DISCLAIMER: I AM NOT AN ATTORNEY. THIS IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE. THIS IS SIMPLY MY EXPERIENCE THAT I WANT TO SHARE WITH YOU IN HOPES THAT IT MIGHT HELP YOU IN THE FUTURE.
By now, if you have shared any images online, chances are someone else is using at least one of them for something without your permission. It’s just a sad, sad reality that copyright infringement is rampant all over the world. Someone stole my pictures online too. Actually, it happens all the time.
The image above is a screen shot of just one of 100’s of disgusting people stealing my content. This website has three other websites that look just like it. All of them stealing blog posts of mine within 30 minutes of my posting the article. They are stealing all my images AND my text, even though I have a plugin that stops people from right clicking images, and copying my text.
I’m not going to link to the sites because this person makes money every time someone hits this page, so I’m just showing you screen shots, but you can see the URL for yourself. This is also an experiment to see if they automated this – how funny would it be if they posted this article about them stealing my blog posts on their “news” site? We’ll find out.
UPDATE: The sites I mentioned above are definitely not automated. This is my first post in a while that they didn’t steal because it was all about them.
Below is an example of a seed company using one of my images to sell a packet of seeds. I personally think this one is extra fraudulent because the tomatoes in my image WERE NOT GROWN FROM THEIR SEEDS! So anyone buying these are led to believe that their tomatoes will look just like the ones in my image. Shall we say, “False Advertising” together now?
I can’t tell you who this company is at the moment because this is one of the companies I am going after right now to sue them for copyright infringement. They are located in the US, and they are using this for commercial purposes – makes for an excellent copyright lawsuit.
Anyway, you get the idea, there are 100’s more just like it.
HOW DO YOU FIND OUT IF YOUR PICTURES ARE STOLEN?
So how do I know when my work gets stolen? I use an image tracking service. There are now several just like this one. I’m using PIXSY. Their slogan, “Find And Fight Image Theft”. That pretty much sums it up.
Please know Pixsy is not paying me for this post, they are not endorsing me, and they have no idea that I am writing this post. I do use them to find the infringers, or shall we call them lecherous thieves?
Here is a screen shot of my stolen images section, called “Matches” :
Last Monday, I started with over 600 images that matched 🙁 Sadly, Russia is always the largest infringing country. There are websites showing my entire food photography portfolio as someone else’s work. They have about 50 of my images on these webpages.
Many of those images they have are older images of mine that aren’t registered with Pixsy. But the one or two images that I have with Pixsy, show up on these pages and I find all the others. So the real number of all my images being stolen is much higher.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
So, it’s pretty easy. You upload jpegs of all the images you want to keep track of for free. Pixsy keeps them in their database for you, and the automated system scans the web regularly to find the stolen content.
Once they find a “match”, you can look it up. They can now go after companies in many countries, so even if the the thief is not US based, you may still have a case.
After you look up the case and agree that this is indeed your image (sometimes they find images that are very similar to yours), you can open a case for free – but only if it is a company or business stealing your image. They won’t go after individuals stealing your images. It’s about commercial use. Is that infringer using your image for financial gain – like selling a product?
This is very important, there has to be a financial loss from you not being compensated for that company using your image. There’s a lot more to this. I just want to give you the basics of how this process works.
They will tell you if they can go after the infringer, or not. If they can, they take over the case for free. If they win, they take 50%.
If they can’t, you can get them to assist you in what’s called a DMCA takedown. I will cover this in my next post.
WHAT ARE YOUR OPTIONS IF YOUR PICTURE IS STOLEN?
1. Do nothing. It’s certainly the easiest and less heartache for sure.
2. Use a service like Pixsy to assist you in going after the company (it must be a business). If they win the case, you get 50% of what they win. I had a case they won this year. They got $500 for a very small image that was used on a website of a restaurant in the US on their home page. I got $250 from that. I did hardly any work. I just filed the case with them.
3. If you don’t want to use a service, you can try to approach the website yourself. Tell them they don’t have permission and to remove it. Pixsy suggests to NOT contact them, as it might make getting a financial settlement very difficult.
4. Try to do what’s called a DMCA Take Down (next post).
5. Hire a copyright attorney to go after the infringer. I’ve done this several times when it was a large company stealing my image – they all settled out of court, and I got thousands from the settlements. It must be a big company, or brand though for this to work out, or you could end up with a lot of legal fees to pay.
COPYRIGHT YOUR IMAGES FOR EXTRA PROTECTION
One thing that is very important, you must copyright your images, and copyright them within 90 days of taking the image, is the most ideal. It just saves a lot of headache later on if someone does steal your images, and they are a big company.
If it’s been more than 90 days, still copyright the images. It can help.
Again, I’m not an attorney. Just trying to give you some ideas to help you. Please speak to a copyright attorney in your area for more info.
Technically, the moment you take your picture, you own the copyright of that image. This is automatic upon image creation. However, it’s way easier to PROVE it’s your copyright when you register the images. That’s the main difference.
If you live in another country, simple google “how to register the copyright of my image in _________” Fill the blank with your country.
SCRAPER OR SPAMMER SITES THAT HOST IMAGES ILLEGALLY
I’m a huge advocate of artists protecting their work. I get very upset when I see websites stealing images. Many of the worst offenders are outside the US, creating sites by stealing content of others by taking images from google, pinterest, and from your websites directly. Then they give our images away for free claiming they are free stock images. They actually post the link directly to YOUR image on your website.
This means that YOUR website is now hosting the images for them. So you will see your bandwidth use go up as a result.
One of the worst ones is called PinsDaddy.com. Again, not linking to them so that google doesn’t use that to validate their site. This disgusting website has 1000’s of images of photographers, and illustrators that they have stolen, and they have about 30 of mine that I can find so far. I’m going to talk about this more in another post because it’s a different issue dealing with these types of sites.
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