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Dear Golf Industry, 

I get it, we all love the game. People who work in golf are, generally speaking, in it because we believe it’s the best game in the world, and we want to put our skill and passion into something we love. At Caddie, we came into golf with our eyes wide open but with a few preconceptions – some that proved to be true, some not. Our perception was that golf was run by an old boys club proved to be fairly accurate. But at times, that club has been more welcoming and open to change that we might have expected. And outside of that, almost everyone we’ve met in the game has been awesome – curious, active, personable – and keen to see golf grow and evolve as an important part of the leisure and travel industry. But there’s a nasty trend emerging across the golf industry that we need to call out.

As a photographer, I’m acutely aware of the value of images to a brand, as well as how much effort goes into creating those images. Caddie Magazine has been built through images and stories of the game from a new perspective that has resonated with golfers around the world. Whilst we haven’t always paid to use the images that appear in our social media feeds and indeed inside our pages, we have always sought direct permission from the photographer for the use of their image. If we didn’t shoot it ourselves, we know who did, and they have given us the ok to publish it. Fortunately, many photographers have come to us in the spirit of the magazine and volunteered their work at the early stages of their career. People like the mega talented Christian HaferJacob Sjomjin and many others – had their work first featured in print by us, and we hope it has been a great stepping stone for them to bigger things. I hope we’ve never taken advantage of a photographer, artist or writer’s generosity with their work, and that on balance they’ve been happy to be involved with us. If we had the capital and revenue to do so, we would pay all our contributors top dollar, but the reality of independent publishing is that isn’t always possible.

But you know what is possible? To always ask permission, always credit the creator, and always share the love. It’s free to do that. It just requires a little effort.

Which is why when I see images and video parading around on the feeds of startup brands and established companies with zero credit and zero permission, it really pisses me off. I can site multiple examples of our images being stolen, slapped with logo and posted promoting a brand without even a heads up. We’ve even had agreements in place with big companies for the supply and use of our images, who just never paid their invoice and went on to use the images we supplied anyway.

Every week I see a new golf brand pop up on instagram whose feed is built entirely of stolen or retro images from around golf or leisure. I get it – your just using them for ‘inspiration’ or as a ‘style guide’ – which is fine if you have that posted up in your office. But once you start publishing that stuff as your own, particularly without permission? That is theft. You are building your business based on stolen content and other people ideas.

Even worse perhaps are established players, who seek to take advantage of the wave of new creators by deliberately and knowingly using their work without permission. I was shocked to see a video by a large golf media company that opened up with some of the best footage that we had shot for our Sandbelt feature for Volume Five of Caddie Magazine. Granted, the agreement we had in place to shoot this footage could be described as ‘loose at best’, but the publisher of the video didn’t even inform us that they would be using it at all, let alone as the opening scene. This is at the very least disrespectful.

So I’m putting out a call to brands, startups and media companies to ensure that the creative people covering our game are respected – always ask permission, always credit the creator (unless you’ve paid them for the right not to). And hell, why not even celebrate them? They are the ones that express how great golf can be – without them golf can be a dreary place.

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