They stole an image of my son and just had to pay $4000

I seems like I’ve done a bad job selecting words for my headline. Some people think that I am complaining because I “just” got $4000. I’m not complaining. It’s a not-so-successful formulation to say that this happened recently. Or like one of the commenters over at Reddit said:

“I assume that “just” refers to time. Meaning they only now, a short while ago, had to pay $4000.”

About a year ago I was surprised when I saw an image of my son in an ad for a shop called “Vinderen Elektriske”, selling electronics.

I immediately contacted the editor of the magazine in question, “Vinderen Magasinet”. She directed me to the advertiser and the designer behind the ad. I contacted the designer. She had found the image “on the internet” and reacted like I was rude and angry without any reason when I told her that she couldn’t use the image without my permission. I was obviously talking to a professional designer with absolutely no knowledge of intellectual property laws.

The use of my image is a very clear violation of several paragraphs in those laws. Both because I own the rights to the image and because they need permission from the easily recognizable person in the image.

So I called the manager of the shop responsible for the ad. He was not very friendly either and simply directed me to their lawyer. Probably in hope of me simply forgetting about it because I didn’t want to fight their lawyer.

Unfortunately for them this simply pissed me off. Seriously. I am not too difficult when it comes to people wanting to use my images. An apology and a suggestion for some kind of compensation would have been okay. But now I just went from a minor irritation to pure anger.

Fortunately I am pretty well connected and a couple of emails later I am in contact with the utterly talented Mr. Halvor Manshaus. You know, Jon Lech Johansen aka DVD-Jon’s lawyer. A lawyer you don’t want on your neck when discussing digital rights.

But he’s not cheap. Not even after a couple of beer and a very interesting discussion about technology and new media… And with this incident I don’t know if I’ll get any kind of economic compensation in the end, so I have to put aside thousands of dollars and prepare to cover the expenses if I lose.

Most people would probably just give up. That’s why this story is important.

Some weeks later I am fortunate enough to meet Mr. Jon Bing at a conference where we both where speaking. Jon Bing is a Norwegian writer and law professor at the Norwegian Research Center for Computers and Law. I tell him about the case. He tells me that the economic compensations people get in cases like these very often are pretty low. But he also says that the case is somewhat important and that I should go through with it to state an example. I should do my duty.

Okay. This would cost me time and money, but I’m pissed, the professor tells me I should do it and Halvor Manshaus is at my service.

I instruct Mr. Manshaus to go on and send a proposal to the lawyer that Vinderen Elektriske was using. He proposes a compensation of about $8000 and make it clear that they have violated Norwegian law of intellectual property. He also asks for documentation on exactly where they used the image.

After a while they reply that this is out of proportions and that they won’t pay more than something like $1000,- No apology and no documentation on the usage.

I don’t accept this. Mr. Manshaus sends another letter. This time with even more references to Norwegian law and a statement about the fact that I am willing to go on and charge them for violation of intellectual property law.

They fail to answer on time and we need to send a reminder with yet another letter. In the next letter they propose something close to $4000,- as long as I prove that it’s my son in the image(!) That’s not very difficult to prove. Because I don’t have the time and money to push this further I accept the $4000,- It’s enough to cover my expenses and leave some dollars that I will put away for my son.

Still, Vinderen Elektriske never gave me proper documentation on where they used the image. They never gave me any form of apology.

But at least it states an example. And I hope the designer now have learned that she can’t just use whatever she finds through Google Images and I hope Vinderen Elektriske are more careful the next time they put together an ad.

And there is another important lesson to be learned here. The one about communication and marketing. In about 20 seconds the owner of Vinderen Elektriske could have avoided:
– $4000,- in compensation to me
– Expenses for his own lawyer
– Bad publicity

How? Instead of answering

“We found the image on the internet. Talk to our lawyer”

He could have said something like

“Oh. I’m so sorry. Our designer must have made a mistake. We really liked your image. How can we fix this? Of course you should have some kind of compensation. Maybe you would give our shop a visit and pick a Nintendo Wii and some games for your son?”

Unfortunately they selected the other option. Pissing me off. Making sure I now hate really dislike Vinderen Elektriske. Making sure my family, most of my readers and huge amounts of people around the different forums where this story has been shared also hate dislike them.


Digg this story:


Did a couple of edits that I have moved down into the comments.

They stole an image of my son and just had to pay $4000

169 thoughts on “They stole an image of my son and just had to pay $4000

  1. I feel your pain. I’ve been wronged several times and my money would only allow me to pursue it so long. Otherwise I would have tried to make them pay for everything like they should have.

  2. Great story, and a good job you did. Have only one comment. You should have put the name (Vinderen Elektriske) in the heading instead of “They”, just to make it a clearer statement against the shop….

  3. Trond says:

    Bastards! :)
    Good to hear that you could cover your expenses. Been a few similar cases lately in the news (A snowboarder,among others)

  4. Dan says:

    Eirik, you’re right.

    But since I dont have any first-hand experience with them I don “hate” them. But I’ve read this story and believe me – I will never use them or advice any of my friends or family to do so either.

    Anyway. I’m glad you took a chance to go all they way. It makes a big different for all amateurphotographers in Norway to know that there is a justice for us as well.

    Bt the way – try to Google “Vinderen elektriske” ;-)


  5. Morten says:

    As a professional graphic designer, I’m shocked by the ignorance and lack of professional integrity displayed by the designer in question. I salute your initiative and sense of duty, and I hope the designer learned her lesson.

    Graphic designers who don’t even understand basic copyright rules are rare, but unfortunately they exist.

  6. And obviously they haven’t heard about Google either. Already this article is on the first page when you google “vinderen elektriske”.

    I agree with those who say “don’t hate them”. You can’t hate someone just because of this. But idiots, that’s ok!

  7. I spent some time choosing the right words and trying to simply tell what happened. I agree that hating someone is something you do when they’ve done worse that ripping an image from your web site.

    So, I’ve moderated my use or words in the article.

  8. I think we all agree here. A very linguistic discussion. All points taken. “I hate you because you burned my house down” and “I hate you because you stole an image of my son” both sound reasonable. Really. Words have a lot of meanings.

  9. Two wrongs cost’s § 4 000? No-no-no!

    Have just counted the numbers of comments you have recived ( 9 at the moment – with me)and if you multiply 9 with 10, you get 90 (if I’m right). Then you have recived the minimum of bad or even worst case scenario for “Vinderen elektriske” or “Taperen elektriske” (Vindern, close to “the winner” if you translate the word from norwegian to english and “Taperen=”the loser”. Kind of ironic this.

    Vinderen elektriske has also paid for a “prof” marketing designer and bought them selves, as well as talked them selves, into some pretty nasty reputation. And all this to sell a few more Ipod’s?

    Even more funny is it that if you Google “Vinderen elektriske” – as metioned above, they will even GAIN more disrespect or even hatred!

    Customers can choose, Vinderen elektriske can just pray!

    Love your actions and the result as well!!! Have a nice day, somewhere else than “Vinderen elektriske”!!!

  10. […] Eirik Solheim, our main man from Blogres, just got $4000 for his picture that was stolen by some company which name is not worth to mention. Great post, great story and hopefully a good lesson for everybody.  Also some of my images got stolen by some magazines and webzines, but since I really didn’t had time fight over that and since I was employed by Mladina I just reported the case to Mladina’s accountent and gave her all the details. Well getting back to the freelance world I’ll definitely fight it over. […]

  11. B5 says:

    $4000 USD for a picture! Not bad for a computer geek! …. Don’t sue me. I’m sorry it wasn’t me who typed the G word. It was… a virus! He, he…

    But seriously, congrats for decision to go trough the suffer and setting up an example. I know I had “opportunities” to go through the same shit that you went trough, but I didn’t do it.

    Thanks for the post. I’ll highlighted on my blog.

    Ciao from Slovenia,


  12. Harald Staff says:

    Strange story, how often would “found on the internet” be within walking distance?
    But what really gets to me is “Because I donâ??t have the time and money to push this further I accept the $4000,- ” , meaning (to me) that a poorer person would get less justice, and a richer person would get more justice. “Shortest straw has been pulled for you”, as the poets said…

  13. In theory it should be possible to use the official system in Norway and simply charge them for image theft. Don’t know if you would get somewhere with that, but that’s the way it’s supposed to be fair with “justice for all”.

    In reality there’s no doubt about the fact that you’ll have a lot more possibilities if you have some money to spend on a good lawyer. And with money you can buy yourself some time. Time is my biggest problem these days. With Mr. Manshaus it was enough to brief him on the case and say: “You fix.”

    And he did.

  14. Andy says:

    Why’d you strike out “hate”? Hate is a perfectly normal, healthy emotion. Don’t be afraid to hate when you have good reason to hate.

  15. Kearneycation says:

    What always gets me about these sort of things is that you may not have even seen that photo. For all you know, it’s being used is several other ads and flyers that you never have and never will see. Considering the ubiquity of the internet, this photo could be in use right now in loads of different countries. Any photo of yours could be in fact. Upsetting really. And a bit unnerving. If these images are on a professional portfolio website you should watermark them.

  16. Seapixy says:

    As a professionally trained and apprenticed graphic designer I’m not surprised at this. The designer that stole your image may not have been to school for graphic arts. With the tools available today, anyone with a computer and some programs can say they’re an “artist”, and employers hire ’em because these unschooled designers are cheaper than the real thing. They think, “what’s the big deal? what training do you need to make things pretty?” I’ve run into employers who really think this, and have also interviewed plenty of these untrained designers, who really think they’re the furshnizzle. The truth is real graphic design trained artists don’t get the respect they deserve, and its only in these sorts of stupid situations- when the imposters mess up, that the true value of hiring well trained, professional graphic designers becomes clear.

  17. Mario Panzieri says:

    What happens when more people start trying to get the $4000 ? Doesn’t require a Phd in economy to see it quickly sums up to a lot of money, crashing even the mightiest of companies.

    They deserve it.

  18. Thank you for having the gumption to go through with all of this, and most importantly, for sharing your story. I’m sure you’ve educated a few designers about copyright law and a few art directors about good manners, too. As a photographer with a portfolio on the internet, I’ve learned to be more alert to the possibility of image theft. It’s good to know that recourse is possible despite what looks like an uphill battle.

  19. Kearneycation:
    Yes. All images published on the internet can of course be stolen for whatever use people want. And it’s a problem if you want to publish images under a creative commons license so people can use it non commercially. They can’t use an image with a huge watermark.

    I have now solved this by including a small watermark in all my images saying that people can contact me for both commercial and non commercial use.

  20. Seapixy:
    Yes. I totally agree. Hiring a professional is just as important when you want creative work done as when you want people to fix your car. Bad work can be very expensive.

  21. Kathleen Connally:
    I have learned a lot from this. Including the fact that it is important to show people that they can’t just behave like that. Today the biggest financial newspaper in Norway interviewed me about the case. I guess the $4000,- is not much compared to all the bad press this shop now gets.

  22. neuph says:

    course, if it was madonna, or tom cruise, or some other person, they would assume they have to pay for it– they’re thinking ‘why should not-famous-people’ have the same rights to their own image?

  23. JR says:

    Don’t be naive. They responded the way they did because it is most likely corporate policy for them to do so. At our company, all claims of IP infringement or legal action are forwarded to lawyers immediately. In addition, you may be a reasonable guy (although in all honesty you don’t sound all that reasonable considering how quickly you took it to the lawyers), but there is no guarantee of that. Many other people would likely have responded by demanding huge compensation or worse. Admitting a mistake would be another mistake if the person making the claim turns out to be a jerk who wants to take advantage of it to make a buck.

  24. nickyskye:
    Thanks! Actually that image is one of my favorites.

    And if I seemed offended by the discussion over at Metafilter I can assure you all that I’m not. I’ve been on the front page of Digg, on Slashdot, Boingboing, Engadget, Make and a bunch of other high trafficked sites with stuff I’ve written. I know the trolls. But this time I couldn’t resist commenting.

    And I really love this one:
    He yanked the bold text, we’re being watched.
    posted by iamabot at 10:30 AM on October 9

    Spooky. He’s commenting on a public web page. And he’s watched. Shock!

  25. JR:
    Yes. It might be corporate policy to take all cases like these through legal. Then I would answer something like this:
    “Oh. I’m sorry. Sounds like we made a mistake there. Because this is a legal matter we have to take it through with our lawyer, but I’m sure we’ll find a solution.”

    And I am sorry about the fact that the story in my blog didn’t include all details. I emailed directly with their lawyer for about two months. When they lied and answered that the image was only used in the magazine I confronted them with and failed to mention the other magazine where I found the ad I decided to go on and contact a lawyer.

  26. Zonker says:

    As an Art Director on a large ad account in the US:

    Child talent $700
    Person to see that the child is not pushed too hard (required by law in many states for a child this young) $400
    Stylist $500
    Photographer’s fee $800-2,500

    A “buy-out”, where you can run this picture in any way for all time can be negotiated, but might cost a few extra thousand depending on the child’s management (parents).

    But, to use this child’s image exclusively, not allowing any other pubs to use the child’s likeness, would be almost impossible to buy for under, I don’t know, $10,000 depending on the child’s management’s idea of the child’s future work.

    So, in my opinion, they’re getting off VERY cheap, with almost no real punishment for “stealing” this photograph.

  27. I, too, have felt your pain. Back in 1996, I found that all the images on my web site were being offered to users of the then 3rd largest ISP. If users wanted to create a homepage, the only images they could use were mine and a few dozen others (including a Disney image).

    There’s a wonderful resource called California Lawyers for the Arts that I learned about (along with copyright!) in art school (The Academy of Art in San Francisco). I was able to get a very competent attorney to take my case on a contingency basis.

    A year later, a visitor to my web site told me that a large computer book publisher had included all my images on a CD-Rom that accompanied the book. My lawyer was on the case. The editor seemed abashed, the publisher mulish, but they also finally settled.

    And finally, the IEEE, who should have known better, offered my images as “copyright free downloads” to their members on their web site. A few emails, and the images were gone.

  28. none says:

    “So I called the manager of the shop responsible for the ad. He was not very friendly either and simply directed me to their lawyer”

    Cheeky buggers!!! good on you for seeing it through, too many big buisnesses act like this, its like they think there going to be untouchable

  29. Lucica says:

    Good on you for standing up to them!

    And ignore the idiot pedants at Metafilter. I’d like to see some of them put together a compelling and flawless article in Norwegian! ;)

  30. You’re absolutely right, and good for you for going after them. Only by defending intellectual property rights will the unethical think twice about thieving them.

  31. Jeff says:

    The law is, increasingly, the means by which those who can afford to use it apply pressure to and, ultimately, subjugate those who can’t. When the rule of law becomes the instrument of the strong, rather than the protection of the weak, there is no civility, no democracy, and no liberty.

  32. Good work, if you stated clearly, than that image wasn’t for publical use, good work.

    But it’s a pitty, than internet hasn’t become the place to share and learn about everything that it was mean’t to be,, Now it has become and advertising place, where everyone wants to get money from smoke.

    The law protect intelectual rights, but do intelectuals protect right the law?

    If you didn’t want your images to be accesible for everyone, why you posted them on a public website were everyone can get acces to them? Would you leave your child alone in a raillway station were anyone could have acces to him?

    So if you like to keep your child safe at home, why you don’t post that images on a private area where only the people you trust can reach?

  33. “so I have to put aside thousands of dollars and prepare to cover the expenses if I loose.”

    Good story…hate to be the grammar police but I think in the above sentence the correct spelling would be “lose” not “loose”. Again sorry but this is one of my biggest pet peeves. loose = to loosen something ex. loosen your tie | lose = to lose something or have something lost ex. so I have to put aside thousands of dollars and prepare to cover the expenses if I lose.

  34. Aaron says:

    This reminds me of something that happened to me recently. My aunt, who lives in Hawaii, sent me a newspaper with a picture she recognized in it… It turned out that some major newspaper in Hawaii had used an image straight from my deviantART on their front page without contacting me or giving me credit. I called the newspaper company, and, unlike your example, they were very sympathetic towards me and immediately put a note about it in their next newspaper and gave me several hundred dollars compensation. It’s not four thousand dollars, mind you, but it was much more pleasant to deal with than your situation sounds.

  35. i work for the estate of janis joplin. we have to do this kind of policing on a regular basis. on ebay alone, there are a couple of hundred items daily that are in noncompliance with copyright laws. people just assume that if they see the picture, they can use it. graphic designers are some of the worst. copyright laws are different in europe from the USA so that can create other issues. if the image has been published somewhere without restrictions put on it such as in a magazine, blog, newspaper, then it is sometimes deemed “public domain”, therefore free to use for whatever by whomever. ripping off music as was stated earlier in this thread comes into the same balliwick. people seem to be fine with ripping off music, then demanding intellectual rights on a photograph. so…. how many songs on your ipod have you paid for? just a question, not expecting any replies to that one. which line of legality do i cross today….?

  36. I think that’s more of a question on whether your paying the artist or the label. This is clearly an argument about the artist not the label. When it comes to pirating music the label gets the majority of the money and screws the artists out of their creative works. However they do make money on their merchandise and shows.

  37. @Soul: You’re missing the point. You can buy Eirik’s photos, just contact him and he’ll give you an offer. Not expensive. But this company didn’t even bother to check. They just stole it, and did not want to clean up after them when he contacted them.

  38. Ocarina says:

    You’ve also been put on “Stumble Upon”.

    I can’t believe that they thought they could get away with this. I don’t know the legal system in Sweden, but I almost wish you had taken them to court and battle it out until they were totally humiliated and could in no way have a succeful business again!
    Okay, a bit melodramatic. But really, their incompetence in this matter is startling.

    I’m glad you got something out of it!

  39. Just moved some edits from the article down here to the comments where they belong:

    Metafilter links to this article. The discussion over there ended in a very nice discussion about my use of bold types to emphasize certain points of this article. Actually I agree with them. It didn’t really work, so I removed it.

    Another more or less useless discussion about the case can be found at Bannination.

    That was the jokes. You find more interesting thoughts here.

    Okay. One priceless comment from the discussion at Metafilter:

    WTF? Someone takes his intellectual property and uses it for commercial purposes and it’s hard to get paid? In the US, you get smacked for $100Ks for downloading songs for personal use.
    – posted by Mental Wimp at 10:14 AM on October 9

    Seems like I just started a strange discussion going between edits in this post and a bunch of trolls over at Metafilter. Now they’re complaining:

    For some reason, Mr. Eirik Solheim does not quote the people here who thinks he’s “an unsympathetic victim” and that “all his pictures are boring”.

    Well, I don’t find people that call me unsympathetic without knowing me worth quoting. And people that have seen one or two of my images and decides that all of my images are boring… Naah.

    And yes, I know. I’m feeding the trolls. Sorry. Couldn’t help it. I’ll stop now.

  40. @Ocarina:
    Actually I considered going all the way to court. But decided that a compensation that would cover my expenses and statuate an example in addition to some media coverage would be enough.

    I just got one whole page in Norway’s biggest financial newspaper, an interview on Norwegian radio and thousands of hits on this article. So at least I have gained some attention to the problem.

  41. quazi says:

    …like Dave wrote, can’t blame them, cute kid…

    ..makes me happy knowing that you’ve managed to help that army of lawyers get even richer…

  42. @joplin:
    I work for the content production industry. I hate DRM but I don’t hate the fact that content producers should get paid for their work. You’re welcome to check my iPod any time. I’ve paid for all the music on it.

  43. @Lucica
    Thanks. Believe me. I really don’t care about the trolls. Some of them are intelligent and genuinely funny. It’s interesting to see how a lot of people have huge amounts of time that they spend trying to make the best jokes about the stuff they read on Metafilter, Digg, Slashdot etc. Can be a problem for people that are new to that kind of communication though.

  44. jon, i’m so glad that you have the music business figured out. but, reading the white areas between the black in your post, i believe i see that you might have many songs pirated with the justification that you are only stealing from the company and only minorly from the artist. that is the justification that the graphic people might have used as well about this original post. or if they didn’t know, then they are even less culpable, whereas, you do know. your logic is even worse when you consider the person that i am working for is deceased and unable to tour. there are many in that situation. i don’t feel i’m too far off the original topic, still talking about intellectual rights and such, be it art, photos, music.

  45. Adrian says:


    You jus tdid it for the money, so your story completely loses any value to me.

    Money is not all, you know.

    Oh, wait…

  46. @Adrian:
    Of course this story has no value to you. You haven’t read it. If you actually read it you would… naaaah. If you actually read it you won’t understand it. So you’re right. This story has no value to you. Never will.

  47. igniteme says:

    I did not read every comment here – so I may be repeating someone’s words…

    Do a Google search for – watermark track photo software – There are wares that allow you to see where your photo was downloaded to & where they are posted on the internet – Obviously, it won’t help for when they print them – but it will help you keep an eye on where to look…

    Best of luck!

  48. maverick says:

    You sound more of a greedy person and caring a lot more about the money what can you get out of them rather than one who really cares for his and his son’s rights — “Maybe you would give our shop a visit and pick a Nintendo Wii and some games for your son?” you’re so so greedy (that doesn’t negate the fact that they did a mistake) but am not buying that you were after your rights, you were simply after the ‘Nintendo Wii” .

  49. @maverick
    My deepest apologies for not writing perfect English (I’m Norwegian. English is not my native language.). If you read the whole story and have the impression that I am a greedy person that did this for the money I’m afraid that I have done a bad job when writing this article.

    Fortunately, literally thousands of people that have read this page, designers and photographers that have contacted me and journalists that have interviewed me have understood that I did this because of the principle of being able to put things online without commercial companies using it without permission.

    And about accepting an apology and a small gift as a compensation if they had answered in a more polite way the first time: through the feedback I’ve got because of this story I have learned that I should have gone after them with a lawyer anyway. Because this is an important issue. Again, I am sorry for not getting that through with the way I wrote the story.

    I don’t understand what you mean.

  50. Peter Eng says:

    If you read the whole story and have the impression that I am a greedy person that did this for the money I’m afraid that I have done a bad job when writing this article.

    Personally, I think you made it quite clear what the point was. They stole the image, and compounded the offense by not even trying to sound reasonable. The only reason to require more money of them was to make the point.

    Businesses don’t care about what’s right as much as they do about profit. Make them lose money, and they will behave like decent people do.

  51. Sad to say that they’d probably have paid a photographer far more for shooting a similar shot, and compensation should be far more in line with what a professional photographer would charge. His/her time, film and processing (or similar for digital), model’s fee, props, and usage (usage being a fee paid to the photographer every time the client runs an ad containing that image).

    It’s shocking that they can get away with this. And shows a complete lack of integrity from the company involved. Hopefully the bad publicity will cost them more than they would like to pay.

  52. You probably could’ve helped to avoid the whole situation, too. When you call someone and start talking about legal rights, especially in an accusatory tone of voice, naturally people are gonna be defensive. In this day, defensive = lawyers.

    So, instead of:
    “Hey! You stole my image! You owe me money! You’ve violated such-and-such IP laws!”

    Instaed, you could’ve just written a letter, saying, “That picture is of my son! Gimme a free TV, nigga!”

  53. This story was recently given one whole page in the biggest financial Newspaper in Norway. And air time on Norway’s biggest radio channel. Bad publicity indeed.

  54. @fred:
    This is close to what I said when calling them: “I just saw an ad for your shop in a magazine called “Vinderen Magasinet”. There’s an image of a small kid on a plane. I am wondering where you bought the rights to that image.”

  55. No Bill, you’re not the only one. Reactions to this post have been everything from “why bother” to “you should have gone all the way to court”. Seems like I did something in between.

    In general I’ve had huge amounts of support and a couple of people saying that they couldn’t care less. No problem. Stuff that’s important for me don’t have to be important for you.

  56. […] They stole an image of my son and just had to pay $4000 This serves as a valuable example for anyone using images that aren’t theirs. Better to ask first. This entry was written by ben, posted on at 4:45 pm, filed under uri. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed. « I wear this crown of thorns upon my liar’s chair, full of broken thoughts I cannot repair […]

  57. Slvr says:

    So when your son grows to be an adult and someone asks him if he was ever famous, all he’ll be able to say is, “well, I was in a catalog once, but my dad demanded no less than $4,000, so now nobody will publish my picture in anything for fear of being charged no less than $10,000″…

    This is my only real concern after reading this article. Sure, you made a valid point and stood up for other designers and content creators. But how many of us are truly going to be so lucky as to be published legitimately in a magazine? Instead, the best most of us can hope for is to be the byproduct of some designer’s random Google search…which one of our friends one day stumbles upon, points out to us, and makes us feel like a million bucks inside because we (and our friends) know that’s us.

    Your good fight may have denied a lot of us those little happy moments in the future. By ensuring that companies only follow official channels for stock photography and compensate very largely when they don’t, those of us who are outside that circle will never be so fortunate as to pleasantly stumble upon a picture of ourselves where we least expected it. All because you stumbled upon a picture of your son and, instead of considering it a cute happening for your kid to look back on when he was older, decided to get pissed.

    None of you really thought about that, did you? None of you really thought that some people are truly and honestly flattered by the idea that some company would consider them so photogenic that they were published in a magazine without their knowledge…that they wouldn’t even consider suing. Of course you didn’t, because to you, there’s nothing good a corporation can do for you other than hand you a large sum of cash every time it errs slightly.

    When your son grows up and asks you why you got pissed about his picture being in the magazine, are you prepared to launch into a complex explanation of how you put the concerns of an industry over the desire to see your own kid have the limelight on page 47 of some catalog? Do you really think he’ll appreciate that nearly as much as your peers do?

  58. Ravi says:


    Remember here eirikso doesn’t care about the money! His right was violated. What if the photo was used to advertise something odd like an “adoption agency” or pr0n!?

    OTOH, he did try to talk with the advertiser and would have mostly reconciled if they had been civil and apologetic about the mistake.

    I bet the kid will be pretty clueful like his father and wouldn’t mind his father’s “harsh” decision! :P

    These ad agencies have some sorta professional bodies, they should sensitise their members about these things(Copyright, fair-use etc.) and also make them aware about how licences like Creative Commons work, and that, they should seek the photographer’s permission before publishing it.

    I have worked with many a artist, who create posters, billboards etc. they have absolutely no idea about intellectual property, no doubt that quality of their creations do not match the work created by the older generation who didn’t have internet at their mercy and had to be really creative to do even the simplest of things.

  59. Mark says:

    “Intellectual property” is bullshit, despite the hoards of lawyers earning a living due to alternative viewpoints. If you want your pictures private, don’t put them on the internet, fool.

  60. Slvr says:

    Think in hypothetical statements all you want and it won’t make this situation any less completely decent. What if it was an Al Qaeda training video? What if it was a satanic cult’s promotional flyer?

    It wasn’t. It was something the kid could very well be proud of when he grows up…publicity that, while nobody will ever really associate it with him, might make him feel a little more confident in himself just knowing his face was out there once.

    There are some personality types that rally for a crusade every time they are “victimized” in any way. People like this tend to do a lot of damage to the stability of society with their hypothetical paranoia: the parent whose disturbed girl jumped off a bridge successfully bans the mushrooms the girl happened to be taking, the coach whose kids lost the game successfully sues to have the winning and losing taken out of the game, the president whose country suffers an attack successfully repeals that country’s entire civil rights structure and sends thousands marching to their deaths just to avoid a repeat.

    My point is…don’t make a cause out of yourself, and especially don’t make a cause out of your child. Take this for what it is…an honest mistake by ill-informed people who you then proceeded to rudely awaken when it probably really wasn’t necessary. If you’re going to take money, take just enough to cover your legal expenses and be done with it. If this is about your principles, do everything in your power to ensure it’s not just about you.

    You should always, *always* attempt to understand the human nature behind something before involving a lawyer. Eirikso, you did no such thing…you said “how rude!!” and decided to take things to another level, without being the better person and giving them the benefit of the doubt. That’s a personal shortcoming, not a justification for $4,000. Learn to regulate your emotions, then we’ll talk.

  61. nola says:

    I have done freelance photography and did submit some photos, at the request of a journalist, to her paper. They printed the photos, paid me for them and she put HER name under them !!!!!! Money is not the point. That was my work, my images, my imagination and my skill. I was supposed to be credited as the photographer. I hope to prevent that in the future with proper legal language signed and delivered , but there are people who will steal anything even it is tied down . The new thing in New Orleans is to steal twenty dollars worth of copper tubing and destory thousands of dollars of ac and plumbing systems on houses that katrina survivors, who have already lost nearly everything, are trying to rebuild. Such people have also been stealing copper urns out of the cemetaries. Good for you for making a point that the greedy are not free to grab and take anything and everything at their whim or convenience. I wish you had gotten three times as much to bring the issue to a sharper point, but going to court might have let them win after all because you would probably have to win ten times as much to pay the legal fees for that luxury.

  62. td says:

    You should stop complaining. Neither you or your
    son were actually injured in any way whatsoever and
    you did get compensated, rather well considering
    all the photo amounted to. Why whine?

  63. @td
    I’m sorry if it seems like I’m complaining. What I’ve tried to do here is to describe what happened. If it seems like I am complaining that’s a problem with the way I’ve tried to tell the story. I’ve already inserted an edit at the top of the story to explain what I meant with that header.

    Ravi already answered parts of your first comment.

    For me it seems like we live in two different worlds. You live in a world where 15 minutes of fame will make your life better. I live in a world where those 15 minutes of fame is worth nothing and where it is completely OK to defend ones rights.

    I called the publisher, the designer and the advertiser. Talked to all of them. When they more or less ridiculed me because they “found the image on the internet” and told me that I had no rights claiming credit or any compensation I think it is perfectly OK to stand up against that.

    And this is a piece of fantastic reasoning:

    You should always, *always* attempt to understand the human nature behind something before involving a lawyer. Eirikso, you did no such thing…you said “how rude!!” and decided to take things to another level, without being the better person and giving them the benefit of the doubt. That’s a personal shortcoming, not a justification for $4,000. Learn to regulate your emotions, then we’ll talk.

    You tell me to be a better person and give them the benefit of the doubt. After I have talked to them directly several times. Trying to do exactly that. Giving them the benefit of the doubt.

    Then you judge me based on reading this article. You have never talked to me. Still you conclude about “personal shortcomings” and tell me to regulate my emotions.

    Well, you should learn to se how you contradict yourself big-time with these comments. You make it impossible for me to take this seriously. You should rather spend your time applying for American Idol. Stop concluding about peoples emotions and personal shortcomings based on reading one blog post. Then we’ll talk.

  64. Tablett says:

    If I saw an image of my son in a magazine, I would be honoured And maybe brag a little to my friends.


    The “american approach” with lawsuits and compensations for this and that should be avoided AT ALL COSTS. Shame on you for bragging about such a filthy, capitalist behaviour.

  65. @Tablett
    This might be a waste of bits and bytes, but just for the record: I don’t agree with you. I really think people should be able to publish content on the internet and still have some kind of rights when it comes to how it is used.

    I don’t think it is a capitalist behavior to share huge amounts of information, videos and images here on Free for you to use non commercially. It is capitalist behavior to go on and steal those images for use in commercials.

    And the fact that you would brag about a company taking economic advantage of your son is slightly disturbing.

  66. drew says:

    There is a solution for this type of thing happening ever again….Don’t put pics of your kids on the internet….stupid.

  67. Yes. You’re completely right. It would be utterly stupid to never put images on the internet again. Of course it depends on your ideas about the internet, but I have a feeling it’s here to stay. And that we’ll se text, images, videos and audio here for several years still. Even if some people would be stupid enough to stop using it.

  68. Slvr says:

    eirikso, I believe the point we’re trying to drive home here is this: if you’re the kind of person who gets so pissed off by these things that you completely fail to realize how sometimes things should be left alone for the sake of you not becoming a total asshole…then yes, you should stop using the Internet. You would be doing the rest of us a favor.

    This company assumed you were an annoying photographer who cared more about “rights” than common sense…and dealt with you accordingly. You got pissed and proceeded to become a greedy, annoying photographer. Then you bragged about your struggle online, which makes you a self-inflated, greedy, annoying photographer. And now, here you are, suggesting that if seeing a picture of your son in a catalog makes you feel good rather than irrationally pissed, you’re disturbed…making you an unfortunately misguided, self-inflated, greedy, annoying photographer.

  69. You really should check their catalogs for further violations on your intellectual property. The could have avoided the first $4,000 and they may be avoiding more by not being forthcoming about any other uses of your images. Ask your readers to keep an eye out, too. I’m going to shutterpoint now to get a quick overview of your photos.

  70. Slvr, I believe the point we’re trying to drive home here is this: if you’re the kind of person who gets so pissed off by this story that you completely fail to realize how sometimes things should be left alone for the sake of you not becoming a total asshole…then yes, you should stop using the Internet. You would be doing the rest of us a favor.

    I assumed you were an annoying commenter who cared more about your own 15 minutes of fame than common sense…and dealt with you accordingly. You got pissed and proceeded to become a greedy, annoying commenter. Then you answered in a very aggressive language, which makes you a self-inflated, greedy, annoying commenter. And now, here you are, based on one story in a blog, suggesting that I’m as bad as it is possible to be as a human being. This kind of language is making you an unfortunately misguided, self-inflated, greedy, annoying commenter.

  71. Jan I says:

    Eirik, thanks for posting an update to your story from last year.

    It’s sad that it took so long to more or less straighten this out, but congrats on reaching a settlement nonetheless!

    I think I may have been more fortunate than you so far, at least as far as the images that I’m aware of are concerned. There was a case with a news website on Oct 1, when a photo that was sent with a press release was accredited to the organization behind the press release, and not me, but the journalist silently fixed it a week after I sent an email about it.

    Technically speaking, the damage was already done; my image was published, the time frame for my “15 minutes of fame” was past, and whoever actually had read the article and perhaps liked my photo would just tag it as an anonymous photographer instead of looking me up.

    To those who think that you should’ve been happy with your own “15 minutes”, well, you didn’t GET those 15 minutes, exactly because you weren’t named as the photographer. Duh.

    BTW, which newspaper ran the story? I tried a search on both Kapital’s and DN’s web pages, but got no result. :(

  72. Woah..thats quite a bling. I won’t mind if my image is used in any commercial/burgois product campaign unless there are lewd sexual references involved :) And for 4000$ !! I can get lets see… A Nikon D40 , a Mac book pro and some chips to pig my ass out.

    But offcourse, who cares about a 3-rd World country mechanical engineering grad, heh heh.

  73. Jan I says:

    Naser, you’re forgetting that Eirik has had some definitive expenses, such as the lawyer’s fees; it’s not a net income of USD 4000 we’re talking about here.

    Typically, a lawyer will cost you from USD 250 (the cheap ones!) to much, much more _per hour_.

    Halvor Manshaus may be generally interested in such cases, but as Eirik wrote, it wasn’t for free.

  74. @trey:
    Fantastic solution. And last month I read that someone was robbed downtown. I solved that by never going out of my house.

    @Jan I:
    There are mainly two types of people commenting here. People like you, that have read the story. And people like Naser that comment without reading the story. And you are comletely right when you answer him. Most of the money was spent covering my legal costs.

    “But offcourse, who cares about a 3-rd World country mechanical engineering grad, heh heh.”

    I am sorry, but I don’t understand what you mean.

  75. Slvr says:

    Your response to me was just flat out retarded. I’m sorry. There’s really nothing I can say beyond that.

    Your response to trey, though, shows that you’re missing the point entirely. Here’s a better comparison:

    “I posted a picture of my son online somewhere, then someone thought he was cute enough to be in a magazine and published him in one. I picked up a catalog one day and saw the picture, and I got pissed that they hadn’t paid me, so I called them, but they wondered why I was so pissed, which made me even more pissed. So I robbed them of $4,000. After all, I have the right to make money for those pictures!”

    …makes as much sense as this:

    “I built a house in a fancy neighborhood outside of town, then my neighbor saw the landscaping, thought it was beautiful, took a picture and submitted it to Better Homes and Gardens, who then featured it in their magazine. I picked up Better Homes and Gardens one day and saw the picture, and I got pissed that they hadn’t paid me, so I called them, talked briefly, then demanded $4,000. After all, I have the right to be paid for having a pretty lawn!”

    …or this:

    “I dressed up in a funny costume and rode the subway once. Someone riding with me thought it was the best costume ever, took a picture with his cell phone, and posted it online. I surfed around and found it once, and I got pissed that this jackass hadn’t paid me, so I called him, talked briefly, then demanded $4,000. After all, I have the right to be paid for wearing a funny costume!”

    What do all the situations have in common? A few things:
    – Everything “stolen” was open for the public to see, with no disclaimer that if they captured it and used it elsewhere they would be charged $4,000.
    – You could’ve been flattered but instead chose to charge $4,000.
    – To justify the money you earned, you throw in the last bit about it being your right to make money from other people.

    To me, all three situations are equally completely stupid.

  76. Jan I says:

    Slvr, you still don’t get it, and you could do well to stay away from ad hominems.

    It’s not about the money.

    It’s NOT about the money.

    It’s not about the MONEY.

    Is that clear enough?

  77. @Slvr:
    Yes. You are right. My answer, that is a complete copy of your own words is retarded beyond anything I have ever seen in the thousands of comments on this blog.

    And it seems like I don’t have to spend more time on this discussion. You keep answering yourself:
    Yes, all three stories are equally completely stupid.

    And I can second Jan because it seems like you’ll never get it: it’s not about the money.

    You started off with a viable point in your first comment. Then you completely wasted your possibilities of anyone taking you even remotely serious by being rude, contradicting yourself and making stupid stories. But because you have won the competition for the worst comment ever here at I am considering to make a separate post on this discussion. You know, the most stupid comment of exactly 3072 isn’t bad.

    Please subscribe to my feed so you won’t miss the story when I finish it.

  78. @slvr: So what we are discussing really is whether people can use any picture found on the web for commercial purposes without paying then? I’m not sure if I understand what your point is?

    Let me try to say what I think it is, and you can correct me: If I put up a picture online, I can only expect that people take it and use it for their own use?

  79. So should Erikso’s camera manufacturer have given him the camera free of charge because they were flattered that he likes it? If they won’t give him one, should he go and shoplift the camera? No? Then why should some electronics retailer demand free work that they’re hoping to make money out of?

  80. Dustin says:

    they need proof that you are indeed the real owner of the picture before they can throw down a wii. If you ask me they did the logical thing, and while in this case it didnt work out for them it will for the next guy who plans on phoneing with the intent of lieing to get something free

  81. I applaud you for standing up to a large corporation, who thought nobody would bother, because of their corporate lawyers! My family and friends often come to me, because they know, I’m not afraid to take on corporations and/or cops and government officials abusing their powers. I wish there were more like us, who are educated enough on our rights to know that, yes, we should stand up and fight. I’m disabled now, but still plan to, one day, get my law degree and specialize in fighting for people with lower incomes, especially those screwed over by cops and government agencies abusing their powers. Congratulations on your well deserved win!

  82. Cool. Please report everything you buy back here. You know, I wouldn’t be really angry unless I actually know what you buy.

    And by the way, you sound like a pretty rude and not very smart person, so I think you’ll like it in that particular shop. Good choice.

  83. Eirik, on your front page (today – January 3, 2008) you have displayed a lot of great photos from the Vigeland Park in Oslo. I know you shot the images yourself, but are you sure that you are allowed to share them on your web site withoug paying any fees to the Vigeland family? The last time I wanted to use on of my personal photos in a television program vignette in NRK (of a statue in the Vigeland Park), I was told that we (NRK) will have to pay for such use. Maybe the way you are using the images is not restricted, but it would be interesting to know…

  84. Jan I says:

    Helge, this is a public park, and there are no limitations on private use. The limitations are when the work of art is the main motif AND the photograph will be used commercially:

    As for your use in NRK, that’s commercial use, but it could’ve been used freely in a news program or similar:

    And if the original artist is deceased, the work of art is protected up to 70 years after the date of death:

    Gustav Vigeland died in 1943.

  85. Yes, I think a vignette would be called commercial use and use in a news broadcast or documentary would be called editorial use. There’s a big difference regarding editorial and commercial use.

    I am not a lawyer, but depending on the type of work you could divide the use something like this:

    Private – Non commercial – Editorial – Commercial

    If you are going to use an image in a commercial you need permission from all the people in the image, any artists work or any recognizable company logos. For editorial use things are easier and so on.

    But in general, this is difficult and laws and rules are broken every day.

  86. Patrik says:

    First of all they didn’t steal your image. Did they actually break into your house and physically take the memory card containing the image ?

    I got the impression that they at most COPIED your image and used it without authorization. Which made them make more money by not having to pay any royalties for your work.

    I’m not trying to justify what they did – it just needs to be put into perspective.

    I just took a screenshot of that image, did I also steal it?

  87. Jan I says:

    Actually, Patrik, you didn’t TAKE a screenshot of that image. Did you physically reach into your computer and grab the screenshot with your hand?

    You seem to have a problem with English terminology. Stealing doesn’t necessarily mean that you actually take a physical thing. It can also mean wrongful use, as well as taking of things tangible OR intangible.

    Even so, splitting hairs over the meaning of words doesn’t change the point of Eirik’s blog post, though by doing so, you can be what Swedes call a “nyttig idiot” for those who don’t care about the rights of artists, or those depicted by artists.

  88. Patrik says:

    I was merely stating the fact that I did not agree with the topic.
    Furthermore, to call somebody an idiot for posting a point of view seems a bit childish to me.

    If you read what I wrote: I think it is great that the artist won ! It is his art that is being commercially exploited by other entities. I would be seriously pissed off too.

    I was referring to that the word “stealing” for Copyright infringement is not the correct term. I did take a screenshot, I did take a copy of the image – with those wordings I just stole the image. If I steal something I’m a thief right ?

    The severity of the crime does not change the terminology. If that is the case then I would say a large amount of the population are thieves.

    Which is quite a sad way to think about mankind, even for artists…

  89. Lasse Elden says:

    @ Patrik

    Say someone get’s into your – let’s say you have a “open” wireless network – computer and just grab some screen shots of some of your personal pictures, a self made song or whatever you might have stored. The did’t steal it because you have not protected your wireless sytem. Do you see a difference? Do you see a difference with personal pictures, compared to a picture of a mountain or a three?

    Think you should rethink what stealing means if it happen to you. See you also would be pissed, but that image could have been – as easy – posted in a totaly different setting and therefor do more (emotional?) damage!

    Anyway! Theres always forgivnes, but not often without an apollogy(spelled right?).

  90. You don’t need to be a genius to understand that the moment we start to accept that it’s ok to earn money from an artwork created by someone else (without his permission), we are killing the value of art. We should all try to protect this value and at the same time defend the purpose of the Internet. This is not an easy path to follow, but it’s the path I believe we all want to use. I am totally for sharing anything on the web, as long as the creator is the one who controls the limits. That’s why I love the ideas of Creative Commons ( It’s a pity that Norway is one of the few countries that are not willing to cooperate with CC.

  91. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. says:

    If a famous person’s son or a really rich famous person’s son’s image was used they may think it typically bad of the company to be so cheap, but not bother with asking for any recognition of the father having mislade photographs of his son anyway.
    Or having more children so that it does’t seem so intense; or, never having had children and never having this ownership problem.


  92. I send out a biweekly newsletter about graphic design and marketing. I used this story as an example of how not to use photographs online. It’s just amazing how many people there are who believe that anything they find online is OK to use in any manner they wish. Thanks for helping me educate the unenlightened!

    (Sorry it took me so long to thank you.)

  93. […] Eirik Solheim, our main man from Blogres, just got $4000 for his picture that was stolen by some company which name is not worth to mention. Great post, great story and hopefully a good lesson for everybody. Also some of my images got stolen by some magazines and webzines, but since I really didn’t had time fight over that and since I was employed by Mladina I just reported the case to Mladina’s accountent and gave her all the details. Well getting back to the freelance world I’ll definitely fight it over. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Portrait of Eirik Solheim, renown norvegian blogger […]

  94. I guess you can consider yourself lucky. I don’t mean the money, 4.000$ is nothing considering today’s gas prices. But you are lucky to get your satisfaction. No media, company or an advertiser should be just scavenging the web for freebies, without ever thinking of author’s rights. And when a child is concerned, that would make me furious like hell. Yes, you are lucky! If your picture was stolen by a company in some kind of banana republic, well there is no way you could legally prosecute them and all you would have would be anger and 12 foot long telephone bill. I love democracy where communication can solve many disputes. Thumbs up, hope you’ll never have to deal with similar issues again.

  95. Jeffrey Peters says:

    I write to you today seeking your help. I am a aircraft mechanic with a passion/obsession for photography. I am currently in Alaska following a MD500d helicopter owned by Prism Helicopters contracted by Talon Gold of Alaska Inc. The president of the gold company came out and I offered to let him “see” some pictures of gold that I took. We looked for a min. then he wanted to see the gold I had panned. I went to get the gold from my cabin and when I returned, He had copied my “Pictures for sale” that were in a different folder. I saw him do so and he admitted it in front of others but did not delete them. What do I do? I really feel like he took a part of me.

    Thank you for your time, any help or guidance you might be able to offer would be greatly welcome.

    Jeffrey Neil Peters

  96. What can one expect to get paid for pictures used in commercials or ads? I just got asked by a video production company in Ukraine to use one of my nature pictures as a background for an animation in a TV commercial . This sure sounds interesting, but I haven’t got the faintest idea what to demand for the picture.
    Anyone got some recommendations?

  97. I asked for 250 Euro and was offered 150 Euro. In the end we found out that the picture was to small to be used, but it was anyway exciting to asked to sell the picture.

  98. […] Well, this heading seems a little odd. But I just read on a personal, but great story on how to act if somewhone stole your picture. In this case a leading retailer stole a picture from a Erik Solheim and used it in a product catalogue. The picture showing his son with some hardware makes it even worse in my eyes. They had no rights on using the picture, and they just didn’t understand that this is illegal. Read more on […]

  99. Nouber! says:

    i feel sad that you only took $4k this is a huge once in a lifetime incident and you did not take full advantage of it.

    lawyer consultations are free. Go talk to one, tell him the situation and see how much he says he can get out of it then proceed.

    doing it all by yourself and geting some thousands of dollars? thecompany wins! and they prob are laughing an saying phew

  100. […] for windows media center (9,349) 9. How to completely reset your series 60 nokia mobile (7,880) 10. They stole an image of my son and just had to pay $4000 (6,467) 11. HDR-photography (6,239) 12. An impressive yet simple photographic effect (5,649) 13. […]

  101. The key here is that the person in the photo was clearly identifiable and that the image was used for commercial purposes.
    In most cases, however, artists can not use the internet’s distribution system and then claim copyright protection.
    In music especially, centuries of composers wrote “Themes and variations on a …” Tons of great music by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and others would be illegal under today’s interpretation of copyright law.
    Copyright law has been perverted in the US. It’s original intent was to secure exclusive rights to the authors FOR A LIMITED TIME before the work became public domain.
    Clinton and the Millenium copyright act have tried to make the rights perpetual, thereby screwing up the whole system.

    Eirik did a good thing because no one should be able to profit from another’s work. But there is such a thing as fair use. If you don’t believe in fair use, don’t put your work on the internet. Make people pay for the book, concert or CD. You can’t have it both ways.

    Josh Leinsdorf

  102. Chimi Chang says:

    Way to go! People taking free rides at the expense of others’ rights are nothing but bullying leeches. It’s great you didn’t give up and pursued your rights and your principles.

  103. Mike says:

    I am very well surprised at some of the comments left here.. Why should he care? He should be proud of his sons image on there shop! Or how about the jackass that said gee If I was in the subway wearing something stupid and some one took a pic of this then posted online I should sue WTF…

    First off why should he care? Well If I stole something off of yours money, jewelry, something you made WTF Why Should you care?

    He Should be proud that his son picture is being used.. Yeah you should be proud that I was using you to make money right?… Or you should be proud that I decide to steal off you right?

    And the subway man in the stupid costume lol… Wow what a lack of intelligence there…. Let me see here I guess it did not occur to this guy that there only attention was to just put it up to say this is a cool pic and we are not trying to market off it… (right! sarcastically)

    Then I almost forgot to mention he profited off his sons image! So what he is giving the money to his son… And he took the photo right?, It is his to do what he pleased with right?… And how else is he going to punish the idiots who done this? Say slap them on the hand so they can do it again….

    Then finally the law is the the law! From The USA to well it appears most country’s when it comes to intellectual property. If you don’t like the law or you seem to not want to side with the out come of this case all I can say is go and change the law other wise shut up and quit stealing and quit defending people who steal other peoples works…..

    And by the way to you grammar nuts out there I know this comment is horrible. I though never claimed I was good at grammar but I really had to make a post here after reading some of these comments…

    Also I love your work sir keep it up I really enjoyed the 40 sec and 2 minute and the year piece…..

  104. Thanks for taking action and also for writing this! I just had a company use one of my images in a catalog without an agreement. When I contacted them, they offered a very low amount. Then I heard nothing for a little while. After sending a link to this story, things speeded up nicely.

  105. Greetings…
    Depressingly, five years later, things are not better, but I would venture worse. An educational institution, my alma mater, tried to weasel out of paying, recognising, crediting 13 of my pictures that they took off my website. They refused to speak to me. An IT-department in an institution that teaches digital rights.

    When the storm was at its worse, I took comfort in this article, and though I was close to give up at times, I simply could not. I hope you will my story:

    ..and let it be a warning to all.

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