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Is Photo Theft A Big Deal?

Is photo theft a big deal to you? Almost every photographer I know has had some photo or another stolen and used without permission. Those who haven’t had anything stolen almost seem jealous that their work isn’t good enough to steal.

The Latest Thief

Is Photo Theft A Big Deal?

A friend alerted me to a post that Bob Krist shared on Facebook.  Yet another site scavenged the Internet for photos and hosted them as free giveaways. The site is theimages.biz and it seems to be a click-bait scheme to have you click on one of their many advertisements. Even the search bar seems to launch ads.

My first reaction when John Francis told me that my images were among those taken was “Good.  I get to sue their ass.”

That’s because I had the initial assumption that this was a commercial infringement. I absolutely LOVE the idea of a commercial infringement. That’s because I register my photos with the US Copyright Office, which gives me the right to sue their ass in federal court.

Going through a copyright lawsuit is a tremendous pain, but it’s also a payday. You have up-front costs, even if your attorney represents you at no cost until the end. You pay the filing fees, court costs and anything other than the fee for the attorney’s time. There’s no such thing as a free lawsuit.

However, trying to sue the owners of this web site would be a fruitless endeavor.

When Is Photo Theft A Big Deal?

This site isn’t selling my images, nor is it selling a commercial product using my images. That’s my current line in the sand for determining whether something is worth pursuing as a copyright infringement lawsuit.

The photos of mine that I discovered on this site are all covered by a valid copyright registration, and they’re used without my permission. If I tried to sue everyone who met that criteria, I’d spend all of my time running down prospects who likely aren’t even aware that they’re doing something wrong.

This site is clearly ripping off everyone. The sheer magnitude of stolen images is stunning. However, they’re using those images as click-bait to make money from advertisements.

Another problem is that the site appears to be a foreign operation. One of the comments I read mentioned the site was in Panama. While the USA and Panama share an agreement on intellectual property, it would be an uphill battle to file suit. It’s enough of a pain to sue a US infringer. Trying to sue a click-bait blogger in Panama just isn’t worth my time or initial investment.

I get the outrage about the site’s theft of images on such a grand scale. On the other hand, I can’t cry every time someone makes an unauthorized use of my image.  It’s something that I’ve simply learned to accept.

As a reminder, there are people who do things the right way. I had a surprising request to use one of my portraits for an adult web site. The person was very kind, up front, and made an inquiry rather than taking the image. We didn’t do business, though. The model in the photo he selected was only 16 at the time.  Once I shared that information, he understood and that was the end of the matter.

However, let that be a reminder to models who sign releases. I wouldn’t have released the image of her (in a bikini) without her consent, but another person may have had a different view with a valid model release in hand.

The Good News

The good news is that the whole world isn’t out to get you. Most businesses seem to understand and respect intellectual property rights. They don’t want to get into a lawsuit or have the bad press that may go with it. So when some site like theimages.biz comes along, remember that they are the exception, not the standard.

About William

Author, Photographer and IT Manager. I have a fondness for chocolate. I also own Suburbia Press and Aperture vs Lightroom. Follow me on Twitter at @wbeem.

Comments

  1. What you have encountered sounds like a “scraper site.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scraper_site Be careful even going to them, they are often infected. If you search the whois type info you can find out who hosts the scraper and send a DMCA takedown to the host. Scrapers are nefarious and sleazy but probably not a huge copyright risk, which is why many artists ignore them. They tend to jump from host to host, too, either to hide or from being booted off when the host found out what they were doing. Like whack a mole.

  2. William,
    The site is no longer showing images and is now a complete redirect site.
    CS is right. A DMCA takedown notice to the host is the quickest way to just get it taken down.
    Here’s a sample:
    http://www.ipwatchdog.com/2009/07/06/sample-dmca-take-down-letter/id=4501/

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