Under U.S. Law, it is generally unlawful to distribute (or reproduce, publicly display, publicly perform, etc.) a copyrighted work without authorization from the copyright owner
The wonderful land where people knowingly steal and horrendously modify your work
This is not meant to come off as a rant, actually quite the opposite. The hope is for just one person to see this post and change how they think about they view photographs and what it means to be a photographer in today's world of relentless social media and rampant photo theft. We are brought up in a schooling system where severe punishments are levied against those who commit plagiarism of another's written words but most people know very little about what a photo's copyright means and how they could be violating copyright law unknowingly. I choose to give a vast majority of people the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their lack of knowledge when it comes to the matter of photographic copyright.
Long story short, I was the house photographer for a concert featuring Jeremih, Ludacris, and Iggy Azalea. As a part of my responsibilities in covering the event, I transferred a handful of my images from my camera to my phone wirelessly in order to run the event's Instagram account. For those who are unaware of Instagram's terms of conditions, while they are granted subliscencing rights to the photographs that you post on your account (allowing them to effectively sell your photos to advertisers without paying you), they do not take your copyright ownership of the photo that you took, whether it is a fancy DSLR or a flip phone camera (even though they are making money off your image and you are liable for any fees that are associated with the reproduction of your image, e.g. you take a photo of a celebrity and they sue Instagram for selling it to an advertiser). So, in effect, if someone "re-grams" your photo without giving the original poster credit, they are committing a copyright violation
Think this doesn't happen? Read this article.
Why does this matter?
Other industries (software, music etc.) have made it a point of launching huge national campaigns against unlawful usage of their intellectual property (i.e. torrenting programs and music for free from a site like The Pirate Bay). However, nobody seems to see the harm in doing the exact same thing to photographers. At first the various posts on Instagram using my photos (yes I can find them, pretty easily actually) were not much more than a nuisance that would take way more effort than it is worth to fix. However, when a musician, who expects people to abide by the various laws and regulations surrounding their industry and their art blatantly violates those same laws and regulations that apply to another industry, it angers me greatly. Yes, my photos were not posted to my personal Instagram, however, a credit is still due in the event of reproduction. I usually do not care if you use my photos for personal use, just, please please please, ASK!
In short, for anyone who made it this far into the post, DO NOT BE LIKE LUDACRIS.
Also, do not be like any of these people either... These are the copies that I found in less than 5 minutes of looking. A lot of them even use the same hashtags that I used in the original post.