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Image Theft

I'm feeling really dispirited at the moment. I used to have a public Flickr account, and in the past few years I've had so many photos stolen that my Flickr has been set to private only and I've stopped uploading there. Nowadays pretty much the only photo uploads I make is to here, and my private Instagram account (which you need to be approved to even view).

In the past week I have found one of my photos has been put up on FineArtAmerica for sale by someone else, and the page isn't responding to my request to remove it. I've also just found that one of my photos which was uploaded only to here and Instagram has again been stolen and uploaded on random sites. These are not the only two images I've found of mine, just the latest two examples.

I've now set my Tookapic account to not be spidered by Google as I suspect that's where it's come from, but it's just frustrating. I love uploading my photos. I love being able to share the biggest thing in my life that I enjoy doing. But if my image is just going to be stolen, then it's really making me not want to upload my photos anywhere anymore.

Just feeling sad and needing a place to vent. :(

What would you do/how would you react if you found one of your images had been taken and put up for sale for prints by someone else?


bizon Ugh, it would be depressing especially because of the powerlessness - in fact you really can't do much about it :p The privacy settings and publishing photos only in one place is all - you can chase them but even if one page would delete one of your photos, they will publish other photos on other sites :/

Anyway, thank you that you wrote about this, maybe @Paweł could do something about this - some thieving-bot protection or so? Anything that would guard our photos. For example, I've seen some pages where you can't just rightclick on the photo and download it - maybe such a feature would work? :p

Hang in there, and next time I would search for an image on such pages I will think it over and check the image source (you can search for the image in your search engine and find the first place it was published - this will tell you who is the real author and if it was stolen).

Lauren Huston Yeah, that's the problem in this instance. The photo that was put up for sale was stolen many many many years ago and put up by someone onto a wallpaper site. And then onto another wallpaper site. Now it's on so many that it'd be pointless to try to remove it from all sites. So I acknowledge that and am prepared to live with it - if someone wants my not-that-great photo of the Story Bridge as the wallpaper on their desktop/phone, meh, let them.
But when I saw that someone was actively selling the image as prints/other random stuff (since 2018 according to the site!) and potentially making money out of it... that hurt.

Paweł Kadysz I'm afraid that this is just how it is. Whenever we publish something on the Internet there's always a risk that someone will steal it. Whether it's a photo, video, blog post, ebook or anything else, really.

I really don't get people who just take someone else's work and put it on sale as their own. There's something very, very wrong with these people.

There's also something wrong with site owners who allow this kind of stolen content to be sold.

That said...

When my images of @D. went viral and were shared on pages I didn't want them to be shared on (especially without linking to the source) I asked my lawyer to write an official email to the owner of the site.

I, myself wrote a dozen emails, asking or even demanding the content to be taken down and I never got a reply.

But once they got an email from my lawyer, stolen photos were off the site within minutes, and we even got apology emails.

I think the thieves just need to know you're very, very serious about the copyright.

Lauren Huston Thank you for your thoughts Paweł - I want you to know that I'm in no way blaming Tookapic, I still love this site and the community and will keep on keeping on, as they say.

I agree, I think ultimately people will continue to get away with it unless I (and anyone else affected) actively show that I'm being serious. Downside is there's no way I could afford a lawyer for that sort of stuff. Things to ponder, I guess.

Paweł Kadysz What you need is cease and desist letter. You can use a template or write your own. You don’t need a lawyer.

More details:

It looks better if a lawyer sends it for you, but it’s not necessary. Proper cease and desist letter looks much better (and serious) than just asking to remove your photo from a site.

Google „cease and desist letter template” and you’ll find many resources.

Lauren Huston Thanks for the link. :) I will check it out.

Joe Fortin To answer your question:
First: Surprised (Really... *I* took something good enough to steal!)
Second: Joy (I took something *good enough* to steal!)
Third: Blood rage (Someone stole one of my children and I will find them and I will destroy them from the very fabric of reality itself!)

Lauren Huston I think this was fairly close to my reaction as well. :P

Juu Lichota Hi! What about watermark? Unfortunately, if we post something online, we have to accept that someone might use it ;( Of course you should react as you can and protest! But maybe the only thing you can do (and I know it's a bit silly) is to put a bigger watermark in a place that it'll discourage the thief? I know it can be a bit distracting from the photo itself, but in the end it's your work and you don't want anyone to use it. Of course it's easy to remove by someone who knows a bit of PS, but maybe they are to lazy to work on it, so they take other work...

Lauren Huston I understand what you're saying but I'm not a fan of watermarks. I find they can distract from the image and unless you plaster them over the middle, are very easily cropped out. I view a watermark more as a branding tool than a theft prevention tool.

gerlos It happened to me, too in the past. My current avatar pic has been used without permission by people dozens of times. I find it funny to search for it using Google Image Search from time to time.

And what's more puzzling to me is that I applied a permissive Creative Commons to most of my Flickr photos, so people just need to ask. Actually, not everyone is stealing, there's still a lot of people that ask before using my pics, and I appreciate it.

I agree with @Paweł that the best thing to do is ask help to a lawyer.

I admit I cheated quite often. Even before talking to a lawyer, I just wrote them saying something like this:
"I'm sorry, if you don't add credit and link as requested by the license or remove my pic, I'll ask my lawyer to act accordingly".
This usually works, since people don't want this kind of problems.

In one case I couldn't do anything. I found a photo of mine of a landmark of my city used in a billboard campaign for a cultural event organized by a temporary partnership of local associations with universities. For a couple of months, my pic was almost everywhere around me. In the meantime, I couldn't find the person in charge of the event, neither the ad agency. So, after a while, I gave up.

My friend's joke was that organizers were paying me "in exposure".

Lauren Huston Your last line made me laugh when I read this, and being that I've been sick for the past week, I needed the laugh. :)

Yeah I've found a few instances where I've come across my images where people have said "Photo by Lauren Huston" and linked back to Flickr/wherever and while it's a bit annoying that they didn't ask, I can cope with that. At least it's acknowledgement in some way.

On a somewhat related but unrelated segue, I'm a member of a Facebook group that shares photos of Brisbane. They often credit the origin of photos as "Courtesy of Flickr" which drives me nuts.

gerlos Which license are you applying to your photos on Flickr? This affects what people can do, and what you can ask them to do.

For example, I apply a CC-BY-SA, but I wrote almost everywhere that "if you ask, I'm open to allow you other uses". And actually quite a lot of people dropped me messages to ask, even when it wasn't needed (they added appropriate credits and links). You know, it's nice to know that someone liked your pic, and is willing to use it on their blog.

Anyways, there will be always people that will "steal" your pics, for several reasons. Imho the trick is just be happy because someone liked it, and move on.
As we all are learning here on Tookapic, it's not that one photo that matters, but the hundreds of awesome shots that you are going to take after that. ;-)

Ian Prince There are over 150 copies of "Welcome to Macintosh" and 300 of "Eva #2" on the web, none with attribution. "Eva #2" can even be found on the startup screen of one of Korea's biggest chat apps, which Eva found funny.

Yesterday, quite a coincidence I was walking down the street just one 100 meters from my office and saw "Sknolling" (that there are 500 copies of on the web...) on a billboard advertising a local wine shop (with bottles of wine and a Swiss flag added in post-processing no less!)... so I went in and explained kindly how the photo was not in the public domain. Walked out with 4 bottles of wine as payment :)

agnieszka bladzik you should got yearly supply ;)

Paweł Kadysz I should start looking at billboards in my town 🤔