Image Thieves Burn My Butt!

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“.




stolen image FB screen shot


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. 


38 comments to Image Thieves Burn My Butt!

  • Patty Chadwick

    What a disgusting thief…a real slime! It’s hard to believe anyone would sink so low…whenever another such a low life shows creep shows up, it makes me angry, sad and depressed…

  • I’m very glad that you not only made an update post about Alessandro Pinna, but also added a bold note to this post. While there are hundreds or thousands of photographers that are victims, and tens of thousands of viewers that are victims, the real Alessandro Pinna might be the biggest victim of this fraud.

  • Ron, what about the link (Police Report) you posted ?

    I also found this :

    Could this guy (Alessandro pinna) have been the VICTIM of an Identity Theft ?

    • Yes, I think it’s likely he was a victim of ID theft, Veronique. As you know, I’ve been following that thread and posted that link shortly after I found out about it this evening. I’m still trying to sort it all out though. Once I’m relatively sure of what’s going on I hope to post an update to the text in my post.

  • Ron, the guy got me as well…replacing my copyright info with his own.

    The signature is different, looks like he is up to new tricks.

    • I know, Charles. I’ve been following your FB thread (Melissa Groo brought me into the conversation). It was me who posted the link to the police report.

  • Mitchell Kranz

    Yeah I too just learnt of it and honestly it is surprising where images end up. I run a Small Snake Breeding operation here and this gives me the chance to really work closely with these beautiful creatures and with that in turn comes many beautiful photo opportunities.

    I do all the photos for my site and after using google image search have even found adds of people using my pictures to sell snakes they do not even have in their possession. I know this cause they are still here.

    Who knows how many people have gotten duped sending these idiots money. It’s horrible that they can steal your image like that and I certainly feel your pain Sir

  • Mitchell Kranz

    A great tool is google image search. You can drag any photo there and it will find every use of that image on the net. Great for really finding out how many theives and places are really using your image

  • I think you were remarkably mild in your outburst.
    As you know, I love your blog and visit often. Several of the people I have sent the link to are now also your followers. My father brought us up with the phrase ‘take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints’. Cynic though he was, he saw no need to say ‘take nothing but your own photgraphs…’ I am so sorry that this, and other oxygen thieves like him, feel that they should steal from you. I am also really glad that there is an avenue open to protect your intellectual property.

    • “I think you were remarkably mild in your outburst”.

      Hah, you should have seen me “behind the scenes” – not a pretty sight…

      Thank you for your support, Elephant’s Child. Again…

  • Nicole

    HOLY CRAP THIS IS OUTRAGEOUS!!! What an absolute BASTARD! URK. He needs to be SHUT DOWN. You have contacted Facebook? All of these places need to be yelled at. What a jerk. ARGH

    • Nicole, yes, I filed a DMCA notice with FB and they took down the image. They haven’t shut down his site though and he’s a repeat offender, time and time again, with multiple photographers.

  • J. Ashdown

    Here is another site who changed your watermark…looks like they copied it from a different site.

  • J. Ashdown

    Hey Ron,

    I follow your blog but don’t often post stuff. However I have more info on this stopic that will likely not help you feel better. I ran a Google image search for that exact image and found it on 45 websites….most of which were Pintrerest.

    How you run a Google image search is you load the exact (as in metadata, I literally just load the same image I posted on the blog) into Google Images. In the search window there is a little camera. If you click on the camera it gives you the option to upload the image and serach. That will bring up all the sites that have the same photo.

    When I did this with one of my photos I found it in dozens of sites and was very surprised. Many people dcotored the images andded text etc. One of my images may have been used in Portugal for a book cover…still working on that.

    • Thanks for the tips, Josh. Actually, I have many dozens of images that have been posted on Pinterest, some of them multiple times. I’m working on having them taken down but it’s a slow process. Thankfully, when they take one image down it removes all of them that have been re-pinned (if I click that option on the DMCA notice, which I do).

  • Tana Hunter

    Sickening and frightening. I hope something can be done to make these thieves stop, but I am not hopeful. Your images are some of the most beautiful and informative that I have seen, and sharing your blog with my friends and family has been a highlight. You deserve the credit and the respect that any artist is due, and you are a true artist. Perhaps that is why it happens, others cannot approach your level of expertise and experience so they steal. And the internet is part of the problem, people tend to do and say things when they feel they are anonymous, and I am sure it will not get better. Good luck and please keep up the amazing work that you do, and know that you are appreciated.

    • I’m not hopeful either, Tana, for the problem as a whole. There will always be thieves when they can get away with it. But if I have any say in the matter, some of them will pay a price. I’ll be diligent in reporting them and getting the images removed. I’ll make blistering comments on the images, where appropriate and possible – and if they care anything about their “reputations” that should help a little. Some of them will lose their priveleges on those sites. Thanks for the kind words and encouragement. A lot!

  • This is sad. You were so good natured in helping me with my quest. Its not fair, keep up the great work, don’t let the jerks get you down.

    • Thanks a lot, Lee. It’s darned cold down here so I can imagine what it’s like in Alberta right now. I hope you’re keeping warm and safe and that all your horses are doing ok in the frigid temps.

  • Thanks for this warning Ron. Although I did open a Facebook account about 4 months ago, I rarely use it. I do have a couple of posts there, but they’re not related to the blog.

    • Maria, you don’t need to be active on FB (or any other of these sites) for folks there to steal your images. This kestrel wasn’t stolen from FB but from my website. I’ve had others stolen from my blog. They can get them from anywhere on the web.

  • chuck

    What else can I say. This is outrageous!

  • P.S. If Facebook has this line in the terms, “If you repeatedly infringe other people’s intellectual property rights, we will disable your account when appropriate.”, I wonder why they haven’t removed his acount. I would say that “repeatedly” would qualify that.

  • Ron, I think that Sharon Constant said it all. I completely agree with her. I have not checked to see if he has any of mine. I am afraid of what I would find. It burns my ass, too, and I know I would get very upset. When things like that happen to me, my stomach starts to hurt and I just make it hard on myself. However, I will make note of that DMCA report thing, in case I find I have to use it.

    • Bob, If you find any of your images stolen I do hope you’ll file a DMCA report on it. That’s one of the few tools we have to deal with this kind of travesty.

  • Blue Page

    Ron, It’s healthy to vent, so please do rant on as you feel the need! Frustrating that there are such dishonorable people and I admire your diligence in policing your proprietary images from the crooks…

  • Charlotte Norton

    How Horrid! It makes me weep to think bout what some will do with the beautiful work that you so generoudly share. There are all kinds of people who seem to have NO moral compass. I once heard a guide say that some National Geographic photographers cut a tree down to keep other photographers from getting a similar shot to theirs. This guide will not take photographers from National Geographic any longer. My point being evil exists sometimes where you least expect it. I only hope this not discourage your generosity in sharing your magical photographs. I know that often I send then to 2 teenagers. One who is an aspiring ornithologist (a double legacy to Cornell) and the other an aspiring vet. I hope that the joy and inspiration you share will overcome the evil.

    • Thanks so much for the words of encouragement, Charlotte. It is hard not to get discouraged sometimes. I’m delighted to hear about the aspiring ornithologist and vet and I wish them the very best in their goals.

  • Sharon Constant

    BTW Ron, It’s a fabulous image!

  • Sharon Constant

    This is a bit of a rant, but here it is…
    The fact that people use images without permission is appalling enough…the fact that this pathetic person would deliberately obliterate your copyright watermark and replace it with his own is truly disgusting! I did a search on his name and as you mentioned, I saw many comments that indicated he was stealing many other’s images as well. He has a Flicker photo stream–we can be pretty certain that it’s filled with stolen images represented as his own.

    I ask myself why? Is he building a stock photo library and trying to illegally sell the use of them? Is he just a pathetic little fraud that so desperately wants to be admired that he resorts to theft? Is he promoting a graphic or photography business–if so how can he expect to have anything but very short term success?

    I definitely think that he should be blacklisted across all social media, photo sharing, and photography sites. It’s too bad that Facebook, Flicker, and the like do not shut down the entire accounts of people like this. Just removing the stolen images as they are discovered is not enough. Known repeat offenders should not be allowed to have accounts. This won’t stop them from getting accounts under other names, but it certainly could put up some barriers to them smoothly sailing along defrauding and stealing from people.