Last year I wrote a few posts about copyright infringement. In most of the posts it was about legal action being taken by someone over the use of their image being used in a slightly high profile manner. There has continued to be articles about copyright infringement because it isn’t going away. More shocking has been the amount of photographers stealing images and then using them as their own. A Tumblr blog has been set up called photo stealers, where the blogger outs and shames “photographers” that steal images and say that they are their own creation.
Last night I was reading “Photo Stealers” and I wondered,
“No one would steal my images.”
Why not, I do have some talent (I believe). So I began a reverse image search on google.
Google Reverse Image Search
What is a reverse image search? This is a way you can actually search for a specific image and then see where it turns up on the internet.
- Find your image on your blog. Click on it and then copy the image url.
- Go to google and use Image search, in the search box click on the camera and paste in the image URL. Now search.
- Read the results.
The results hopefully only show places where you have placed the image. If other places turn up in the search then possibly your image has been stolen.
Now it is an investigation process because sometimes these sights are places where they link blogs and are not actually using the image. Although I would make a customary email asking for notification next time (although I know that it is most likely an automated bot).
On a whim I sat down chose a popular post on my blog and did a reverse search.
I was shocked that the image that was taken in Cornwall, England was being used on a UK company website who rents out yachts in Turkey (infringing page www.sailturkey.co.uk/wheather_in_turkey.aspx)
I dug a bit further and found out that they have a small following of Facebook, has no twitter account. I was really not that angry more amused. I sent a polite message to their email address.
“To Whom It May Concern, my name is Benjamin Rowe and I am a photo blogger at www.aperture64.wordpress.com. It has come to my attention that on your webpage sailturkey.co.uk/wheather_in_turkey.aspx, you are using one of my images without credit or authorisation (original blog post https://aperture64.wordpress.com/2013/01/11/editing-friday-sailing-weather/) (original image url https://aperture64.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/sailing-weather.jpg). Although I can understand that you may have found this image on a google search and with no watermark you therefore presumed it was OK to use. Unfortunately it is not.
Since I am not a professional photographer I will forgo a Cease and Desist Letter asking for damages. I will make this offer; you can continue using the image but please credit the image to me and link the image back to my blog or remove the image. If this is done in the next seven days (4/2/2014) all is cool and hopefully we can work together in the future. If either of the above actions is not completed in the next seven days (4/2/2014), I will be sending a Cease and Desist letter and will be requesting payment for the use of the image.
I have taken a screen capture of your site and will check back in seven days.
If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me via email *******@*****.com
Benjamin Rowe “
At present, no reply but I will wait with bated breath.
My curiosity had been piqued. I continued searching images. The first thing I notice is that my images are generally uploaded at a medium resolution as they are meant to be viewed on my blog. These images people don’t seem to want.
I was shocked by the next infringement, by a WordPress blogger no less. What’s more an apparent Christian blogger (Thou shalt not steal didn’t ring any bells). What really got me about this infringement is that they could have simply reclogged the image and therefore given the credit back to me easily. They replied in five hours saying they would take down the image (I believe them but will check back in 7 days). I will not shame the site since they were quite prompt in responding.
The next couple of infringements were from a site called congok.com. I would advise not visiting there as they had a lot of pornographic popups. I was amazed that they credited the image to me (great) but as I was in curiosity mode, I went to read their DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) Policy and I was really amazed at their attitude.
“Please do not ask for permissions to use these images in your projects, as we do not own the copyrights for them. All images displayed on the site are provided only for personal use as wallpaper on computers, cell phones and other personal electronic devices.
In case of an error where you are the owner of an image and feel it is used unknowingly, please contact us so we can immediately remove it from our website. We do not intend to display any copyright protected images.”
DMCA Policy Congok.com
Basically they put these images on their sight for people to use as free wallpapers, while making money off the ad revenue from their popups, especially when it took two or three clicks to get to an image and then another two to three again to read their DMCA Policy. So they are happy to make money and let people download images for wallpapers but then claim they don’t own the copyrights to them. On the positive side they do have a straight forward system for removing images, an email with two lines, the image infringed and the original source.
I flipped my desk with my next discovery. So far my images had been untouched, though someone felt my crop wasn’t good enough and cropped the image, for the purpose of selling it as a header for Twitter and Tumblr. I have no idea what Dragpost.net does but it seems to be an ad based money platform pulling posts from all sorts of places and making money from the ads. For Dragpost.net I sent a proper DMCA Cease and Desist email.
“To whom it may concern,
I am writing to you to notify that you are unlawful use of my image and displaying it on your blog (or website): http://draggpost.com/images/ozil-good-pink-twitter-headers-tumblr-images-/# infringes my exclusive intellectual property copyrights. Accordingly, you are hereby directed to
CEASE AND DESIST ALL COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT.
It has come to our attention that you have been displaying a photo derived from the image copyright of which belongs to Benjamin Rowe. We have screenshots of your page and unlawful distribution of our intellectual property as evidence.
Under 17 U.S.C. 504, the consequences of copyright infringement includes statutory damages up to $150,000 per image. If you continue to engage in copyright infringement after receiving this letter, your actions will be evidence of “willful infringement”.
We demand that you remove the photo that was created by Benjamin Rowe (original source https://aperture64.wordpress.com/2013/06/04/crossed-blossom/).
If you or your attorney have any questions, please contact me directly **********@*****.com.
Since i made my first drafts of this post, Dragpost.net has been back in contact saying they have removed the image. Upon checking the image is still there being infringed. I have also asked what was the use of the image on their website as i have a feeling it was being sold or allowed to be downloaded illegally.
Update 29/01/2014 – The site has removed the picture and has assured me that it was not avaliable for illegal distribution, but was use to advertise headers for Twitter and Tumblr. The site trawls the net for content but does not host any directly as it remotely populates the site with content. The site owner has agreed to filter my blog but how many others is he still infringing.
What have I learnt?
My wife asked me, “How you can stop people stealing your images online?” The answer is simply you can’t unless you don’t post any.
Watermarking is something I swung between from being for to against. For me I don’t like them or they don’t protect an image. A big water mark distracts the viewing of an image and people in my opinion just click through (just like the current state of my gallery). A smaller one can just be cropped out or cloned out.
Removing right click option or changing the file to a video doesn’t stop people stealing since the gods of computers gave us print screen.
What I have learnt is that people will trawl google image searches and take what they want. For us the image creator we need to be more vigilant in checking our images are not being used and taking the steps to either get the image taken down or for the site/blog to pay for the image.
Obviously with each occasion there may need to be a different tactic to do this. I would suggest to keep your cool and be polite about the whole thing even after you have heard the excuse “I didn’t realise” for the 100th time.