Slightly OT: Image usage/stolen images

daogirlSeptember 13, 2013

I didn't want to hijack the other thread, or bump up a really old one, but the discussion of having images that you've taken used by someone else is something that I am familiar with, and I thought it might be useful to lay out what I know about using/not using other people's images. So, if you find out that your images are appearing other places (since that seems to be a problem with plumeria pix particularly!!), here's what you should know:

1. If you take a photograph, you own the copyright. You do not need to register it, watermark it, or anything else - it's a creative work, and the rights to it are yours by default.

2. Images found on the Internet are NOT available for free use, unless you have explicit permission from the copyright owner. For example, if you look at someone's Flickr pictures, there should be some sort of statement about how the images can be used (all rights reserved, creative commons licensing, public domain, etc.). If there's no such statement, you assume that you MUST get permission in order to use the image (not the reverse).

3. Unauthorized use of images is legally actionable. There's a whole range of responses, from sending a DMCA (digital millennium copyright act) take-down notice to actually getting a lawyer and suing (it happens). This is true whether the stolen images are being using on a personal blog, a non-profit website, or someone's EBay page. Ignorance of an image's usage rights is not a legally acceptable excuse.
Here's an example of someone learning the hard way (plus an interesting discussion of the legality of Pinterest):

Sorry, not trying to lecture (even though this is a lecture topic for my web design and photo students!) -- I just want those of you who post pictures to know that you do have rights, even if your picture is not watermarked, or you've posted it in a public forum! Also, if someone has taken one of your pictures and has re-cropped, or flipped, or otherwise Photoshopped it, it does NOT mean it is now theirs. It's still yours, still under your control. An extreme example of this would be the AP photographer's lawsuit against Shepard Fairey for his use of the Obama photo that was the source of his famous "HOPE" poster. The photographer sued SF for copyright infringement, and won. I'm not saying anyone should run around suing people -- just wanted to illustrate how far your ownership actually extends.

If you think your images are being used, or you just want to check, you can use Google's reverse image search to find all the places on the web where your image appears. Just go to the main Google images search page, and click on the camera icon on the right end of the search box. You can then upload the image you want Google to look for. It's pretty cool.

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wow....from 1 who has fought copyright infringement for more than 35 years....I hope it is that easy. I had a HUGE portrait/wedding business and I have lectured in 5 different countries and across these states on my style of portraiture....towards the end (retirement) it came so easy for the every day JOE to take my work and change it slightly and say it was their's and it did hold up in our local courts.( yes, in their favor) It gets to where you pick and choose your customers, at least back then, I retired in '08. People will do what ever they need to do now to save a BUCK! And what do you spend in court trying to fight them.

LIFE is much simpler now dealing with flowers and sea life instead of people... :-))) roxanne

    Bookmark   September 13, 2013 at 10:13PM
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Loveplants2 8b Virginia Beach, Virginia

Thank you Daogirl for this thread.

We can learn a lot from this information...

It is a must read for all....



    Bookmark   September 13, 2013 at 10:31PM
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Roxanne, I see my photographer friends deal with this stuff all the time, too, and I'm definitely not trying to say it's easy. :( I'm sorry you've been on the losing end - how incredibly frustrating!!

Unfortunately, I think a lot of it comes from ignorance, so I try to instill a sense of "good karma" in my design students, so they will just not take the easy way out and use someone else's image(s) in any part of their design work. Of course, that doesn't help someone in your situation! I think there are non-profit legal groups now that help artists defend against copyright infringement - who knows how successful they are, though.

Veering into even more OT: did you see the story last year about the wedding photographer who had an image taken from a client's engagement photo shoot, digitally manipulated, and then used in a political smear campaign? I never found out what happened in that case.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2013 at 10:36PM
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great info,, Thanks!

    Bookmark   September 13, 2013 at 10:46PM
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let's just say I was in the right place at the right time of my life and have moved on....

    Bookmark   September 13, 2013 at 10:47PM
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freak4plumeria(So CA zone 10)

Thanks for the info. Back a while ago there was a Thai seller on Ebay using couple of my picks and Lopaks pics (of his Golden Pagoda and a few others.). I contacted the seller and Ebay stating it was my copyrighted creative property and to cease and desist as they did not have my permission. Well the seller ignored me and kept using my photos and Ebay basically sent me a response back that had a lot of leagalese, basically telling me that burden of proof was mine, etc etc. Basically Ebay did nothing also. I did find however that when I right clicked on some of the sellers pictures it gave me the option of "Copy Picture location". The seller was using photobucket and did not lock any of his albums. I went thru their whole Plumie album and by all the pics that were stolen place a comment under it stating it was a stolen picture and this seller was fraudulent.

I am hoping that Ebay is more proactive in helping people when their pics get hijacked.

Thanks for the info Dao.


    Bookmark   September 13, 2013 at 11:18PM
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I am a food blogger and found many of my images used by other bloggers. When I started blogging, I did not think my images were good enough to be stolen. I then bought a DSLR and started using a macro lens for my food photography. I didn't watermark my pictures. Last week I had another blogger contact me because she found my apple butter pictures being used by someone else. I was surprised she was able to identify it as a stolen image.

I was really upset when I found my carrot cake photo being used by another blogger for her carrot cake recipe. It was an entirely different recipe!

It's not just the DSLR photos that were being stolen. I found my coconut waffles photo taken with an iphone stolen.

I don't mind if someone wants to feature my recipe and links back to me but I find it misleading to use photos for a different recipe. When I find my photos, I usually contact the site owner and request them to take it down. If they persist, I contact google. Surprisingly google takes action.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2013 at 11:20AM
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mksmth zone 6b Tulsa Oklahoma(6b)

this is from the GardenWeb terms of service. Basically if you upload to their servers your content is fair game.

"By submitting content, which shall include your member name, to any "public area" of the GardenWeb Network, including, but not limited to, the forums and your personal website, exchange page and journal, you grant iVillage a royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive right (including any moral rights) and license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, sublicense, assign, derive revenue or other remuneration from, communicate to the public, perform and display the content (in whole or in part) worldwide and/or to incorporate it in other works in any form, media, or technology now known or later developed, for the full term of any Rights that may exist in such content. If you are not the creator of such content, you also warrant that the holder of any Rights, including moral rights in such content, has completely and effectively waived all such rights and validly and irrevocably granted to you the right to grant the license stated above. You also permit any visitor or member to access, display, view, store and reproduce such content solely for personal, noncommercial use"

from photobuckets TOS
"When you make your Content public, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to copy, distribute, stream, post publicly display (e.g. post it elsewhere), reproduce and create derivative works from it (meaning things based on it), anywhere, whether in print or any kind of electronic version that exists now or is later developed, for any purpose, including a commercial purpose."

Most other website that allow uploading of content have the same TOS.

Now if you own the Server and the website then you have a bit more "rights"

When i share a photo I realize that now it is public and could be taken and used elsewhere. That is why I would suggest everyone watermark you photos.


    Bookmark   September 14, 2013 at 2:25PM
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Good point, Mike. Reading the TOS for wherever you're uploading your file is important.

Photobucket is also similar to GW in that their TOS allows them (photobucket) to use your images commercially, but not other photobucket users (they can use your images, just not for a commercial purpose). I think Flickr has the best TOS for a photo-sharing site (at least that I've seen so far).

    Bookmark   September 14, 2013 at 3:50PM
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What is the world coming to when a blogger can't even take their own coconut waffle photos?! :(

Hollis, thanks for all the good information. And everyone else here, too. This will always be a problem online, and I saw that one of the new folks on the forum just bought plumerias from one of those shady ebay vendors who used Laura's photos on their listings. Ugh. If they don't get caught and aggressively punished there's no incentive for them to stop poaching images. All we can do is harass them as much as possible.

Sorry to hear of all your professional troubles with copyrights, too, Rox. Glad you're enjoying retirement instead!

Now if I could just figure out how to watermark my Flickr photos...

    Bookmark   September 15, 2013 at 9:21AM
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Thanks Jandey...I have always believed "what goes around, comes around"...there is a lot of comfort in the thought...roxanne

    Bookmark   September 15, 2013 at 6:03PM
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mksmth zone 6b Tulsa Oklahoma(6b)

Jen. download Gimp. it is pretty much Photoshop only free. You can watermark you pics with it then upload to flickr


    Bookmark   September 15, 2013 at 6:50PM
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Loveplants2 8b Virginia Beach, Virginia

I use watermark app on iPad... It's free too!!!

Figured out that photobucket has that feature as well... But the other offers a better font selection ..

Take care,


    Bookmark   September 15, 2013 at 8:49PM
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Thanks, Mike! I tried to find a function on Flickr but I guess watermarking has to be done before uploading to a hosting site?

    Bookmark   September 16, 2013 at 9:37AM
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