Variations of this post have been in draft form since late 2011 – approximately eighteen (18) months after the above image was shot and put online. A photographer friend sent me an email to let me know that she spotted the image image on a website and that there was no attribution for the image. When reading this, keep in mind that all of my images -other than this one – are licensed CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 which means that people are free to use the image and modify the image as long as they give me credit and that it is not for commercial purposes: I reckon that’s rather generous and not the least bit onerous on anyone who wants to use and/or modify the image.
I visited the site recommended by my friend and, sure enough, there was my image. No crediting me as the artist, no linking back to the image – just stolen – on a website setup to make money. My CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 licensing was ignored and I was now officially annoyed. With a little detective work (see further down for further information on that), I found the owner of the site and contacted the owner. At this stage, I also let my social networks know what had happened.
A day after my email to the offender, I received this email back:
The image has been removed. We only use images found on free image sites or places that have not identified image rights. No harm was intended.
It was not necessary for your friends to spam the site with nasty comments, as well as the Facebook page, before we had a chance to comply. We responded to your request as soon as we were aware of it.
What my friends did was their responsibility but given what the offender noted, I did indeed have a look at what was written: there were no nasty comments, merely comments pointing out that the image was stolen and that the artist was not credited. So it appears to me that the offender is more than happy to steal my work but is not happy when this pointed out in a public way. Too bad, so sad. I also need to point out that the image was removed from the page it was on but it still sits on their servers. Yes, I know that as I copied the URL of the image and kept it with my various notes. Though the image is on the site, there have been no updates to the site in a few years and it looks more than stagnant: dead, I’d call it.
Irony of ironies? Not only was this site a commercial site, it was a religion-based site where goodwill and respecting others were often mentioned. Yeah – right.
Over the years, this same image has been stolen by more than a few website and I’ve tracked down the offender and demanded its removal: in all but one case, the image has been removed with an apology. In the case where the image was not removed and the person would not return my correspondence, I contacted the service provider and the service provider did the right thing and removed the image – that website is no longer in existence at all.
Most recently, I’ve found the above image on yet another website: I’ve contacted the owner (again, see further down for more information on ways of doing that) but the email available no longer exists. I’ve also contacted what appears to be the hosting provider but they also have no records of this site – I’m still following this one up.
So why am I posting this now?
Because image theft is a big thing and it is only getting bigger and more prevalent. I’d like to point you in the direction of two posts that I’m interested in as a result of being rather addicted to Google+ and the imagery I find there as well as the discussion about the imagery and the rights of the owners of said imagery:
- An open letter to Vic Gundotra and Google+ by Jonas M Luster; and
- Protecting yourself from plagiarism or image stealing / theft as it is more rightly known – can you even do it? by Paul Pavlinovich
I highly recommend visiting those posts, reading what you see there and getting involved in the conversations: both Jonas and Paul have summed up many of the issues around this topic and the discussion, particularly, on Jonas’ post, is quite robust. I shan’t bother going into those issues any further in this post as I see no need. Instead, I will concentrate the rest of this post on how to find if your images have been stolen as well as ways to contact the sites that have stolen your images and provide suggestions about how to get your work removed or credited.
How do I know my images have been stolen?
In the first instance regarding the image at the top of this post, I was informed by a photographer friend. Since then, I’ve been using a few tools to look for a few of my more popular images online. I keep these images (there are ten (10) currently – sometimes I change them around but the image in this post is always one of them) in a folder on my computer. Once a month or thereabouts, I use the following two tools to look for those images (please note that these are Chrome extensions as Chrome is my primary browser – you should be able to find similar tools regardless of your preferred browser):
On this link you can find an example search using the Google Image Search extension. And what do I spot when I have a gander? A new site that has stolen my image. I’ve left the following comment and it is awaiting moderation:
The image you have used for this post is not your image. It is mine and I created it in March 2010. I would appreciate if you could remove this image at your earliest convenience. My images are licensed CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 and your site is obviously a commercial site. I look forward to hearing from you that you have removed my image.
Update: I’ve created a page to document websites that have stolen this image, as well as where I am on the path of reclaiming the image.
If you do find one of your own images stolen by someone, please do feel free to use the above as a template, noting what you have found, where you have found it, a link indicating your ownership of the image and what you would like the offender to do. In the case above, I shall be awaiting an email as well as visiting the site regularly to see if my image has been removed.
How do I contact the owner of the site concerned?
This varies, depending on the site. With the example above, it was in the format of a blog post so the ‘owner’ was easily contactable by leaving a comment. If you find a site that has used your image but there is no way of contacting via the site (eg via a ‘blog’ comment or via a ‘contact’ page, I highly recommend using Whois Lookup. When there, enter the domain information that you have and hope that the information that is returned is something you can work with (eg an email address for the domain host). Write to them, wait patiently for a response and take it from there. You might also like to try using this Web Hosting Search Tool.
If it’s your image, it’s your image: it should not be used without your permission and/or without paying attention to your licensing, regardless of what that licensing maybe.
Thank you for reading: if you have any comments or suggestions, I’m more than happy to hear them and incorporate them into this post where appropriate (crediting you, of course).
And for the Flickr’ish views: