network.  I think an onslaught of angry correspondence from women in their primary buying demographics will bring attention to their practices.  

I saw this exact thing your speaking of. It was a picture of black french manicured nails, the top were black matt and the bottom were shiny black, no name on it. Less than 2 months went by and sure enough, one of the bloggers had stamped their name across the bottom as if it were theirs. This is a blogger I’m sure most of us have read. To make matters worse they had a disclaimer on their site that read: Please do not copy or reproduce images or text without permission. All images marked with the “********” words are mine. That was a load of crap, since they took a picture that wasn’t theirs and put their stamp on it.
Certainly makes you wonder about who is blogging, I dont read that blog anymore because all I can think of is what they did.

I find it so upsetting that ELF did this for several reasons.  Firstly and most importantly because they stole your hard work and stealing is just plain wrong.  No excuses.  It’s wrong.  If I was on that site shopping and saw that photo, of course I would assume that those were ELF products used…..who wouldn’t?  So not only are they thieves but liars as well because they want people to buy their products based on a photo that isn’t OF their products…..false advertising to be sure.  
I really appreciate having this blog to come to before making purchases….it saves me both time and money.  I for one will NEVER purchase from ELF because of this and frankly I think anybody who frequents this blog and benefits from all your work shouldn’t either.  Ethical people need to take a stand against disgusting behavior like this and let the culprits know it’s NOT OK…and the best way to do that it to hurt them in their pocketbook.  That is what I think.

Students get in trouble for plagiarism in their papers or not citing their sources correctly. We learn this from elementary school/primary to not steal people’s work. We are told not to copy off our friend’s works either. Also when we need images our professors tell us there are stock images for our website.
Obviously this is the work of marketing not doing their job correctly/taking short cuts. All they had to do was photoshop. Problem is that even with watermarks, people can still steal. I’ve seen this a lot on YouTube as well with people either zooming in to hide the WM, etc.
But really a cease and detest letter is all that’s needed and then legal action taken if needed.

That’s not the issue – the issue is that I wasn’t but the placement of the image in the newsletter seemed to imply that it was, which is fraudulent, and if people believed I condoned it, then that would make me a liar as well.  I’ve given e.l.f. products Temptalia Awards in the past – because there were great, budget-friendly products in the range. 
There’s nothing with using e.l.f. products!

Thank you for making this post. When I found out about this last night, I signed their petition. We were talking about this at the blogger event I attended tonight. Everyone is disappointed in them. Additionally, it was very obvious that someone stole the images and did a bad job blurring out the watermark 🙁

Your business ethic is commendable, Christine. You’ve helped so many people, and I support you in your endeavor on a regular basis by referring people, including major makeup counter MUAs, to your blog.
More importantly, I report stolen photos of you that are used on eBay to sell lipstick you’re wearing whenever I see them and will continue to do so. I take copyright infringement very seriously and always bring it to the attention of the violator.
Shame on Sinful Colors. They’ve officially lost my business, and I have never nor will never use e.l.f. cosmetics (not capitalized intentionally) because of your experience with them.
It says a lot about you that your followers do what they can to protect you from copyright infringement. I believe in Karma, and you have a lot of positive points coming your way!
<3 Melissa

I remember the e.l.f. incident and stopped purchasing their products. For the other beauty bloggers who’s swatches/art were used by Sinful Colors, I feel bad. I don’t read their blogs so I wouldn’t be aware of the issue but I just did a haul of their polishes. (on sale at Walgreens) Now, I will no longer purchase Sinful Color nail polishes. I don’t like when companies do this to bloggers. They are independent and some of them do this on their free time and don’t get compensated. They should provide credit when its due but when you clearly see the Color Club bottle in your pamphlet is pure LOL and a face palm. 

That’s wrong for Elf or any company to steal photos that is not theirs, how hard is it just to contact the blogger and ask for permission, link their blog or better yet-TAKE PHOTOS OF THEIR PRODUCTS THEMSELVES! IT’s not that hard, these companies make to much money to be this cheap, stop stealing photos and just hire someone to take photos for you. They be ready to sue the moment they found their own content on another companies site so i don’t know why they do this to bloggers.  I’ve never cared for Elf products so It doesn’t bother me that they’ve got themselves thrown under a bus. 

Do you have any idea what goes into a lawsuit or how much it costs? No? I do. Suits are unlikely and companies know it. An individual venturing in to Civil Court is facing mind blowing expense. If they can find representation, and the attorney needs a big five to ten thousand dollar retainer, to start. And you have to sue somebody where they live to get them to even answer a complaint. More money. 
The real problem is The Web Generation who grew up copying and pasting high school papers off googled sources. The idea of ownership is foreign to the mash up kids, and I’m sure they catch hell if senior management knows about it. But most people my age have no idea any one would do something so stupid since they know better. ELF is a strange thing though; I don’t understand how they stay solvent. Maybe part of that is avoiding promo production cost via Google and copy-paste? I suppose any senior management is busy with numbers…

 @RetroActive Fortunately, Christine has a JD and an MBA, so she’s very knowledgeable in what she can and cannot reasonably do. Getting the word out on unethical business practices with the base of followers, fans and business networks like hers will definitely put a dent in their bottom line. 

Out of curiosity, if you will not feature e.l.f. products within your blog posts due to these questionable practices, why are there banner ads for e.l.f. on your website?  As I’m writing this, I see a large banner ad along the top of the post linking to the e.l.f. website advertising their products.  I’m not familiar with how the ads featured on the site work, maybe you don’t have any control over what appears, but I just found it curious.  If this company would be so deceitful in taking your images without permission and using them to mislead their customers, why are people still able to link to their products from your site?  I’m not trying to be confrontational, please don’t take it that way, I just found it odd to see it after reading the post.
I’ve bought from them before, but will think twice before I do again.  I’ve had a fairly positive experience with their products, but if they are willing to deceive their customers with misleading photos, it makes me question all the claims regarding their products and want to take my money elsewhere.  I totally respect your decision to not feature them in your posts and hope they will remove the photos and stop this practice or at least give you the credit you deserve.
How does a person interested in beauty blogging protect themselves from something like this? I’m assuming bloggers with less exposure could be more of a target since they aren’t as familiar with the rules and don’t have the audience you do to help hold people accountable or at least alert you of this happening. 

Hi Lisa!  See my response to @xamyx below – you absolutely shouldn’t be, because you shouldn’t be seeing them. We work with three primary networks for ad space, and two of those work with 500+ networks from there. We get a line item report from our primary advertising network (Glam), but I haven’t seen any e.l.f. ads through there. We’ve spent the past few hours trying to figure out why you’re seeing them and hopefully have blocked everything fully.  Regarding ads, they’re served via many, many smaller ad networks and unless you’re selling direct, then the blogger isn’t going to have much information before an advertisement runs – and what you see, I may never see (e.g. I know we were running some Purina cat food ads, since I saw it as a linen item, but I’ve never actually seen it myself). Bloggers definitely have a level of control, but it tends to be after-the-fact control if something slips through any blocks we do have in place (we block sex ads, weight loss ads, etc.)
You can do things like watermarking, which a lot of people do, though the incident with Sinful Colors occurred with watermarked images (which were removed via Photoshop), so it doesn’t always work. Others have suggested disabling right-click. Both make it harder to just copy and paste. 
It’s hard to do it.  I deal with 10-15 instances of infringement a day, if not more, and that’s just what I’m aware of by the vigilance of readers.  One thing that has helped some of the more flagrant violations is to disable hotlinking, because there are scraper sites that just copy your entire feed and the images that go along with it – by disabling, we render those images unusable by them. It’ll show up as an image that says “do not hotlink” instead of the real image.  You can make it easier to share images, such as including Pinterest, Twitter, etc. buttons which automate the sharing and include attribution.
The two bloggers in question were able to raise plenty of awareness through the community as a whole – by readers, alerting other bloggers, etc.  

 @Christine (Temptalia)  @xamyx I find it insane that someone would waste all that time photochopping a watermark out instead of using that time to create their own images and conducting business ethically.  My conscience simply wouldn’t allow me to do it. 

I’ve bought from ELF in the past and while I found their makeup to be utter rubbish, I have liked their brushes.  I have a number of them and was going to buy more of the eyeshadow brushes recently. They are a dupe to MAC brushes but I never really thought about the copyright issue involved because Sonia Kashuk (whose brushes I also have) and a ton of other companies also have brushes similar to MAC. (Honestly, how different can a brush really be?)    But this thing about you and your photos….. THAT is a whole other kettle of fish.  The sheer audacity and insolent indifference…..   
Goodbye ELF. You’ve lost me as a customer.  Some things are just inexcusable.  And you know what? Even if they fix things, I have too much loyalty to you to forget.  Some things matter much more than silly makeup at the end of the day. 

I’ve bought from ELF in the past and while I found their makeup to be utter rubbish, I have liked their brushes.  I have a number of them and was going to buy more of the eyeshadow brushes recently. They are a dupe to MAC brushes but I never really thought about the copyright issue involved because Sonia Kashuk (whose brushes I also have) and a ton of other companies also have brushes similar to MAC. (Honestly, how different can a brush really be?)    But this thing about you and your photos….. THAT is a whole other kettle of fish.  The sheer audacity and insolent indifference…..   
Goodbye ELF. You’ve lost me as a customer.  Some things are just inexcusable.  And you know what? Even if they fix things, I have too much loyalty to you to forget.  Some things in life matter much more than makeup at the end of the day. 

 @Kafka   The brush you speak of is a copy of a MAC which is a copy of a Loew Cornell paint brush which stretches back millennia in slightly different forms. In fact, it’s a short filbert squirrel or red sable- trade name going back three centuries – ish. The useless skunk brush is MACs only true innovation. Maybe. It may have come out somewhere else first. MAC didn’t invent brushes! lol.
Some of ELF is OK, some is wretched, but there’s something called the Tween to teen market. They play with it. It does appear to be a wretchedly managed company though; The displays are never stocked here and the plagarism and theft Christine describes is very bad management! I suspect it’s a money losing write off for somebody.

i saw one of your lip swatches on Indian Cosmetic Brand blog and I mentioned your blog name but no reply .. and your lip swatches are something very much used and i totallyyyyy hate it “C” … HATEEE IT
this issue is very serious and thank you so much for sharing this ..
never use to be E.L.F. fan but now I have one big reason not to buy the stuff even if it is worth checking out .. D: D:

Totally agree with you that they should cough up the money for stock photos. I mean, these are big companies/corporations we’re talking about here! How pathetic that they’re using google image search. What do they think, that you pour over this blog with your heart and soul just for your health?

Hi Christine,
it happened to me too, online sellers were using my lip and nail polish swatches to sell their products, so I started using watermarks. It sucks to add a watermark to every picture you post, but I found that’s the only way of avoiding unauthorized reposting!

ELF products are terrible as it is and sinful colors might be a half step above that. It’s really sad that they can’t even put the time and effort into their own marketing to sell a product.

Hi Christine — This is very unfortunate. I believe you work very hard on your blog. I take your opinions as almost gospel when it comes to beauty. You are the first stop for me if I want an in-depth review on a product. You are always honest and your photos are of the highest quality in my opinion.
As far as E.L.F., I refuse to order from them.  A friend of mine who was trying to become the sole distruburter for E.L.F. in West Africa (Nigerian and Ghana) was seriously burned by them. I won’t go into details but I have first hand knowledge of their shady business practices.
Keep up the good work and keep calling out these companies who use your images without your permission.

Hi all!
I received this yesterday afternoon, but I just received permission to republish it this morning. e.l.f. reached out to be with this email: 

Christine, My name is Joey Shamah and I am the CEO of e.l.f. cosmetics. I am writing in response to your blog “Copycat, Copycat when will it end” – We are in agreement that intellectual property is sacred and should not be reused and misrepresented by companies or individuals. We also concur that as companies grow and workload gets divided, it is not expected of all executives to review all creatives that the company puts out.
That being said, I can only apologize if an outsourced creative designer unethically took your images and misrepresented them as our own. I can assure you this that actions like these are not condoned by the company and we have built our business with fair and just business practices.
Regarding your decision on not featuring elf, I would ask that you reconsider – although I understand if you dont. I would hate for your readers and followers to miss out on a great brand because of the action of one individual. Thank you for your time
P.S. – all images have been taken down from our site – the email link you sent is being taken down momentarily. we are contacting our ESP provider to make sure it is removed asap.

I will continue to mull over this email response for some time while considering whether to change my stance on reviewing e.l.f. products. Thanks! 🙂

 @Christine (Temptalia) How long before they deigned to take your images down?  I’d wait that long to reconsider not mentioning/using them on the blog.
It was obviously more than one individual involved, because even if one person stole the images for different features, I doubt that person was the one that saw any complaints issued about the usage prior to this week.

 @Christine (Temptalia) I agree with Quinctia and Sunu! I recall you mentioned in a post some time ago what e.l.f. had done with your images; back then the brand was not available in Mexico. Today e.l.f. is available in Mexico but I would still not even look at it because of the way they behaved with you. It is so low to have used your images and you were not even wearing their products – people would obviously believe the look WAS achieved using e.l.f.! That lack of ethics was way too much and it was against my favorite beauty blogger (a.k.a.: YOU)! Therefore, I’ll forgive them if you do 🙂 !

 @Christine (Temptalia) Sadly I agree with @Quinctia . What e.l.f. did was terribly unethical and then It took so long for them to rectify their mistake and give an apology! And alas, I doubt that they won’t do it again – if not with your pictures, than with another blogger’s. I hope I’m wrong but I certainly don’t intend to buy from them anytime in the near future.

 @Christine (Temptalia) “I would hate for your readers and followers to miss out on a great brand because of the action of one individual.”
More like he would hate to miss out on a popular blog like this one providing advertising amirite?

 @Christine (Temptalia) Sorry, e.l.f. Not buying it. After working many years in Advertising and Market Research for a Fortune 500 company, copyright infringement is easily avoidable. Your “story” doesn’t hold water, and I for one will not consider purchasing or even testing e.l.f. cosmetics for any reason. 

 @Christine (Temptalia)  I feel like this apology is way too little too late. It’s been two years and they still have your content on their site, and they’re really ONLY apologizing in order to get you to advertise/review for them for free. That’s so unfair! One of the main reasons I stopped wearing e.l.f. was because of the scandal involving you. I am now incredibly turned off from Sinful Colors as well, due to this same issue with The Swatchaholic. I feel like affordable products that may be fun or pretty just don’t make up for sketchy ethics. Mistakes happen, but in both cases, these “mistakes” were completely avoidable and not handled very well at all. (Seriously, who “accidentally” removes a watermark or “accidentally” lifts a made up eye that features ZERO products from the actual brand?! Way to insult people’s intelligence!)
This is your website, and you should do what you think is best. I will keep reading your blog no matter what. But truthfully, I would be a little disappointed if you started reviewing e.l.f products. If only because this company seems to care very little for creative property and honest advertising techniques. I also feel like you already do an excellent job at promoting budget beauty items already; no one has really missed e.l.f.! I’m sure you have readers emailing or commenting from time to time about the brand, but in general, I’m sure no one is too upset but the lack of e.l.f. love! Also… their products are just terrible. I know the prices are outstanding but I remember being constantly disappointed by everything I blew money on. (It all adds up after a while!) Obviously I don’t know for sure how their products would be rated on here, but I’d bet there wouldn’t be nearly as many A and B ratings for e.l.f. as there are for brands like Wet n’ Wild, NYX, Revlon, etc.
Bottom line: They don’t deserve all the generous, free publicity that comes from your highly valued and widely read reviews! 

All good points, Summer! 🙂  My gut is not to, but I don’t want to let it be an instant reaction, you know? So I’ll mull it over until I settle on something and leave it there for awhile.  Their apology to me does come very late, after many attempts to contact them (*including* Twitter), and for me, the usage of “if” it happened followed by P.S. they’re removing and the lack of how they’ll prevent it from happening in the future (their entire beauty tips section is essentially littered with images that appear scalped from Google Images) does bother me.
The one thing I’ll note about when brands have bad things happen is as a corporation, especially in America, which is a very litigious society, they have to be very careful about they do and do not say.  They will say mistake/accident more often than accept 100% blame or state it was intentionally done as a result.  Revlon responded *really* fast for a corporation of that magnitude, and they said they’d reach out to the bloggers impacted, work on ensuring it doesn’t happen again, and they were sorry. From a corporation, that’s a pretty good response all around, IMO!  I know we WANT something more honest and unsparingly accepts blame, but it’s not likely with the legal landscape and potential legal consequences of doing so. I’m not saying it’s right, but I think that is what drive a lot of brand responses and why they aren’t 100% honest.  I mean, I’m with you – I don’t even know why it couldn’t be said that they apologize for the underhanded behavior of the individuals involved and will be conducting an investigation etc etc which would be stronger.

 @Christine (Temptalia) Just wanted to add . . . outsourced my ass. Since when does an Indy company have the money or need to “outsource”?  Not buying it. The more I read that half-assed apology, the more angry I get about it. 

@temptalia will you be changing your stance on them? It seems dubious that the only reason they removed them was likely due to post and a-

@temptalia I’m glad e.l.f. responded & apologized, although it shouldn’t have taken a highly-read blog post from you, for them to do so.

@temptalia **bullsh**cough cough. Isn’t it funny that CEO never take blame only credit? I am not an elf customer, nor will I ever be one

it worries me when a cosmetic product is so cheap!  too good to be true? i do own a few e.l.f. products (who can resist such a low price point) but i don’t find myself using them much compared to other brands in my collection. they don’t stand the test of time – either in packaging or wear of product. some of their brushes are good until you wash them and the handles just about break off from the brush! boo e.l.f.! i say take this as a sign and walk away ^_^

@temptalia I would be wary of a company that only does the right thing when publicly shamed. If I were you I would not feature e.l.f.

Speaking as a designer, I can tell you that some companies do pressure their designers to use improperly sourced imagery. They usually do it out of greed — they want to save money, so they refuse to pay for images but still insist images be used in the material. We can’t get them out of thin air. It’s the designer’s place to refuse and to make sure all images used are properly sourced. That’s my policy.There are designers who steal images as well. Some of them are actually ignorant to copyright laws (which means they’re simply not good at their jobs — it’s our duty to pay attention to these details) and some of them are arrogant, believing they won’t be caught. When it comes to illegally used stock photos, the penalties can be severe. I know of a fine in the thousands regarding a Getty image used without purchasing. When it comes to the other issue at hand — companies not only stealing photos, but using photos to represent their products that are actually in no way related to those products — that’s reprehensible. I don’t have a very high opinion of Elf products in general (I made one order — the cosmetics were so bad they were unusable and the brush fell apart after one use), I now also have a low opinion of their company after watching them pass the buck this way. I like companies that take responsibility and apologize fully. I hate companies that present what seems like an apology but is actually a total denial of responsibility.

I actually saw your eye on an Ebay listing yesterday, I think it was for an urban decay shadow but I’m not positive. If you want me to go back and check I will send you the link!

Funny how they reacted fast and scent you an apology as soon as this blog went up..but didn’t react 2 years ago when your photos were on their site. This is a typical “get our asses out of the hot water” apology, companies know their name as well as their products will be tarnished from a blog post like this. Their reputation is pretty much in a sink hole now and they can only pray that  this half assed  reply will pull them out and rescue them. Unfortunately, the damaged has been down and there is nothing that can make people turn the other cheek and forget.  Another thing that’s kind of scary is how fast they did reply, this is a huge red flag that tells me these companies are lurking on blogger sites. 

“We also concur that as companies grow and workload gets divided, it is not expected of all executives to review all creatives that the company puts out. That being said, I can only apologize if an outsourced creative designer unethically took your images and misrepresented them as our own.”
Wow, even if the CEO did not directly authorize an unethical action, they are still responsible. I don’t think passing the buck is the proper response here. I am also VERY irritated that she made it sound as if the words were coming right out of Christine’s mouth! That’s pretty audacious.
This is NOT a real apology. I have always avoided e.l.f. cosmetics because of this copyright infringement. It’s one thing that is a huge pet peeve of mine, as a creative person. When you steal something like a photograph for commercial purposes, you are profiting from the time and work of others. It’s not something to be trifled with. But this situation is even worse– representing e.l.f. cosmetics with a photo that not only wasn’t their property, but also depicted makeup from another brand! (And of undoubtedly higher quality)
I would just like to point out to all those who think e.l.f. is a good “bang for your buck” that this company obviously has to cut corners to make ends meet. Unfortunately, that includes endorsing unethical practices. Whether or not they are brave enough to own up to it.

 @Angkor_What Thank you for your thoughts 🙂 I had a similar reaction when I read the email, which is why I thought it’d be a good idea to get permission to publish it in full, to see if others had the same reaction.

I stumpled upon a blog post on ELF’s website/blog, and they used a MAC promo pic. I commented something like: This is a MAC Cosmetics promo image, you might want to take that down. Now, a few days later, the picture is replaced and my comment got deleted.

This goes to show that they obviously have no intention of changing their [unethical] business practices. Good on you for speaking up! 

“we have built our business with fair and just business practices.”
Oh, please! If you have ethics, you make sure your “outsourced creative” types are using images they have permission to use – and that have at least some Elf products in them! The tone of this letter suggests they think they are taking the high road and you’re just being mean. That really infuriates me!

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