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Image theft

Postby Sandman596 on Mon Apr 05, 2010 7:33 pm

I have really had it when it comes to the image theft. If you look through the online horse sale ads or in any equine persons facebook page, they are loaded with stolen images. Why would anyone even think to purchase a horse from someone as unethical as that?

Short of not putting my images online, there seems to be not much to do.

I belong to several other forums which discuss this very topic, and I also physically talk to other equine and non-equine photographers as well, and many have had it with the theft. Most are event photographers and they are so fed up that the one guy I have worked for when I first started out and recently talked to about this issue is aggressively going after the offenders.He claims to be collecting a fair amount of money when he catches them. He claims he is charging $100 per image he finds stolen and it goes up the longer they fight him. He does give them the option of turning other offenders in for a reduction in the amount they owe him. He loosely called it a bounty. Folks are turning others in big time he says. He aims for it to be perpetuating, catch one - they pay a bit and turn others in - they pay and turn still more in, etc...... So I am looking into that because of the drop in sales last year and just plain ol' anger. Any thoughts on how this might work? Pitfalls, or other reasons not to? Not sure if I am that angry yet, but getting there.

I thought about the potential loss of the customers and when I asked him if he worried about the loss of customers, he said the folks that are doing the stealing were never customers, and he did not recognize them or their names from orders, so there is no loss in future sales, there were never any previous sales.

When I first started out in this business, I only had the word proof across my images. I saw what I thought were my images on sale ads and websites, but was not sure. So I stepped it up a little and put my business name as the watermark. That helped identify my stolen images, so now if I decide to go after the people that are stealing, I should have an easier time of identifying my images. Right now there are so many folks with just proof and copyright symbol that even if someone sees a stolen image, they do not know who it was from. That probably should be the least we all do to protect ourselves and our online images.

My only other thought to help with this issue is to add the the words "Stolen from" to the watermark with my business name. Hopefully the thieves would be too embarrassed to have that on their website or sale ad.

So far, other than just totally leaving my images offline, or totally going after the folks who steal my images, that is my only idea. Anybody got any others? The situation has gotten very bad.

Thank you

Mark

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Re: Image theft

Postby Barb Young on Tue Apr 06, 2010 9:00 am

I'd start with the "stolen from" idea. Horse people on the whole really don't get it, and kids don't care. Getting aggressive with them is going to do nothing but annoy everyone, and if that's how you want people to see you, fine, but I know it's not the image I want to project. If you get aggressive with people, they get aggressive back.

I figure that professionals (horse biz) should know better, and amateur owners are usually receptive to explanation. The old illegally downloaded music example usually works simply and well. I try to avoid a fight unless it gets necessary, and I do point it out to the offender and politely ask them to either remove the photo or pay for it. If they get nasty I stay nice but firm, there are lots of ways to get people to comply by using their ISP's, Facebook TOS, stuff like that. None of the web sites tolerate copyright theft, if it's brought to their attention. Horse Show kids I usually provide a small well watermarked file included with their print, or I tag them on the small res photos on FB, if they've purchased from me. And I've been known to tattle tale to their parents as well with a thorough explanation (boiler plate on my computer by now).

Bottom line I don't see the point of getting into a fight about it right away. The files are small and presumably well watermarked, and it's not worth my mental upset.
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Re: Image theft

Postby Carien Schippers on Tue Apr 06, 2010 11:07 am

Mark, I certainly understand your frustration, and there is no excuse for people lifting images. However, if your image has PROOF marked across it then the sites that are posting the images also need to be approached and educated. There are lots of magazines and sites that request a photographer's release and will not post a photo that is clearly a proof.
So approach the problem from two directions: first educate your clients by letting them know it's NOT ok to use images that aren't paid for and also the sites that are publishing photos without the photographers permission.
When you post your images online make your watermark obvious with your copyright as well as some text that says "proof only, no copying or downloading for any reason" then when you see those photos out there you can follow up, and make sure your metadata with copyright is also embedded in the images. Make it clear on your site what the penalty will be, have a click through with a statement that they need to agree to before they can access the galleries. Make your galleries password protected and put a time limit on them. And finally do not post photos of anyone that has ever lifted a photo wihout payment.
For me not posting on line is just not an option. I personally think the whole bounty idea is a bad one, the horse world is small and we are service providers, turning people against each other won't do anything to grow your business and make people want to use you again. My opinion of course :wink:
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Re: Image theft

Postby Kara Hite on Tue Apr 06, 2010 4:26 pm

I'm glad you posted this subject as I've been contemplating posting something too. This subject is very near and dear to my heart...or shall I say annoys me to no end. I've spent the last few weeks scanning facebook pages and finding numerous offenders. I feel like I have an open line in with Facebook Intellectual Property people now too.

I have changed the watermark on my archive site and we are working to change it our current posting site as well. Here's what I'm going to:
http://www.picsofyouarchive.com/VAHA-District-IV-Collection/palmeri/11707892_8tvFt#826361346_sKRuP
© Pics Of You. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction Prohibited. If you see this image on a site other than Pics Of You, the image has been stolen. E-mail info@picsofyou.com to report.
I will say that this watermark needs to be even more readable than it is currently, but it's a start.

As noted above, the lifters are generally teenagers...although in a few cases, the parents of these individuals also have watermarked proofs all over their site. I sent a note to one individual on facebook and asked that the pictures be removed immediately as they were not paid for. The teen had the nerve to post "if you think this is going to stop it, think again." Yes, I know she's right, nothing will stop it, but she made me really mad when she didn't even apologize. And to top it all off, in the comments she told others how to do it. If they don't use a screen shot, then they'll just use their smart phone to take a picture. I've found that as technology and the youth generation takes over, there is a move towards "good enough" quality and that's why they settle for the sub-par quality of their screen captured images complete with watermarks. Or how about when they post a picture and say in the comments, "sorry, couldn't get rid of the watermark, but you can see how pretty my horse is."

The best thing to do is make sure other photographers are aware that their photos have been lifted. I've been in contact with Don Stine, Rob Hess, and Jeff Janson this week to notify them of infringement and they have followed up to have the images removed. Right now I'm just filling out the Facebook form to have the images removed, but I have considered invoicing them as well.

I know I would greatly appreciate if other individuals notified me when they see the watermark image so that we can follow up.

I do know that Facebook can and will suspend users, but I'm not sure how many photo thefts have to be reported first for that to occur to an individual. I'm checking into that now.

-Kara
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Re: Image theft

Postby Shirley McQuillan on Tue Apr 06, 2010 8:49 pm

I'm curious about how people find their stolen images. do you have to scan each site individually? Sounds like a lot of work for little reward. Soinds like someone needs to invent a way for photos to be tracked...

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Re: Image theft

Postby Barb Young on Tue Apr 06, 2010 10:09 pm

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Re: Image theft

Postby Sandman596 on Wed Apr 07, 2010 11:57 am

I would say we are all at different levels of frustration, and our response will vary according to that. The level of frustration I am at is that I am just about ready to quit, not just because of this, but several other factors including a huge drop in sales due to this economy. But this theft is the straw that is breaking the camels back.

They do not feel the images are worth purchasing, but, they are worth stealing. If that where to happen to any other merchant and they caught that person, they would be arrested and charged with shoplifting or worse. And this a federal crime.

I caught another person with over 40 images on there personal and business website. Here is what I have done, I tried to educate them and this is how it went.

I contacted the barn owner, and the barn manager that my images were on. The barn manager is the one that was stealing the images that were of herself and students from that barn and putting them on the barn's website. I got both owner and manager on the phone and tried to explain why it is wrong for them to do this. They just didn't get it. They thought they did nothing wrong. I then explained the penalties for what they did. They then dared me to do something and have no intention of taking them down. I did not lose my cool until the owner said "just try to do something about and you will be out of business."

So that drove me to do something. I contacted an attorney. He is now writing them a letter and telling them the amount we will settle for now and what the costs and penalties could be if they force us to take them to court. He will push for the maximum of course.

He explained to me that because I do register my images, I am going to be able to collect punitive damages and there could be jail time as well. Do you think that will get there attention? He even joked that I may own a barn in Kentucky by the time this is done.

The more I think about it the more angry I become.

My feeling is that we all really need to put forth a united front on this, file charges against the thieves, and let word of mouth do the rest.

Shirley McQuillan wrote:I'm curious about how people find their stolen images. do you have to scan each site individually? Sounds like a lot of work for little reward.


The little reward is not so little when you understand your rights and act to enforce them.

I learned so much just talking to the attorney. He did say that if you are not registering your images, you might as well not even call an attorney. They will not make much on the case and will not take it. But once your images are registered, you have your rights engaged and that the accused is all but sunk, and the attorney will take your case because he will make money too.

The thief has to prove they had the right to use the image. They are guilty until they prove they are innocent. If the offender is a minor, the parent is then responsible. So the parents are on the hook as well. Also, "I didn't know" is not a defense.

I would like to know how many of you are registering your images? If not, why not? If you are not, then you can whine all you want, but it will not change anything. And if you do eventually register your images, you need to have the guts to follow through and prosecute the offenders. Then all the work you do will only then be worth it. Why even bother to put a watermark or anything else to stop them if you are not going to go after them?

The more folks I catch that are stealing my images, the more I too am realizing that they are not my customers. I do not recognize them because they never did purchase anything. So how am I to expect that if I let them go this time, only after spending time and effort to find them, that they will become good customers in the future. Especially if I am thinking of not staying in the business.

The more I think about it as I type, I am talking myself into wholeheartedly going after every offender, especially now that I know my rights. It could be a huge revenue stream.

Not sure how all the rest of you are fairing, but every photographer from every discipline, equine or not, is telling me sales are way off and they are finding theft way up. This may be a way to recoup the loss in revenue plus some.

OK, I will sit and stew and hopefully calm down a little prior to making any other moves, but, again this subject is getting to me more than I ever dreamed.

Thanks for listening and for the suggestions, most of which I already use (why I never addressed them) and still aren't working.

Mark

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Re: Image theft

Postby Sharon Packer on Wed Apr 07, 2010 9:53 pm

I realize this is a guest forum, but I really didn't expect to see it on FB. FB doesn't concern me as much as other types of image theft. I see my website images clearly marked with my huge watermark on the business website of trainers and people who should know better.
Last edited by Sharon Packer on Sat Apr 10, 2010 8:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Image theft

Postby Sandman596 on Thu Apr 08, 2010 9:59 am

I just was sent a thief by my first "bounty hunter." This one is a serial thief. She has 98 of my images on FB. She has probably over 600 images on FB. Besides mine, she has at least 5 other photographers, only one can I ID because their name is watermarked on them. The rest have "PROOF". Whoo hoo

Almost every one of the images I can be sure she stolen.

Again, I know this girl, she never bought a thing.

At what point do you say enough?

Mark

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Re: Image theft

Postby Sharon Packer on Thu Apr 08, 2010 11:21 am

You have the option of having the offender removed from Face Book. As Carien said, the horse community is small and riders talk. How much actual loss is there is a FB photo? I think you have to weigh that against giving yourself a bad reputation. If you have riders spying on other riders and allow yourself to become obsessed with FB photo theft, you may end up with riders not wanting to work with you. There are more positive ways of handling this issue. You can educate up front and you can kindly deal with people who post. You can then have people who post removed from FB if they will not cooperate. I've seen two other photographers get so obsessed with finding FB thieves that they have neglected the positive side of their business. I'm thinking it might be good to weigh the value of the those 600 pixels on the long side @ 72 ppi pixs against your time and energy.
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Re: Image theft

Postby Carien Schippers on Thu Apr 08, 2010 10:40 pm

Mark,
I know a lot of our members are dropping show photography due to decreasing sales. It seems like everyone has a digital camera these days, and photogs are just not seeing the returns they need to stay in business. I think the image theft issue is only a small part of the equation. I do about 5-6 events a year and am satisfied with the return, but I have a well established client base and a lot of repeat customers. I sell a lot of digital files and this has increased my profit margin. People want the digital files and I believe most people respect our need to make a living and they want to do the right thing. You can either dwell on the people that are ripping you off or concentrate on the people that want to give you money. If you dwell on the people that are ripping you off then you will be neglecting and alienating those that want to buy your products and services.

I don't know anything about you other than what you have posted here but I don't think it's a good idea to only be doing event photography, just as I don't think it is a good idea to only shoot stock, or editorial or assignment or farm calls. But I think if you have a good business plan in place that offers a combination of all these and can provide quality service and outstanding images then start phasing out the events where you feel like you are being ripped off and concentrate on the areas where you feel your clients truly value you and are willing to pay. If you honestly feel like that is not possible then it is time to re evaluate and come up with a new plan. Life is too short. Best of luck to you and I hope you found this helpful!
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Re: Image theft

Postby Jill Monroe on Thu Apr 08, 2010 11:39 pm

What do I do about someone who purchased 4x6 prints from me, scanned them and then used them on their website to adverise the horses in the photos for sale. This customer did buy from me, but didn't ask any permission to use my photos. I didn't make a lot of money for the event that the photos are from. I don't have a lot of experience; this is the first show that I was the show photographer for, so maybe the customer thinks that because I am new that they can use my photos to help me get some exposure, I don't know. I wanted to make sure from you that this is still a copyright violation even though the prints were purchased.

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Re: Image theft

Postby Carien Schippers on Fri Apr 09, 2010 1:15 pm

What do I do about someone who purchased 4x6 prints from me, scanned them and then used them on their website to adverise the horses in the photos for sale. This customer did buy from me, but didn't ask any permission to use my photos. I didn't make a lot of money for the event that the photos are from. I don't have a lot of experience; this is the first show that I was the show photographer for, so maybe the customer thinks that because I am new that they can use my photos to help me get some exposure, I don't know. I wanted to make sure from you that this is still a copyright violation even though the prints were purchased.


If you have clearly stated do not scan or copy on your photos then you need to follow up and tell them they should not be copying your work and you can provide the digital file for an additional fee. Many people have the mistaken idea that if they purchase a photo then they have all rights to do whatever they please with that image, you need to make sure that your paperwork makes clear exactly what rights they have when they purchase a print. Some photogs are bundling a digital file with the sale of a 5x7 or 8x10, this might be something you can offer to your show clients.
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Re: Image theft

Postby Leslie Potter on Fri Apr 09, 2010 5:41 pm

Since people don't care about watermarks, I'm wondering if the best solution is to forgo the fancy proof posting and go (relatively) old school, like this:

http://www.stanphaneufphotography.com/i ... 001-57.jpg

I am sure that there are still people who will screen capture these tiny images, post them to facebook and be satisfied with that. But they're tiny even by facebook standards, and without being cropped at all, I have to believe this would deter some people.

I do like the idea of bundling a low-res .jpg in with the purchase of a print, or a separate, low-cost, small .jpg. For those of you who are currently offering that, is it a popular option with your customers?
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Re: Image theft

Postby Diana Duffy on Fri Apr 09, 2010 8:24 pm

jill2285 wrote:I don't have a lot of experience; this is the first show that I was the show photographer for, so maybe the customer thinks that because I am new that they can use my photos to help me get some exposure, I don't know.


Highly unlikely. When people do that, they're only thinking of what they want. A very brief customer a few years ago bought three 4x6s from a dressage show, then proceeded to bombard me with website usage requests and sending to friends requests, ad infinitum, ad nauseum. When I told her website usage was quite different from personal use and would require an extra charge and licensing agreement, she became quite indignant and snide, and couldn't understand why she couldn't use "her" pictures any way she wanted, or what this copyright thing was. Fast forward: I did a Dogpile search on her, came to find out that: a) she was a published author; and b) she was a paralegal. You will never convince me she didn't understand copyright or didn't know what she was asking. Just a very selfish, spoiled, greedy woman, who quickly became an un-client after trying to bully me.
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