Image thievery is a huge issue for me and virtually all other serious photographers who have websites or blogs. I just don’t understand why some folks think they have the right to steal the images of others. Social media sites like Facebook, Pinterest and tumblr are a big part of the problem (though it certainly exists elsewhere on the web). Each of these sites has policies in their terms of service that prohibit members from infringing on the intellectual property rights of others and allows them to disable the accounts of those who abuse the policy. For example, from the terms of service of Facebook:
“If you repeatedly infringe other people’s intellectual property rights, we will disable your account when appropriate.”
Social media sites also have online forms that allow legitimate copyright holders to file Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) take-down notices with those respective sites. Sadly, I’m coming to know these procedures well and some of those accounts have been disabled permanently because of repeated abuse.
Below is just one example of how flagrant and egregious these violations can be.
This image of a male American Kestrel is in my Feathered Photography image galleries (link to the photo). Every page and photo in those galleries contains this statement: “All images are the property of Ron Dudley and are protected under international copyright laws“.
But last week I was alerted by someone who recognized my image on the Facebook page of someone else. Notice that my copyright has been removed and replaced by the logo of Alessandro Pinna. This was a deliberate act of theft. And to make matters even worse he butchered the image by overcompression (notice the splotchiness of the background compared to that of the original image). Earlier this week I filed a DMCA takedown notice with Facebook on this image and the next day the photo was removed (this is a screenshot taken before the photo had been deleted).
Many other images on this person’s FB page have also been stolen and the comment section of at least some of the galleries has been turned off because of repeated angry complaints about the thievery. If you visit the page I must warn you, be prepared for massive oversaturation more appropriate for jigsaw puzzles or Tijuana black velvet paintings.
I’ve resigned myself to the fact that dealing with image theft will be a part of my life as long as I continue to maintain a web presence but to say that I’m not happy about it is an understatement. I will continue to regularly do web searches looking for images of mine that have been stolen and then file DMCA notices where appropriate.
The purpose of this post is to allow me to vent a little about a frustrating situation and to hopefully help to get the word out about the seriousness of image theft. I certainly don’t think that any of my regular readers have been lifting my images, in fact several of you have notified me of photos that have been stolen. For that I am grateful.
Update (1/7/13, 3:47 pm) – I now believe that the real Alessandro Pinna has been a victim of identity theft on Facebook and is innocent in this entire matter. I hope to make another blog post soon to clarify.