Being Infringed

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.

  1. Find your image on your blog. Click on it and then copy the image url.
  2. Go to google and use Image search, in the search box click on the camera and paste in the image URL. Now search.
  3. 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).

Infringements

On a whim I sat down chose a popular post on my blog and did a reverse search.

Sailing-weather-

First image I found being infringed.

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

Regards

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.

Church Cross Black and White

Second Image I found Infringed

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.

Double-exposed-fish-and-palace-of-culture

One of many images found on congok.com.

“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.

blossom-Pink-cross-processed

Infringed image that apparently wasn’t composed well enough for them.

“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.

Regards

Benjamin Rowe”

stolen image check site on 05 feb 5a

Screen grab of the image being infringed.

With them I don’t think they will take down the image since on their Privacy Policy page links for their contact form and such are just links back to Facebook, possibly linked to an advertising revenue. But In 7 days I will send a slightly more strongly worded warning.

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.

If you wish to get notifications when I post on my blog, you can follow me on Twitter@aperture64, on Facebook.com/aperturesixtyfour or alternatively be emailed by subscribing below.

Advertisements

25 thoughts on “Being Infringed

  1. Reblogged this on Across the Bored and commented:
    Read this carefully – try one of your own (most popular is always a start) image urls – and see what happens. The results may be surprising and disheartening or you’ll breathe a sigh of relief. Let us both know the outcome…

    • i am here – and most grateful – thanks to the reblog! your sensitive query is in such contrast to the one that reached my site yesterday from a website owner in the usa. http://playamart.wordpress.com/2014/01/27/copyrighttrademark-the-devil

      i’ve written about copyright infringement as well, and that post was one of the most active w/comments and feedback. http://playamart.wordpress.com/2013/07/07/right-clicking-images-from-websites-pinterest-and-google/

      this week i will not be online much, but i plan to write a follow up — i will also point more people to this great post.

      thank you for sharing your research and how you handled this with professionalism and sensitivity.
      lisa

      • When I worked in customer service, I was always more willing to help someone if they were calm and polite. Whereas if a person was shouting and screaming, although my job was still to help them, I would be less inclined to go the extra mile.
        When I found my first image I was shocked, amazed and peeved especially with those who were using the ads around the image to make money. Of course I could have outed and shamed all on my blog and social media (believe me that is what i wanted to do, scream and shout from the rooftop). Instead I took a calm deep breath, turned on some acoustic music, found templates for specific legal wording and worked my way through them. You never know one of them may want to pay me money for these images or commission me for some further down the road.

        The posts you shared have quite rightly hit the nail on the head when it comes to infringement and the way people are so apathetic in understanding what they are doing by right clicking and then sharing.

        Thanks for taking the time to comment Lisa, I do appreciate it.

    • I’m glad you found the post useful and thanks for reblogging it. It is something I never really thought about because my blog isn’t so big. It is important for us all to be vigilant over how our images are being used online.

  2. Interesting post. I don’t use a lot of visuals on my blog, for these exact reasons. Even if I credit the source where I found the image, that’s no guarantee that it’s actually their image to use in the first place!

    • It is risky especially when using another’s image. Sometimes an easy way to find out who owns the image is to download it and then right click and view the properties. If the image creator has input the metadata then it should be there. A lot of social media sites though strip the metadata from images to make them faster to load.

      I would suggest finding some good content creators that you can trust and use them for your images. You never know some amateurs might create images for your blog as long as there is a credit back to theirs.

  3. Great article Ben! How many hours of work does this all take you? Do you keep checking each image once in a while to find new infringers?

    I’m an amateur photographer and full time developer… I’ve been doing the same thing with my images. Basically reverse image searching one by one occasionally to find who’s stealing my images. After I find the culprits I would send a similar email asking to take it down or buy a license.

    My developer self took over and wanted to automate the whole process. So…. I’m currently developing a service where it checks your images automatically every couple weeks and emails a report on where its found. I’m already using it for my images and saved a bunch of hours of tedious work every month.

    If anyone is interested in being beta testers or just sign up for news, please check out my page http://www.checkmypics.com

    • Diran thanks for taking the time to comment. It took about 6-7 hours to go through the majority of my images. I didn’t check all as I found that those of a smaller size were not as attractive as larger images.

      I will have a look at the automated process you have been developing and I think it is something that will be needed more and more in the future.

Let Me Know Your Thoughts, I Know You Have Some

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s