If you’ve ever had your stuff stolen before, whether it’s something cheap or valuable, I’m sure the feeling you’ve had upon finding out is one of annoyance, disgust and violation.
In the real world, stealing involves some savvy. On the Internet, it’s as simple as right-clicking and saving.
I’m not a professional photographer so I don’t earn a great deal of money from the stuff I take. But I do have some of my pictures online which inevitably, will be used without my permission one day, as it happened to David Hobby of Strobist (here and here).
So, what are we to do about it?
Write a nice note
If you see your stuff on a website, write the webmaster an email. Perhaps he hadn’t realised that the image was used without permission? If your image was stolen intentionally then you’re probably out of luck… you’re not gonna get a reply.
Notify Google and the hosting ISP
If things need to get a little nasty, let Google know of the infringement in accordance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. And while you’re at it, let the hosting ISP know too.
Tweet about it
Not really a proper solution, but it may work for you. You may just get enough support that there is a public backlash toward the offender. But photography being the niche that it is, your tweet may probably end up as just another rant in a sea of rants (unless you’re someone, like Joe McNally or Louis Pang).
So you’ve explored all other avenues and still no luck… but I’m pretty sure this is the last resort. Unless you’re genuinely being deprived of some income due to the use of the image, lawyers are costly and definitely time consuming.
At the end of the day, is it even really worth your while?
Maybe… it’s a judgement call you have to make. Is the offending site drawing alot of traffic because of your work? Can it even be proven? There are lots of factors to consider.
Maybe all that’s needed is a deterrent?
CSS-Tricks has some really nifty ideas on how to deter image theft. Of course, you can’t really deter the thief who is really intent on stealing your work (all it takes is a print-screen). But you can make it as difficult (since print-screens mean cropping) for the thief as possible!
CSS-Tricks lists the following:
- Image redirecting – Useful for when they don’t bother to save the image and prefer to hotlink. Only requires modifying the .htaccess file once.
- Add a copyright then crop it – Requires some fiddling about with the CSS and / or HTML.
- Use a CSS background – Probably one of the tougher ones to circumvent since right clicking on CSS backgrounds don’t work (unless the thief runs webdev browser plugins).
I’ve not implemented any of these yet, but I like the first and second options if I ever have to put up a deterrent. Other ways like watermarking aren’t really effective. These days, Photoshop’s clone tool is so user-friendly that a complete n00b can easily remove it.