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05/30/2007 09:23:33 AM · #1
If you suspect an image stolen...
The Reaction and the Reality


Yes, it is unfortunate that so many people treat the internet and its content as if it were an open candy dish. As with anything else, there are those who innocently take without asking, and then there are those who act like little rotters on Halloween, grabbing as much as they can, then selling it at school the next day. Hopefully, this thread will be prove to be a resource for dealing with this issue.

[and towards that, I'd like to encourage those of you who have dealt with this to offer up your solutions, and I'd like to discourage those who advocate (no offense, Ken) village burning to simply read along...]

First, don't freak out. Thievery is bad and wrong, but, it is not rape, nor is it the same as someone breaking into your home in the dead of night and robbing you at gunpoint. Yes, you have been wronged, but no, your life has not been endangered. In order to deal with things properly, you have to keep a clear perspective.

Second, try to determine intent. Is yours a case of someone really liking your image and wanting to share it with others? Is it a matter of someone trying to take credit for your work? Or, worse, is it a matter of someone actually trying to make money off of your work? Was your work being used commercially? Does the infringement truly affect your reputation? How you respond should be guided by how you gauge the intentions of the infringer.

Third, try to determine how it's being used. Have you checked to see if you were credited? Did they actually download and rename your image file, or is it simply hotlinked? Is it posted in a gallery, or is it being distributed across cyberspace via email? Has the image been modified? If it's not being hotlinked, can you tell where they got it from?

Fourth, determine an appropriate response. I would like to think that most instances of infringement are resolvable simply be educating the 'thief' (or 'borrower') that they should ask first, and then properly credit the photographer. And I believe that in most instances, this can be done without freaking out on the infringing party, burning their village, or lambasting their blogs and galleries.

If, however, it is a situation involving commerce, repeat offenders, and/or other scum who don't quite understand basic property rights, then, again, I would suggest a course of action that would educate them, but without resorting to freaking out on them, burning their village, or lambasting their blogs and galleries. Rather, there are other means and channels for getting through to them that can be much more effective. Sometimes, it might require only a few emails to their ISP; other times, it might require some legal fees in order to pursue them.

[here is a good opportunity for those with experience to add in how they have handled these situations, especially those involving commerce and/or extreme image exploitation (ie, large numbers of images 'stolen', etc)]

Fifth, be realistic as to your damages. In an academic sense, all infringement is wrong and should bear consequences. In the real world, though, you have to be, well, realistic. I would imagine a grid with labels down the side such as "Hobbyist/Recreational Artist", "Enthused Amatuer", "Semi/Part-time Pro", "Professional Photographer" and labels across the top such as "Uninformed Borrower", "Copyright Infringer", "True Thief", and "Professional Thief". Then you could fill in the grid with rankings from 1 to 10, weighing in a realistic scale of damages. I would hazard that the "Hobbyist/Recreational Artist" is less damaged by an "Uninformed Borrower" than a "Professional Photographer" is by a "Professional Thief". Believe me, I know what it's like to be ripped off and stolen from, both in cyberspace and in the real world; but, I also know that you have to keep things in perspective. In a perfect world, all things would be equal; in the real world, damages are measured in fact. The bottom line is, even though you may have produced a stunning work of art, if you have not actively engaged in the process of selling your imagery, you will have a hard time proving damages from infringement (that is, damages beyond whatever revenues the infringer has generated, if any).

Sixth, don't freak out. Take a deep breath. Review the situation and respond in measured tones. Consider this and wonder who is more likely to get help: the person who starts ranting and raving every time they sense an infringement, or the person who deals with it calmly.

Lastly, accept that it is going to happen. If it hasn't happened to you yet, it most likely will, sooner or later. The more you shoot, the more you post, the more you share, the more likely you will produce something that will catch someone else's eye. Whether it is the eye of someone who simply likes it and wants to pass it around, or whether it is the eye of an evil image exploiter, well, that all depends. The thing to do is to accept that it will happen, do the best you can to protect yourself within reason, and to have a plan for dealing with it when it does.

[and, again, i'd invite those with specific cases and measured solutions to please feel free to add to this. if you have read this and still feel that village burning and such is still the best course of action, please start another thread ;-) ]



Message edited by author 2015-02-18 11:55:37.
05/30/2007 09:31:26 AM · #2
Thanks for putting it into perspective. I just did a DIGG search for my username and found several of my challenge entries. Most included credit and linked directly to DPC. One was a hardcore porn site. :-/
05/30/2007 09:49:07 AM · #3
Originally posted by Skip:

Lastly, accept that it is going to happen. If it hasn't happened to you yet, it most likely will, sooner or later. The more you shoot, the more you post, the more you share, the more likely you will produce something that will catch someone else's eye.


That's why I've tried my best to avoid any ribbons! I don't want my photos catching any of those thieving rascals' eyes ;-)

Seriously though, great post. Great education for those of us sharing photos in cyberspace.
05/30/2007 09:53:51 AM · #4
Originally posted by scalvert:

Thanks for putting it into perspective. I just did a DIGG search for my username and found several of my challenge entries. Most included credit and linked directly to DPC. One was a hardcore porn site. :-/


I did a DIGG search for your username and got nothing - what did I do wrong? I typed "scalvert" into the search box at the top of the interface.
05/30/2007 09:56:01 AM · #5
Oh, I just searched for scalvert and digg on Google.
05/30/2007 10:28:07 AM · #6
Good post Skip very educationnal.
05/30/2007 05:23:22 PM · #7
i 'tweaked' it a little.

i would appreciate some input from anyone who has actually had to deal with this, like 21.gif kiwiness, 21.gif jemison, and others who've had similar problems. i'm not looking for slash-and-burn tactics, but rather reasoned responses that work.

thanks for your contributions!
05/30/2007 05:28:19 PM · #8
Originally posted by scalvert:

Oh, I just searched for scalvert and digg on Google.


I'm not surprised that the shots you found were credited since you searched for your name. ;) I've always wondered how people go about searching for uncredited pictures. I've only ever run across one of mine once. Is it just blind luck?
05/30/2007 05:36:44 PM · #9
2 pics on Flickr, user pulled them immediately and offered an apology.
2 on MySpace, one of which was my daughter's face on an x-rated pic, was removed and the user was booted it seems, (the only place that picture was ever shared was on DPC btw), and the other pic of mine on MySpace was promptly removed.

And people wonder why I have all family pics hidden now and deface the images in my portfolio with watermarks...

This topic comes up often, lotsa' shoulder shrugging though.
05/30/2007 05:39:14 PM · #10
brad: a few questions, if you don't mind...

1) how did you find out about the infringements?
2) in each case, who did you contact?
05/30/2007 05:47:46 PM · #11
One quick note to share. I don't recall where I read it but if you have an instance where you have lost money and you need to resort to litigation, you will need get a legal notary to sign off on the fact that the offender has your image on their webspace etc. Since screen shots can be faked you have to get official acknowledgement that the picture was ripped off. I'm not sure who would qualify but I suspect that it would be someone like a peace officer, judge, postmaster, accredited engineer. (i.e. about the same criteria as who can sign the picture for a passport here in Canada).
05/30/2007 05:50:21 PM · #12
Originally posted by Skip:

brad: a few questions, if you don't mind...

1) how did you find out about the infringements?
2) in each case, who did you contact?


The pics on Flickr: 1 was a tip from somebody that knows me, though I didn't know them, and the second was me searching about using my DPC username and image titles.
The MySPace pics: The one of my daughter - she called my up after someone spotted it and told her about it (she was a "tad upset), and the second one was was through a Google Image search using titles from my pics.

In each case, I contacted user right off, and explained that it constituted unauthorized use and to please remove it, and failure to do so after being asked to do so can be punishable. In each case, I also contacted the site admins and gave them a heads up. Evidently the one user was removed or banned off MySpace (at least under that username).

I think keeping rational and asking rather than making a call to Art to burn their village right off may have helped.

I still keep my eye out, and removed ALL my images off EyeFetch, TrekLens, TrekEarth, TrekNature, and even DPC until I could watermark them. So far I've only re-uploaded here - too tedious. I wish DPC could watermark the images AFTER the challenge. If they all had the same, after a while, you don't really see them anymore.

On a side note, this makes for some interesting reading, and for once is in OUR favor:
Appeals Court Confirms Photographer's Rights in Case

Message edited by author 2007-05-30 18:03:40.
05/30/2007 05:54:06 PM · #13
FANTASTIC post, Skip!
05/30/2007 09:25:56 PM · #14
Nice thread Skip!

I was one of the DPCers who was ripped off in the infamous "Peas" episode of about a year ago. The perp was a complete nutcase who was ripping off everyone without regard for anything, and passing the shots off as her own. The Peas site and the individual peas who rose to the occasion to root out the evil in their midst were extremely kind and caring people, and were just as outraged as we were that this individual was being such an ass. However, the initial DPC reaction on the Peas site was very shrill and reactionary, and DPC came off looking pretty lame, IMO, until everyone calmed down and realized that calmer heads would eventually prevail. Thus Skip, your fourth point (Fourth, determine an appropriate response) is especially important. Think before you react. Post here and get some other eyes on the situation to help evaluate the seriousness. Above all, keep your head and don't go to the other site and start raging about legal retribution and dirty thieves. Take your time and measure your response.
05/30/2007 09:40:15 PM · #15
Just another voice echoing what's already been said: Skip's advice is spot on.
05/31/2007 09:43:18 AM · #16
not to be a damper, but PLEASE keep this ON TOPIC. this thread is meant to be a resource, and there are plenty of other threads and forums for entertainment. thanks.
05/31/2007 07:12:00 PM · #17
Sorry to be late in responding Skip - yes, I had an image "stolen" and it was a really, really upsetting event. I had just gotten my first (and still my only) blue ribbon in the Best of 2005 challenge for my balloon shot "Flight".
281896.jpg
I was truely on cloud nine! shortly thereafter I was informed via personal message that my image had been posted on another site, similar to DPC, by a person who not only didn't give me credit for the photo, but claimed full credit for himself. He went so far as to explain how he made the shot, what the circumstances were, etc. and was basking in a glory similar to what I was here on DPC. It really blew me away! He had received several hundred comments and was getting "rave" reviews and taking deep bows.

It's hard to explain the pain that I felt. Very personal. Like when your house has been broken in to and losing everything. That has happened to me as well.

I vented by emailing the offender, posting a message here on DPC, notifying the site manager and a few other actions that I can't remember right now. DPCers did the same - there was actually quite a ruckus raised as I remember. In a short time, the image was pulled from the site and I received a personal email from the offender - a 16 year old. Surprisingly, I was quite touched by it. He was obviously very ashamed of what he had done - and actually talked about it ruining his life and reputation forever. He explained that he had initially liked the image and in a moment of weakness posted it on the other site as his shot. He had no idea that it would generate the intense reaction from his site, and one thing led to another and before he knew it he was a star and didn't have the guts/sense to stop things before they were entirely out of hand. I think he was praying that things would die down and nobody would be the wiser for it, but it didn't happen that way.

He posted a public apology here on DPC. I was personally disappointed by the reaction here. I am the type to give others a chance - maybe too much so, I don't know. But that is just the way I felt. I felt that he was sincere in his sorrow and in private correspondence with him I forgave him and told him that I hoped that he learned a valuable life-lesson and not to let a stupid mistake scar him or wreck his self respect. The past is not what matters I told him, but, rather, the future and what he learns from this situation is what counts.

I am sure that this is not the way that many here would handle things. Many people said so in no uncertain terms in the apology thread. It was sad for me to see how vergeful some can be and how unforgiving. I chose to move on, and I am really glad that I did. Life is too short for bitterness and high blood pressure!

Message edited by author 2007-05-31 19:12:35.
06/29/2007 10:00:12 AM · #18
Apparently no one wants to steal my pictures. Sigh, life is depressing.
06/29/2007 10:12:13 AM · #19
Originally posted by scalvert:

Thanks for putting it into perspective. I just did a DIGG search for my username and found several of my challenge entries. Most included credit and linked directly to DPC. One was a hardcore porn site. :-/


you searched your name and you get to see porn site. Lucky you.
07/16/2007 03:15:41 PM · #20
Everyone is free to make their own choices on how to pursue such matters, but, my response to infringers is to send them an invoice and follow that up with a letter from my lawyer who sends them a letter detailing their liability and encouraging them to pay or suffer the consequences. As far as getting the images removed, it's simply a matter of contacting the admins at the hosting site.

In my cases, the infringers consulted a lawyer and just sent a check to cover the invoice because their lawyer told them it would be so much more expensive to go to court and that they indeed were in the wrong so they were destined to lose.
08/12/2007 04:23:23 PM · #21
i've recently found out that a newspaper in my country have stolen a couple of my images without giving me credit or payment.
i havent figured out how to deal with it yet, but i dont just wanna send them a regular invoice as i have heard other people have experienced similar.. they cant just steal images then to hope it dont get any consequences.
how should you handle problems like this??
11/01/2007 01:03:11 PM · #22
I had a different situation. Someone blocked out my photo credit with a black box in an ad that featured my photo. It was because I work for one of his competitors of the person using the ad... I called my attorney and subsequently collected. It wasn't much. Less than $1000 but I felt it was more important to protect my rights.
11/07/2007 04:25:54 PM · #23
Originally posted by Gnarf:

i've recently found out that a newspaper in my country have stolen a couple of my images without giving me credit or payment.
i havent figured out how to deal with it yet, but i dont just wanna send them a regular invoice as i have heard other people have experienced similar.. they cant just steal images then to hope it dont get any consequences.
how should you handle problems like this??


I would recommend getting copies of the issues in which your photos were used along with your original image files and consulting an attorney.
10/21/2008 11:48:35 PM · #24
Check out this site - all the images are stolen and I don't have a clue how to translate to even know if they are being sold or what.

Stolen Abunawaf

I know one of them is njsabs2323

Message edited by author 2008-10-21 23:50:50.
10/22/2008 01:43:44 AM · #25
Originally posted by mom2two:

Check out this site - all the images are stolen and I don't have a clue how to translate to even know if they are being sold or what.

Stolen Abunawaf

I know one of them is njsabs2323


Translated page

Now to have a look at it....
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