Monday, November 17, 2014

Photo Piracy

Photographers need to be aware that there are people who will steal your photos off the internet.  I have caught several people lately and would like to share the experience with you so you can protect yourself.  None of these photos were used with my permission, and none gave me credit for the images.

First, who are these people, where do they get the photos, and how do they use them?

This photo was used on Facebook for an outdoor oriented radio station in Montana, posting a regular outdoor editorial feature.  It was taken from our personal web site.  Someone tipped me off about the misuse.

This photo was used as her own on by a photographer in India.  She got it from my posts on the same site where I posted a photo a day for two years.  I recognized photos from many other 365 photographers, and alerted them as well.

Three photos, including this one, were taken from this blog by a prominent former resident of the Bear Lake Valley and used in his own blog.  His written information was even similar to mine.

This one was used by a Salt Lake City law firm on their business web site.  It was taken from our personal web site.  They certainly should know better.

All of the above photos were removed upon request.  No one offered to pay for the images.  The next one is purely a scam.  There is no way to directly track down the people doing this.

This is another one taken from our personal web site and it was used on a commercial wallpaper web site with false contact information.  There are tips on the internet on how to get these people, but it is complicated.  I may give it a try.

How did I find these?  All of my photos have embedded key words that show up on image searches. I googled key words like “Bear Lake” and found my photos attributed to other web sites.  There are also web sites that can search by image content, like, but I have never found anything that way.

How can you protect yourself?  You can be sure that if you have photos on the internet, they can be stolen, and people won’t want to pay you.  It is common for photographers to take credit for someone else’s photos.  Many people simply think it is OK to use anything that is on the internet, but it isn’t OK.  It is illegal.  Other people know it is wrong and will try to use other people’s photos for profit.

First, embed copyright information and key words in the metadata in the photo.  Knowledgeable people can look at this and see who the owner is and that it is copyrighted.  One way to embed data is in Photoshop Elements, File > File Info > Description.

Second, put a visible copyright notice on the edge of the photo, such as © Ross Walker 2014.  It can be cropped off, but if it is, that is proof that there was intent to steal the photo.

Third, a semitransparent watermark can be placed across the image.  I choose not to do this because it degrades the quality of the photo too much for my taste.

Fourth, be vigilant.  Look for violations and contact people who are stealing your photos.  Let them know that what they are doing is wrong.  They are in violation of the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act).  It doesn’t hurt to ask for payment, but good luck collecting!

All images on this blog are copyrighted by Ross V. Walker, and can not be used for any purpose without permission.