‘Accountability’ could be considered the term of the decade, and particularly the past year. It seems that today the sins of the past are exhumed, not to go unpunished – for some anyway…

But that’s how it is in an internet age; we leave digital footprints everywhere, and there are digital echoes of everything we say or type. And it’s all searchable, so if you should step out of line, there’s probably record of it.

You’d think that would make things like intellectual property and image theft a bit of a no-go, yet we are surrounded by abusers. The thing is though, the sheer volume of information levied upon our eyes each day tends to bury things quickly in the press, and weighed down by a hundredweight of new information the public moves on. This is typically something the abusers bank on, but what’s not typical of a person or company is to come out publicly and admit a wrongdoing when there is essentially no public discourse about it; no negative news, no tweet, no hashtag, and no banshee wailing. But that’s what TetherTools has done, and it’s nothing if not refreshing.

It’s pathetically ironic with what frequency those within the photography world will deliberately plagiarize, steal, or use the work of others without permission, even as it damages the industry, and large companies are not exempt. What happened with Tether Tools appears to be something much less insidious than that, as they haven’t taken something to profit from, which makes the fact they’ve addressed it at all (while hardly anyone knew about it), all the more admirable.

The long and the short of it is that an image was used in a mock-up which was overlooked and used on their site, and when it was brought to their attention the CEO issued the following:

Tether Tools Made a Mistake

December 14, 2017

We messed up and would like to apologize. This is important stuff. It matters to us. It matters to our customers. And it matters to one photographer whose image we accidentally used without their permission. We are a company started by a photographer, that employs photographers and that is immersed in serving the photography community. We value every photographer, their work, and their livelihood.

In 2016, Tether Tools redesigned its brand and website. Many design ideas were mocked-up with new layouts (the process was documented by Photoshop User Magazine in their column Design Makeover, if interested). One concept used behind-the-scenes candid images of photographers using Tether Tools’ gear. Behind the Scene Instagram images, similar what you would see here @tethertools were added For Placement Only (FPO) during the design phase, to show an example of the type of photos that could be rotating regularly on an embedded Instagram API feed. This API mock-up, which included a customer’s Instagram BTS photo, was placed near the footer of one page in the proposed layout.

Over the course of time, through various layouts and edits the design was approved but embedding the Instagram API on this page was overlooked by the web design team. At launch the new website had close to 1,400 pages and finalizing this element on this page was missed. The use of the image was accidental and simply an oversight. The photo was never used in any other way, not in advertising campaigns or print materials, nor to promote any specific product.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, the issue was brought to our attention by a third party. We immediately removed the image and contacted the photographer directly to acknowledge the issue and apologize for our mistake.

This incident does not live up to our own standards and image use policy and we are taking the issue very seriously. We value and respect the work of professional photographers and we understand how difficult it is to protect images in the ever-increasing digital age. There are no excuses for using a photo without permission. We have worked with many of you over the years. We have profiled hundreds of photographers, their processes, and their work and have requested equally as many photo permissions. Integrity and respect are at the core of Tether Tools and everything we do. This one unknowingly slipped by us.

Through the tools we develop, we are humbled to play a small role in helping photographers create their best work. The photographer, whose image we accidentally used, was a Tether Tools customer and graciously supported us on Instagram. He tagged Tether Tools on over 130 of his own Instagram posts over the past 18 months and socially connected with us on various occasions. He is the kind of customer we are thrilled to engage with on social media and excited to see having a successful career in photography. And though we have not met him personally, like many of the photographers we connect with on social media, on the phones, and at photography events, we think of him as part of the Tether Tools family. We apologize to him and the rest of the photography community. And we vow to do better.

Josh Simons / CEO / Tether Tools

[GIFT GUIDE: 2017 Full Holiday Gift Guide For Photographers]

Way to turn a blunder into a benefit, Tether Tools, by being proactive.

Stay classy TT.