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Author Topic: Image theft, copyright infringement and the like...  (Read 4964 times)

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« on: May 06, 2009, 19:02 »
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Enough is enough.

After spending weeks hunting down contributors, webmasters, web hosts and companies who distribute some of my images like free candy, I think it's time to unify the force of all people who are affected.

Everyday I sit down and research one of my images I find a MINIMUM of 5 web sites, individuals or companies who rip me off.

It's a lot (and I mean A LOT) of work to gather all necessary information before you can pursue image theft or copyright infringement and often times I come across sites that have lots of images from other fellow contributors. All I did was report them to Shutterstock because I really can't contact every single contributor - also given the fact that I have to look through their portfolios to make sure that I'm not writing to the wrong person.

I managed to temporarily shut down a few sites just because of my images but I know for sure once they remove my images and go back online that lots of your stuff will be out there - again!

I know I can't stop it from happening!

But if everyone of us invests 30 minutes a week doing some quick research we will make a huge impact. We won't get rid of it. But it will slow it down a lot!

Here are a few ideas for you to start researching your own images:

1. Use Tineye - I found aaaaaaaaaaa looooooooot of sites infringing copyright or offering my files for free download!!!! http://tineye.com/

2. Use Google or Yahoo image search. This is tedious as hell but I also found a lot of sites who ripped me off.

3. Google for rapidshare, megaupload, depositfiles, netload (AND MORE of such) portals. Use Meta-Search engines that crawl as many file sharing sites as possible. Search for simple terms "Shutterstock" or "Istock" - it will blow your mind.

4. Check out wallpaper sites or web sites with free images

If anyone has more ideas or tips and tricks please post so we can work as efficient as possible. It is affecting many of us - especially the ones who have been doing this for 3 to 5 years with big portfolios.



« Reply #1 on: May 06, 2009, 20:34 »
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Welcome to the Internet.  If it's there, someone will try to use it, abuse of it, misuse it, take over it.   ;D

« Reply #2 on: May 07, 2009, 18:08 »
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I understand that everyone is searching for their images now instead of posting here...  ;)

I will take the liberty to post URLs of web sites that have stolen images and offer them for free download.

http://www.zastavki.com/eng/

Feel free to add sites.

Milinz

« Reply #3 on: May 08, 2009, 06:31 »
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Is this one in your list too?

http://www.zcool.com.cn/

« Reply #4 on: May 08, 2009, 07:10 »
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There are really tons of websites like this. Is it really enough to write only to the agency from where are images taken?

« Reply #5 on: May 08, 2009, 07:39 »
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There are really tons of websites like this. Is it really enough to write only to the agency from where are images taken?

If the source of the images is on that web site please do contact the agency and give them the link.

If you find one of your images there, write to the web host for copyright infringement. Like I said before when you as the copyright holder write to the web host they will remove the site (most of the time temporarily) so you pretty much "just" scare the webmaster for a bit. If you "only" write to the webmaster they just remove the image and keep doing what they are doing (which is what they shouldn't be doing...).

Once the complaints to the web host reach a certain level the web host will ban the user. It's most likely not going to stop the user but it creates a lot of work for them to migrate/re-upload their site and get a new domain/DNS update. Those things always create headaches even if you want it to do yourself...  ;D

« Reply #6 on: May 08, 2009, 07:43 »
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Use this link to do a WHOIS search.

Type in the name of the URL like microstoft.com and it will tell you who the registrar is and the name servers of the web host.

http://www.networksolutions.com/whois/index.jsp

Then use this template and replace the name with yours etc. to write to the web host:

[Registrar/Registrant/Agent Name]
[Registrar/Registrant/Agent Address]To Whom It May Concern:This letter serves as a formal Notice of Infringement as authorized in 512(c) of the U.S. Copyright Law. I wish to report an instance of what I believe is an apparent illustration of Copyright Infringement. The infringing material in question appears on the Service for which you are the designated agent, registrar, or registrant.

1. The original material, published by me and found to be posted in an unauthorized manner, is the following:
Blog Post titled [Post Title];
Published by [Author's Full Name] (you also may indicate any pen name that you use on the blog for further verification purposes);
Published on [Original Publish Date];
Located at [Full URL of the Specific Article - must be complete]

2. The unauthorized material appears at the following URL:
[Full URL of the specific post/article/page containing the infringing content] on the domain [Full URL of the primary domain]

3. My contact information is as follows:
[Full Name]
[Street Address]
[City], [State] [Zip Code]
[Telephone Number]
[E-mail Address]

4. I believe, in good faith, that the use of the identified material, which appears on the aforementioned, offending web site, is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or in accordance with copyright law.

5. I swear that all of the information contained in this notification is accurate and true. As such, I declare that I am the copyright owner of the aforementioned material or an authorized party so designated to act on the behalf of said copyright owner.
Please advise me, as soon as possible, as to the action (if any) that will be taken, within what time frame, and to what extent said action may be taken. I appreciate your audience and cooperation in this matter.

[Your Valid Signature]
[Your Full Name]




« Reply #7 on: May 08, 2009, 08:10 »
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Thank you! Can you provide us with some tool that supports .ru domains?

« Reply #8 on: May 08, 2009, 08:43 »
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Thank you! Can you provide us with some tool that supports .ru domains?


Google spit out these results:

http://www.nic.ru/whois/
or
http://www.ripn.net/nic/whois/en/index.html

If it's not working just do a search on Google for: "Whois ru"

Old Hippy

    This user is banned.
« Reply #9 on: May 26, 2009, 12:16 »
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ridicolous.

as long as your images are worth 0.25 $ each, what else did you guys expected ?

they steal exactly because they know no one in his mind would sue them for a quarter
dollar damage.

on the other side, if you were covered by macro agencies like Getty or Corbis
we're talking of pictures easily sold for 500$ each.

last year Getty sued hundreds of guys using un-licenced Getty images and always won,
we're talking of fines around 5000$ per image.

with micros you're simply screwed, you've no chance whatsover that iStock starts
suing somebody for micro images worth less than a dollar.

« Reply #10 on: May 26, 2009, 12:47 »
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ridicolous.

as long as your images are worth 0.25 $ each, what else did you guys expected ?

they steal exactly because they know no one in his mind would sue them for a quarter
dollar damage.

on the other side, if you were covered by macro agencies like Getty or Corbis
we're talking of pictures easily sold for 500$ each.

last year Getty sued hundreds of guys using un-licenced Getty images and always won,
we're talking of fines around 5000$ per image.

with micros you're simply screwed, you've no chance whatsover that iStock starts
suing somebody for micro images worth less than a dollar.

Just because images are being sold through Microstock doesn't mean one can not claim lost damages.

With registered copyright and a lawyer in your pocket you can squeeze some $$$ out the person who broke the licensing terms.

Of course, it is "ridiculous" to pursue lost licensing fees... That was never the point.

Old Hippy

    This user is banned.
« Reply #11 on: May 26, 2009, 14:08 »
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maybe you're right but so far i haven't heard of a single case where the micro
guy manages to get his money back from leechers, spammers, and resellers.

all the micros can do is barely shutting down some offending web sites
and rant on photo forums about stolen images, as if selling their images for 0.25$
isn't quite like giving them our for free in the first place...

don't you realize once your pics are RF you almost ZERO rights nor protections
in cases like this ?


« Reply #12 on: May 26, 2009, 14:21 »
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maybe you're right but so far i haven't heard of a single case where the micro
guy manages to get his money back from leechers, spammers, and resellers.

all the micros can do is barely shutting down some offending web sites
and rant on photo forums about stolen images, as if selling their images for 0.25$
isn't quite like giving them our for free in the first place...

don't you realize once your pics are RF you almost ZERO rights nor protections
in cases like this ?

The majority of the sites that infringed my copyright were shut down by the respective web hosting companies within a matter of days or hours. Blatant copyright infringement is easy to trace and the web hosting companies don't have sympathy with such clients abusing their terms and conditions.

I spoke to a photographer who successfully claimed and received damages of people selling his prints. So, there are cases where this happens. Just because you haven't heard of it, doesn't mean it doesn't exist... Feel free to PM me and I can hook you up to verify my statement.

Furthermore I don't think that it's on any photographer's to-do list to post such issues on public forums in the first place - so it is harder to "hear" about it.

Just because an image is RF doesn't mean that your copyright is worth any less. In any serious case where copyright infringement has been committed it is important to realize that lost licensing fees and claims of lost damages are two different things. While you might get another $5000 more out of the lawsuit because the image should have been RM licensed for that price doesn't mean that an RF image that was illegally used on a nationwide commercial can still put up to $150.000 into your pocket - how cares about $5000 more or less then???

Old Hippy

    This user is banned.
« Reply #13 on: May 26, 2009, 14:26 »
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one thing is if the thief is making money from selling prints,
but for anything else when the judge will ask you what's your image worth
in the market the answer will be .. 0.25$, sir !


« Reply #14 on: May 26, 2009, 14:45 »
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Or 100dl:s every day for the rest of my life.  Then my kids take over, Then their kids and so on.  about  200000$ thank you.

« Reply #15 on: May 26, 2009, 14:48 »
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I have to partially agree with Old Hippy that in most circumstances the infractor only has to remove the image or buy a license.  I don't see a microstock site chasing rights in court in a foreign country, at least not a country where they don't have offices.  It's even less likely that any of us can do it.  There is a site in UK using a watermarked image from Lucky Oliver, I wrote them, they ignored me.  I can write their host, but that will only mean a problem for him, I'll get no compensation for his infringement.  

I have to say however that I don't have the slighest idea of how far Getty or Corbis would go either.  Would they sue a infractor in China?  

« Reply #16 on: May 26, 2009, 16:01 »
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I have to partially agree with Old Hippy that in most circumstances the infractor only has to remove the image or buy a license...

Madelaide, wouldn't that be just fair? I'm not saying that an ebay seller who uses one of my images as a background for his auctions should  be sued for millions  :-X

Of course, it has to be proven that he/she didn't purchase a license to claim copyright infringement. In one of my cases the culprit simply removed the image and apologized. If he/she would have agreed to purchase a license from me I would have sold him/her one. Either way it's alright. At least the image is not being used illegally. That's what matters.

Quote
I don't see a microstock site chasing rights in court in a foreign country, at least not a country where they don't have offices.  It's even less likely that any of us can do it.

Shutterstock is eagerly pursuing illegal uploads of their images. I wouldn't be surprised if they have sued people over that in the past. Again, just because we don't hear about it, doesn't mean it's not happening...

Quote
 There is a site in UK using a watermarked image from Lucky Oliver, I wrote them, they ignored me.  I can write their host, but that will only mean a problem for him, I'll get no compensation for his infringement.

WOW - so you are allowing infringement of your own copyright because "their host will give them a problem"???????????????
I would think about that again... "They" violated the terms and conditions of the web hosting company. They infringed your copyright. They didn't pay you a license fee. They misrepresent the image's copyright... I'm speechless.  :-X

Quote
I have to say however that I don't have the slighest idea of how far Getty or Corbis would go either.  Would they sue a infractor in China?  

Getty and Corbis, especially Getty has been violently harrassing companies over unlicensed content. It's something they have to do. There are statistics about how much money is lost through unlicensed imagery - it's quite a sum. It's profitable for them to do so. Sometimes however, they don't reach the right people. In some instances they sued the web site owner although the site was designed by an advertising company and never told the owner of the web site that they should have paid for the image in the first place... Really messed up stuff.

If the violation is "bad" enough they will hunt you down deep into the forests - even China.


Old Hippy

    This user is banned.
« Reply #17 on: May 26, 2009, 16:17 »
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if i'm not wrong TemplateMonster paid 10 million $ in damages to Getty for using unlicensed images in templates and we're talking of thumbnails, not hi-res pictures !

« Reply #18 on: May 26, 2009, 18:19 »
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Quote
Madelaide, wouldn't that be just fair?

If I steal your car, use it, then the next day you find me with it, and I simply return it to you, would it be ok?  I'm not saying we should try to take millions of dollars from an infractor, but simply buying the image as he should before is no punishment.  But let's say that instead of paying US$10 he would have to pay US$100, that would be a lesson.  But no lawyer (as possibly no stock site) would go after that.

Quote
WOW - so you are allowing infringement of your own copyright because "their host will give them a problem"

I emailed them, but since LO was already out of business, I had nothing to enforce my position.  I didn't think of the host before, only recently from some threads here.  I am considering writing DT, as Achilles once said that they go after infractors if they have that image, even if it was not taken from them.

Quote
If the violation is "bad" enough they will hunt you down deep into the forests - even China.

This is the right assertion in hippie's post: only the macrostock will do that, because they can claim high money.  As far as I know, penalties are proportional to the loss.  If the price was US$1, the penalty is one; if US$1,000, is way much higher.  I believe this may vary between countries.  SS may claim a lot if the infractor was selling CDs, but again, I am not sure they would sue someone in Greece or Namibia or Taiwan.

« Reply #19 on: May 26, 2009, 18:51 »
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OK I'm confused... again. First you say:

There is a site in UK using a watermarked image from Lucky Oliver, I wrote them, they ignored me.  I can write their host, but that will only mean a problem for him, I'll get no compensation for his infringement.

This sounded to me like you tolerate the culprit's behavior. You wrote "I can write... BUT... will mean a problem for him..."
This sounds to me like you don't want the culprit to feel any consequences at all. Maybe my English is way off here. Please help me out.

Then you compare my statement about either having an infringing image being removed or sell a license in order to get proper (regular) compensation with this:


Quote
If I steal your car, use it, then the next day you find me with it, and I simply return it to you, would it be ok?

Now since you mention:

Quote
But let's say that instead of paying US$10 he would have to pay US$100, that would be a lesson.  But no lawyer (as possibly no stock site) would go after that.

It really makes no sense to me why you wouldn't report the "bad" guy to the web host. At least this way he will feel consequences or as you call it "problems". Don't forget that he brought these "problems" on to himself. It's absolutely his fault and will have to face the consequences for his wrong doings. To me this is a clear case. Please explain to me if I'm wrong on this...

And why would you have DT contact that guy if it is YOUR copyright that has been infringed???

It's up to you. It would certainly be a nice move if DT steps in for you (and LO) and complains about the situation. However, legally DT has the least possible leverage over that since the image carries a LO watermark. Your copyright has been infringed, YOU make the claim to the web host. YOU can prove that you are the copyright owner.

Furthermore if this is the only violation of that bad guy he will get a warning from the web host and that's it. They most likely are not "giving him serious problems".

This is how I would handle it. Honestly, I couldn't sleep anymore if I knew that those people are using my image without a license. I'm well aware that there are plenty of places out there doing without me knowing BUT as soon as I do know the fun is over for them.

I lost a bunch of royalties because someone uploaded one of my best sellers in Hi-Res onto their web site and Google indexed the Hi-Res image. For almost 2 yearsI didn't notice that but wondered why my sales for that image dropped. After giving these people "a problem" the image has been removed and my sales are kicking in again. Just my experience.

Quote
If the price was US$1, the penalty is one; if US$1,000, is way much higher.  I believe this may vary between countries. 
I don't believe this is correct. If IBM uses one of your images that they are going to use to re-brand their company (for years to come) and infringe your copyrights you will be entitled to more than $1. You won't have a problem getting a lawyer as well as some nice sum to retire.
I think it's a misconception that just because the image can be purchased for $1 it's worth $1.

Would you sell your copyright to me for $1 per image? Think about it...

« Reply #20 on: May 26, 2009, 19:04 »
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This sounded to me like you tolerate the culprit's behavior.

Maybe it's my English.  I meant that the only thing I would get from the host is having the website removed, or maybe not even that - just the image/page removed.  I think this is a very small punishment.  One thing is if the person does it without knowing that what he is doing is wrong - and quite frankly the term "royalty free" may be misleading - but as he insists in keeping the image after being warned, I think he deserves more.

As I understand, DT may act in our defense, at least this is what Achilles said, because it's of their interest.  Maybe the idea is that the guy above will think different once there is a business coming after him, and not a person from the other hemisphere.

« Reply #21 on: May 26, 2009, 19:41 »
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Maybe it's my English.  I meant that the only thing I would get from the host is having the website removed, or maybe not even that - just the image/page removed.  I think this is a very small punishment.  One thing is if the person does it without knowing that what he is doing is wrong - and quite frankly the term "royalty free" may be misleading - but as he insists in keeping the image after being warned, I think he deserves more.

As I understand, DT may act in our defense, at least this is what Achilles said, because it's of their interest.  Maybe the idea is that the guy above will think different once there is a business coming after him, and not a person from the other hemisphere.

OK now we're on the same page!

Well I see it this way: If I can't dome after him legally (lawyer too expensive/not willing to work on contingency...) then I'd rather report him to the web host. The web host will give the culprit/suspect the benefit of the doubt asking for a license or a counter claim. If the user fails to produce a license it's up to the web host to decide whether they kick him off completely or just issue a warning.

From my experience the people who have the image on their web site usually (very often) use other images that are also stolen. If you can identify the copyright holder of one of the other images and contact him/her so that they can also complain to the web host, the culprit will be in bigger trouble. But still you pretty much worded that right - it will remain just a "problem" for him since the worst case scenario is that they move to a new web host and then start from scratch. If they do their homework they can have their new site online within hours.

BUT

at the cost of a new hosting package  ;D

I know it's little satisfaction but you can make them jump through hoops and spend some money on the way. It's just fun to give them a bit of a "problem"  ;)
They might get the hint.

I will meet with a lawyer and go through more serious scenarios in order to find procedures so I will be able to make valid monetary claims. I'm really sick of it.

If they don't react when you write them, I doubt they will react when DT writes them. If they do - good for you but if not, just go with the web host. That's usually faster and more effective.




Old Hippy

    This user is banned.
« Reply #22 on: May 27, 2009, 03:12 »
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try sueing some guy in russia or china or india and see if you can get some money back...
good luck.

« Reply #23 on: May 27, 2009, 03:25 »
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try sueing some guy in russia or china or india and see if you can get some money back...
good luck.

Can you point me to a few reports showing that Getty or Corbis has done so successfully?

Microstock InsiderPhotoDune

 

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