Image Thieves Prompt A Change To “Feathered Photography”

I’m sorry to say that rampant copyright infringement and outright image theft have forced me to make an unwanted change to my blog.

In the past, those who have signed up for email subscriptions or the RSS feed have received the entire post in those versions, including images.  I have disabled the ability to “right-click download” the images from my blog but I don’t have that option with the RSS feed or subscription versions.

In an attempt to prevent at least some of the theft I have now altered my settings so that the RSS feeds and email subscriptions will no longer include images – only a “summary” of the blog.  This will be inconvenient for some since readers will now have to click the link to the blog to see the images.  I regret that but I finally reached the point where I had to do something.



This is one of the images I’ve had the most trouble with but there are countless others.  Content scrapers may force me to make additional changes in the future but at this point I’m resisting doing things like posting much smaller photos or pasting ugly watermarks across the entire image.

I have no control over who signs up for the email notifications or the RSS feeds.  Many of the content scrapers are from a few foreign countries and I have blocked several of those countries from access to my blog but that’s only a partial solution and the problem persists.  So much of my time is now spent filing DMCA takedown requests that it threatens to interfere with my time in the field with birds, which is unacceptable.  Thus the change.

I realize this will not stop savvy thieves.  But it may help and I had to try.

I apologize for any inconvenience.


59 comments to Image Thieves Prompt A Change To “Feathered Photography”

  • Gale Comin

    Ron it’s terrible you have to deal with issues like this. I love your blog.

  • Diana Little

    Makes me take a few more steps but your column and photos are always worth it.
    Thanks again for all your work.

  • Ron, What a great piece of reading this is! I should first compliment you on the quality of your photographs; maybe I shall just throw my camera in the ocean!
    Yesterday, I took a look at various logs and stats on my website and discovered some odd looking addresses among the list of referring urls.
    Looking up some of these opened a huge can of worms, followed by some rather terse emails from me.
    I have found that a lot of these thieves use images stolen from the web to push pop-under advertising.
    I plan to email each of the advertisers to explain how my images are being used to drive advertising to their sites and give them an ultimatum; either lose the link to these thieves or we will be discussing my percentage of their revenue.

  • Ron, I’m curious – how do you find your stolen images? Is there some kind of search you can do to look for your images in places where they shouldn’t be or are there certain websites that you keep an eye on?

    • I use a variety of methods, Stoddard. I put my name in the file name when I save it so I can often find them by image searching my name combined with the common name of the bird. Many times thieves include the name of my blog or website galleries so I’ll image search that. If you pass your cursor over the thumbnails in google image search, info like that shows up. Some of my images are stolen so often that I just search the common name of the bird and I’ll get multiple examples of my images used without my permission. A friend who has the same problem recognizes most of my images and when she does her own searches she often finds mine and notifies me. Some of my blog readers also notify me when they find stolen images of mine.

  • Thanks again Ron. I am reserching this further . There is a lot of mis information on this subject. Artist in the contemporary world do borrow so much imagery from every where so I see where you are comming from. I do not sell my work anymore in galleries etc. but still I will have to get more educated in this area.
    I will tell my friends that a page full of photos on Google Images is not like walking on the beach picking up sea sheels to take home.

  • Budd Black

    Ron, thievery borne of laziness and lack of talent is abhorent. Your talent is remarkable, and your sharing of it admirable. The large image sizes without large trademarks are appreciated. However, if changing your policies on those issues will keep you sharing your knowledge of these animals, my vote is to keep the blog alive. I appreciate the opportunity I have to learn so much from you 30 years removed from sitting in your classroom at old South High. Keep up the good work!

  • Charlotte Norton

    The most sensational eagle photo I’ve ever seen!

  • Charlotte Norton

    I am so sorry that unscrupulous people drove you to this, but I do hope it prevents further theft! Your blog is the light of my life and I hope I will always have access to it! I am a neophyte and it means the world to me.

  • Ingrid

    Clicking on the link is NO problem Ron! Just so sorry to hear that even in a case like this, there are people who think they ‘have a right’ to just take (and maybe even take credit for?) what is not rightfully theirs. With kind regards, Ingrid (she of the barn owls :))

  • I can see why you have had trouble with this image-it is superb. I am sure the thief could not duplicate the quality of this image or are they even photographers? Or just thieves? At least I can comment directly to you here, the image is large when I go to the page on-line and am happy to keep receiving notices by e-mail and the link is fast.

  • Mitchell Kranz

    Sorry to hear this Ron
    Curious as to what changes you mention have been made to google image search?

  • OK I feel a little pressure here to way in on all this. Let me start by saying ” the purest form of flattery comes from imatation”. That being said it does not right a wrong . I just spent 45 minutes analizing Google Images of Fosters Terns , I downloaded 25 images ,”save picture as is “,right into my files. I am working on a painting about the global migration of this bird. Not too long ago I would have to go to a library and look up static bad drawings and photos of this bird . Better yet I would have to go out on my own and shoot Ecktacrome slides of these birds on my short vacation to the beach and hope for the best. Well you get the picture. Times have changed . The exchange of information today is unreal ,how about tomorrow?
    As an artist transfering any image from the internet to a painted work of art I always write on the back of the canvas the origin of the image and it’s web site.

    In the future I would love to curate art shows where photographers and artist of the painted canvas do group shows to illustrate how this new form of exchange might go forth. But for now there is an underworld of direct stealing going on which could give the exchange thing a bad energy.

    Keep us posted ,Ron , on how we should proceed with this wonderful blog. Your the doctor…

    • Eldridge, Here’s a link that explains the law regarding the issue you bring up.

      I regularly get requests from artists to use my photos as “models” for their artwork. If the work is for personal (or educational) use only I often grant permission for image use without charging a user fee. However, if there’s any possibility the work will be sold or exhibited (including on the internet) I do not.

  • Nicole

    You take bloody fabulous photos! They are “out of this world” (as my mother will say)!!!! I am so sorry you’ve had to deal so often with this problem. I hope that it improves!! I too could not “delete” your e-mails, I put yours and Mia’s all into a file!! You really do enrich our lives with these photos (and the bio lessons too!!).

  • Melissa Groo

    It’s certainly understandable that it had to come to this, Ron. I myself have come across your images stolen and unattributed on other sites.
    I have to say it’s a reflection–though unfortunate–of how matchless your work really is. As long as we can still see your images in some form, that’s something to be grateful for.

    • Melissa, I want to thank you once again for sending me links to some of those stolen images you found in the past. I find a lot of them but I also miss quite a few. It was a big help.

  • That’s really unfortunate that, as an artist, you’re having to worry so much about these things now. The sense of entitlement and lack of respect with the digital age has really exploded, it seems. Much luck to you….

  • That’s awful! But even with your copyright signature? How can that be?! I’m really sorry. Please let me know where I can continue enjoying your fantastic pics and posts!
    Greetings from Mexico! Kim

    • Kim, Usually they just crop or clone my copyright out of the image. But sometimes they don’t even do that – especially in the social media sites.

  • This is so sad. To bad a few thieves spoil it for so many people. I enjoy your blog so much. It brings brightness into each day!

  • What a shame…
    I enjoy being able to see your awesome photos direct from my e-mail, but it’s totally understandable. I just don’t know how much it will cut-down on the thievery though.
    Your photos are awesome, as are the insightful comments.

  • I will miss having the images in the emails, because I have saved all of them to enjoy at future times. The change is distressing to me, but it can’t possibly be as distressing as thievery would be to you. I am sorry that you have to deal with that kind of problem, and hope that this measure will be effective. I will look forward to seeing your photos wherever you post them. Your blog posts are always a bright spot in my day.

  • Ron, your images are magnificent … do whatever you can to prevent theft!!!!!!!

  • Susan

    Oh and I forgot to mention that I very much like the new work you have done on the banner and tabs up there!!!

  • Susan

    The work of artists is always the most vulnerable and your persistence in this regard is a drudge I’m sure Ron. Cheaters and thieves are loathsome. I always click through to the blog though for your field notes as well as seeing the amazing shots! Once again, thanks for your blog!

  • Diana Schleicher

    Ron, I’m so sorry this is continuing to plague you, and I must tell you that it won’t work very well. I have a ‘snipping’ tool on my computer, and I just did a screen shot of your beautiful eagle and put it into a folder in “pictures”. Of course, I will delete it, as I don’t want to infringe on your copyright, but this is such an easy thing to do, that you may want to rethink the problem. The best to you, and I hope the idiots won’t keep the rest of us from seeing your work.


    • I’m aware that there are multiple ways to “beat the system”, Diana. I’m simply trying to chip away a little at the scope of the theft.

  • Leisa Duncan

    I hope you can stop these people. Thank you for continuing to share your beautiful pictures with us.

  • Bruce Lindman

    The problem is that your photos are just too damn good. Try taking lesser-quality images, and it will go away!

  • chris

    Ron, I did wonder why your images were so quietly watermarked. The eagle photogs here have had exactly your problem, especially as the pair they were photographing was very high profile for quite some time. I’m sad that there are people who will steal stuff online. I’m sad that you have to spend time dealing with it. Thank you for taking that time, and for all you share. BTW stunning eagle image!

    • Chris, I’ve always tried to make my copyright notice as inconspicuous as possible so it doesn’t detract from the image. May have to re-think that though…

  • Sad that there are people like that. Your posts and images are superb, usually go to your blog from the email so that is no problem.

  • Tana Hunter

    Your blog is something I look forward to, and it is upsetting that you have to go to such lengths to protect it. Keep up the great work. And Thanks again.

  • I hope you are able to benefit from these infringements and actually develop a business model from it.

    Also – have you looked at a photo hosting service which prevents “Right-Click” downloads – I use Smugmug on my site for that purpose ?

    I appreciate your attitude of still wanting to share your work.


    • John, I’ve installed a plug-in that prevents right-click downloads from the blog itself. It’s the email notifications that were the biggest problem.

  • Sharon Constant

    Oh Ron, I’m so sorry to hear that you are still having to deal with these dreadful people. I guess there will always be people that feel entitled to take anything they want–They see it. They want it. They take it. Obviously, it follows that they were entitled to it. With work as exquisite as yours, I am not surprised that you run into this more often than most. I hope your new measures will deter some of the thieves. Thank you for your efforts to continue to share with the rest of us.

    • Thanks Sharon, I appreciate your support. This is a problem that will never be completely solved but I’m hoping this change prevents at least some of the thievery.

  • Ann

    I was just thinking to myself, I really appreciate that you share such large images. They are stunning, it is a real treat to see the full detail of the birds! I hope that you can continue to share in this fashion, thanks so much for all that you post!

  • I am so sorry that oxygen thieves have forced this upon you.