Stealing Photos – Blogging Can Be Frustrating

No-Watermark

Yes, I wrestled with this subject since in the past few weeks I have been receiving requests to use my images in publications. This is not unusual since I do sell a number of them for various commercial and consumer use. Found on the net, they track me down. Coincidentally, the number of images swiped has decreased while the offer to purchase has increased. So what is the problem?

Having the new blog, Nature and Wildlife Pics where I post the better images of nature, I have not yet experienced the rampant thievery of images, but I did add the disclaimer on the sidebar noticing a few on the move.

As readers of the blog, you might not care that images are being stolen, but it can affect how and where you see them in the future. One blogger experiencing photo theft made their blog private, only being viewed by using a password. Needless to say, that is very inconvenient and they lost me as a reader.

HawkPrey-5

Seeing the legal notice on my sidebar, I am respectfully asked for use and what will be the fee by the more honest folks. Depending on the use and where it is to go, the cost varies. The requested images vary greatly from nature, to art, to landscape to gardens images.

HawkPrey-3

But this past two weeks has been different. The number of requests has surged for some reason. One of the people contacting me let me know they found my image while searching, but also found it on three other blogs, with no link to the image posted. It was also found a few other places as well, like Pinterest.

They offered to purchase it from GWGT, but without their insistence to find the artist, they could have easily bought it from the other blogs. Blatantly posting stolen images on other blogs really makes me want to hunt them down and make their lives miserable. No link to GWGT is the problem because they are then taking credit for or profiting from my work.

HawkPrey-1

I previously mentioned using a watermark is not always the best option since it can be easily removed. Many well-known, top-of-their-field photographers do not watermark images and I always followed their lead. They acknowledge they lose images but they also have a team of researchers scouring the net to find which companies and individuals they want to sue for reparation.

HawkPrey-2

It does not matter whether the watermark is above or below the subject, it can be cropped for removal. Across the subject is much more difficult for an amateur to remove without the proper software to do so, but is still easily accomplished for one in the know. Placing it across the subject is distraction at any size.

HawkPrey-4

So how do you feel about seeing good photography watermarked? Would you follow a blog that watermarks every image in a noticeable manner?

I have my metadata embedded in each image with my camera’s serial number and my company name. It is invisible to thieves and viewers, but clearly denotes ownership. Legal copyright is another option.

The shame of all this is that good photography by non professionals is not viewed in the same high regard or esteem as that found on a professional photography website. Blogs will never carry that reverence of perceived professionalism, hence the notion that photos on blogs are free for the taking.

Other images from this photo session were posted on GWGT, Photographing a Hawk in Nature with Prey. I think the hawk makes a strong visual connection to the subject of theft. It also could make a statement on stiff penalties too! 😀

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About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at: http://gardenwalkgardentalk.com
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83 Responses to Stealing Photos – Blogging Can Be Frustrating

  1. What a great shot! 🙂

  2. lucindalines says:

    It is so sad that so many people really don’t follow and frankly some don’t understand the fact that they are stealing when they take a photo from someone’s blog. I just don’t get why it is so hard to see that stealing someone’s work (photos, writings, music, etc) is just as bad as taking furniture and tools and such from their homes. Hopefully you will find who has them, and good for you on all the requests for the sales.

  3. Beautiful, beautiful images!
    I don’t find watermarks distracting because I understand the need for them. Theft in any form should be prosecuted when at all possible. I recognize and appreciate the effort and expertise that go into obtaining images such as these and you should be compensated accordingly for their use.

  4. swo8 says:

    That can be very frustrating, Donna. I think you have to watermark one way or other. I have never sold any of my paintings but have had a couple stolen. They were on display and they just disappeared. As for music they stream it for fractions of a penny. I don’t know what anyone can do about that.
    Leslie

  5. I really find the watermark very distracting, especially when it’s large and across the center of the photo. It’s unfortunate that so many people think that photos on the internet are for the taking. What disrespect for other peoples creativity.
    As far as Pinterest- I have an account but very seldom use it. I actually find it pretty confusing. But I know several people do and they post items there so they can follow that person’s work. From the people I know that use Pinterest, their intent is not to copy or “claim” other people’s work, but just use it for their personal following and appreciation. But I don’t know how other people are using Pinterest. It doesn’t sound like it’s anything different than sharing someone’s blog post on Facebook.
    And I agree with you as far as applying a password to your blogpost- I would not follow that one either.

    • Thanks for the comment Sue. I never really had a problem with Pinterest and probably should not have even mentioned the image being posted there. Pinterest does have many of my images and I have found a number of them lost the link. Why it is less a bother is they are too small to be printed. Like I mentioned in the post, losing a link makes it harder for someone looking to purchase an image. I am not in the business of photography where I have images listed for sale, but it is really nice when I get contacted to have them in books or magazines – so having a link helps them find me.

  6. Annie says:

    Amazing photos! My blog photos are anything but professional but I still see them here and there. I appreciate the folks who take the time to ask permission to use a photo. I am flattered and I always say yes and sometimes I get great freebies… tickets to a show, museum, garden. I recently gave up and now have a Creative Commons license where they must give me credit if they use a photo. Nope, that doesn’t work either.

    • I agree on CC license for the most part, but the honest people check it out first. It does serve a purpose in that way. Nothing at all keeps stealing from happening, but at least there are some things that help when it does.

  7. As a viewer, I find watermarks distracting. It takes some of the enjoyment out. But I probably wouldn’t stop following a blog because of it.

  8. bittster says:

    I do find the watermark slightly distracting, but think it’s worth it to protect content on the blogs I enjoy.
    My own photos are not watermarked. I think the majority of my photos are safe from anyone wanting to steal them 🙂

    • Watermarks only help a bit. I believe the inexperienced (thieves) think a watermark means a professional image which may be off limits. I often toy with adding them, but with so many photos out there, it was something I should have thought about in the beginning. I do have a business logo I used a few times. It is not GWGT Photography though.

  9. Joy Blore says:

    I love your photographs and I really enjoy your comments. Give me a password and I wouldn’t hesitate to come back.

  10. terrygolden says:

    dear donna..for so many years, i have been enjoying looking at your pictures and i know that you have been so hard working getting them, sometimes you are even in the freezing cold taking pictures for us, your dedicated fans….i feel even guilty for not even thanking your enough but those guys that steal your blogs should really be having pangs of guilt….this is theft for sure…
    when you allowed my husband and i to put that beautiful picture of the flying gull on our desktop, i was so thankful…it gave bernie such pleasure. your pictures bring happiness to many people.. if you have to set a fee or a password for your blog, i would be willing……thank you so much donna for all of the posts you send to my email…..love terry

  11. Great photographs! 🙂 Having a legal copyright also will never let us know who is stealing our photographs and sharing them and taking the credit among millions of bloggers around the globe.

    • Having the legal copyright does allow for easier recourse. Most pros register images. It is pretty cheap to do so since they are registered in batches. I have had blogs across the world use entire posts. Nothing can be done but request the take down. Eventually they did.

  12. That’s so annoying when people steal photos. Yours are amazing, so it’s probably more tempting for people. When I first started my blog, I didn’t use a watermark. But with time, and after realizing that discreet watermarks don’t bother me, I decided to add them to my own photos. Several people mentioned that even though fraudsters can remove them, the watermarks can serve at least as a deterrent. Great shots of the hawk and prey!

    • Thanks Beth. I mentioned above that it may deter some, but if someone is intent on passing the work off as their own, it will be done. I read and posted a while back on wedding photographers losing work and their competitors using those fine images as their own for promoting and getting work. Can you image that scenario? Seeing your work promoting a hack and a fraud?

  13. Linda says:

    I am so sorry to hear that people steal photos. Stealing is stealing, whether it is a computer, a photo or anything else. Your photos are lovely. Is it possible for you to protect your photos by adding some kind of system on your page that prevents people from right clicking on them? I have noticed that some bloggers are using this sort of device. I do share some photos that I find but they are ones I find on Facebook and I ALWAYS share the link sources for them so that people know where I found them. I have shared many of my own photos in the past on my blog and I am far from a pro at photography, but even so I wouldn’t like to know that people would take and use them without giving me the credit, so I fully comprehend how others feel about this.

    • Right click prevention is not allowed on my WP blog. They do not allow java script on the .com WP. That is what some do and I do like that option, but someone reposting only has to take a screen shot to use the image or entire post. I have no issue with using images if the link to GWGT is there, but the image itself also has to be linked to my blog. Otherwise, as far a Google Search is concerned, it picks up the new blog owner’s URL. Many forget this and it is how the images get out onto the web willy nilly.

  14. alesiablogs says:

    Hey Donna,

    I am really sorry to hear about what you have had to go through with this issue. It bothers me though that someone in you league with decades of experience is being taking advantage. FYI: I do not like those watermarks on pictures. It really takes away from the photo.
    On a side note–I was out trying to photograph frick and/or frack taking my bird seed and finally caught one in MIDAIR with the NIKON. It was clear as day and hysterical. I could not believe I finally got him midair!!! Well as soon as I decided to download it, I realized I did not have my SD card in the camera!!! I was mad and said@#%…Now I need to try again and catch them in action.

  15. Sue Vincent says:

    Your photographs here are stunning!
    I post a lot of pictures to my blog… I take the vast majority of them myself and link back where I use another’s work. I’ve seen my own images elsewhere, both linked and not. It is the problem with putting them out in such a public forum. It seems a simple courtesy to link back to the artist if you choose to use the work of another.

    • Thank you, Sue. I always mention that we take risk because the only option is not using the photos in the first place. I cannot image doing this for a living. I don’t place my paintings or architecture drawings on my blog because of theft.

      • Sue Vincent says:

        Paintings I don’t mind so much… if they don’t have the original there isn’t all that much that can be done. I’m no photographer either. If my living lay in my images no doubt I would feel very differently about them.

  16. Hi Donna, I use Pinterest to collect images and enjoy looking at them. Mostly I get them from people already posted on Pinterest as I just assume( maybe wrongly) that they are freely available. If I come across an image that I like on a Blog or website a warning notice usually comes up if I am not allowed to share it. Where there is a ‘share’ button I guess that means for the whole content, image included so that there is acknowledgement of the original source? I’m sure many people, myself included, simply post images in ignorance with no malice or financial profit in mind. I personally am very small fish in this area, so the one time I experienced a ‘theft’ I felt quite flattered! I appreciate however, that it is a real headache for photographers like yourself. The Internet , wonderful though it is, is something of an anarchic minefield isn’t it?
    I too don’t mind seeing a watermark – it seems a sensible thing to do. Eileen

    • I allow my images to be shared. Pinterest is not the problem as much. It is only when the link is lost to the original so that people looking for the image cannot find it. Google loses the trail too. I find watermarks distracting. The eye goes immediately to the brightest spot on the image and in the examples above, that is the watermark in most cases. Thanks for your thoughtful comment Eileen.

  17. Emily Scott says:

    Can I just check – would you rather your photos were not pinned via Pinterest? I may have pinned a couple in the past, along with a link to your blog. I do this with photos I particularly like and want to look back at in the future. If you want to stop people being able to pin photos onto Pinterest from your blog, there are instructions here on how to do so: https://help.pinterest.com/en/articles/prevent-pinning-your-site

  18. Elisa says:

    I had one of my images stolen and submitted by an art instructor at a college here(in that instructor’s name) and exhibited and entered in a gallery art show/contest–it won, and I felt horrid that I did not.

  19. I so enjoy your blog and your images, Donna. I am very supportive of you putting watermarks on all the images you include in your blog. This is a timely and relevant topic – what will the impact of Facebook’s implementation of the latest terms and policies be for us?

    I have found my Marvelling the Mushroom images in all kinds of places on the internet, including advertising oyster mushrooms on a grocery site. There’s been no offer of payment so far, and I am relieved that I haven’t had the experience of my work being stolen and represented as someone else’s like Elisa has.

    I increased the size of the watermark on the images that go on my blogs after I did a little check-around on pinterest and other sites and found my pictures in a lot of places. So I decided it was essential. It seems to be ordinary behaviour and accepted practice to ‘scrape and swipe’. I really like doing the blogs so take it in stride.
    Marilyn

    • I like blogging too and it is a place to share my travels and finds. Contact the offending store. I did that and found I could ask any price for my already used image. I was told it had to be within the fees I previously received to be likely to get paid. I asked for $500 fir the one time use and got the check that week. If you can catch them after use it is very profitable.

  20. rose says:

    I don’t mind viewing images with watermarks as long as they’re not too large. I have actually had a few requests to use a couple of my images; there was no offer of compensation, but I felt very honored that they thought the photos were good enough, and the publications did give me credit for them. But I’m just an amateur; your photos are always so good that I can’t imagine someone using them without realizing they belong to a professional. I do not know how such thievery on the internet can be stopped, but I’m all for anything that protects copyrights, including those of bloggers.

    • Thanks Rose. I think with the proportion of the problem, laws will one day catch up. If this were my business as architecture is, I think I just might quit! 😀 It gets really frustrating seeing images being used to promote product or service. I even had a few of my butterflies used for a porn shop. Click it on Google and get a shock of your life! I did get them to take them down though. They probably then used someone else’s butterflies.

  21. Donna-I always enjoy your beautiful photography and it is a shame that someone would just use your photos without permission. I’ve had parties contact me to use my images and I am happy to share because they did ask permission but when I see that my photographs show up on some random sight without my permission it infuriates me. As far as watermarks go I understand the need for them, especially on professional photographs such as yours. It would be nice though if everyone just had the respect to ask permission first. Again…your photography never ceases to amaze me. February garden photos: http://landscapedesignbylee.blogspot.com/

  22. Sorry to hear but not surprised that some will not honour or pay for the source.Your photos are stunning and I think the watermark is a valid reminder. Agree passwords seem a chore and the blog more likely to be bypassed!

    • Thank you. It seems that people should have the respect rather than the need to be told though. I don’t mind those using my images with a link if it is done correctly, but I found that is almost never done. I had to stop lending them out. The image needs to be linked to GWGT not just a link in the post. It needs a way to find its way back in searches.

  23. Indie says:

    That is too bad, and quite a shame. You have such beautiful photos, and it is sad that people would steal them without a thought to their owner. Only one time have I seen a picture of mine stolen (though I don’t check very often.) Funnily enough, a painting company used a picture of my red house in their website to advertise their painting expertise. While it is flattering they liked our house so much, it is very annoying that they are claiming to have painted it. It ended well enough for me – their website has been taken down. I’m assuming it would be so much legal work to actually force people to stop using your stolen photos 😦

    • The story about your house is classic. Why would any company do such a thing? At least their site was removed. I do know bloggers that took the legal route and it is time consuming and a bit difficult.

  24. Watermarks definitely detract from the pleasure of viewing a photograph. Whether I would stop visiting a blog with watermarked photos, I’m not sure. It’s odd that we have also gotten several recent requests for use of some of Judy’s photos. We almost always give our permission. I suppose we should think about some kind of protection from stealing, but I don’t know if there is anything that would be both effective and practical for us.

    • I can say there is little that can be done. I have talked with the pros and persistence in finding the thieves is a lot of work. I have been successful a few times and did get paid, but all three times were local so that made it easy to resolve. When not local, I sent the take down notice. I would never know if images were printed if it happened far away from here.

  25. Les says:

    Watermarks would not dissuade me from looking at or following a blog. However, a password would. I have had trouble in the past with people using my blog’s images (and text) on their own web sites, with or without giving me credit. Changing some feed settings and using Flickr links to all my photos has greatly decreased the thievery, though if someone wants something bad enough, they will find a way. I still periodically do random Google Image searches on some of my photos just to make sure they are not being used somewhere without permission.

    • I never looked at Flicker to help because one of my images was stolen from 500px. I would have never thought someone so brazen to steal from there. I used to search with TinEye but have not in quite a while, so it surprised me to get contacted by a customer to tell me seeing it many places. A Google search makes me shudder because my photos are many places and linked to other blogs. I tried to fix that but found it overwhelming.

  26. Donna, greetings. Nice to see your comment on my blog. You are such a great photographer and designer. My blog activity has greatly decreased as well as my use of the camera. I do miss doing them both. Sorry people are abusing your copyright, I hope you can at least communicate to those who have stolen from you. Give them a piece of your mind!

  27. That is just so awful Donna. While it says you are very gifted that people want to use your photos, it is not OK to not at least link back. Watermarks don’t deter me from visiting but they can detract….and as you say can be removed.

  28. Pat says:

    Great photos of the hawk and its hapless prey. Poor Starling,

  29. paxami says:

    What a shame that some have to mess it up for others. I love your work and have saved a few to look at again and again, but it would never cross my mind to claim them. What a bunch of rats!
    If a password is what is needed, then that’s what needs to happen.

  30. With the time and effort it takes to produce something as amazing as your images, it is so sad to see anyone do something that would diminish the opportunity for all of to see them on your blog.

  31. Andrea says:

    It is annoying enough for ignorant people to steal photos, and it is more annoying or let’s say disgusting for knowledgeable people to get others’ photos. I have just very ordinary hoya photos, but when some folks took it, hoya folks around the world told me about it and told the administrators of some groups to expel the thief. Imagine someone having a website all put up from grabbed photos! Disgusting.

    • It was nice you were told. Nice too they knew it belonged to you. I don’t have that many distinctive images that I can even recognize my own work. I have Googled images and was even surprised to find mine when I clicked.

  32. I don’t think watermarks really protect the photo. As an experienced user of photoshop, I know it’s quite easy to retouch an image [I have been asked on occasion to ‘dye’ gray hair from someone’s photo [!] or to change a background, so removing the watermark can be quite easy. I really don’t know whether an image can actually be protected from theft… no matter how many copyright notices we put or watermarks. It’s a matter of educating people to understand that stealing someone’s work is equivalent to stealing someone’s wallet.
    A very happy Monday and new week, my dear Donna. 🙂

    • So true, Marina. With the vast improvements in low end consumer editing software, it won’t be long before novices will be cloning, using content aware or the healing brush to remove those watermarks too.

  33. How does one even know if their photos are being stolen? I use a watermark on mine but it’s generally in an area where I’m sure it could be removed. I’m just curious as to how you find out if people are stealing your images.

    • Use TinEye or Google image search. Both let you know where an images has been circulating. On the blog, I see how many check out the CC license, then how many images were likely downloaded to another computer. Stat counter can help tell you to where they headed. There are other apps too.

  34. Cathy says:

    Hi, Donna,

    Thanks for raising this thorny issue and bringing it back to the forefront again. I echo many of your sentiments and concerns. I’ve also had many photos and complete blog posts stolen. Things got so bad a couple of years ago, I was so disheartened that I stopped blogging for a while.

    Most of the people who have improperly appropriated my work were members of the “I-thought-I-could -use-anything-I-found-on-the-web Club.” In most instances, once we called attention to the unauthorized use, we received apologies and acknowledgements and with rare exceptions, we allowed the people to leave the posts as long as they were properly attributed. I think that many times, people just don’t know any better, but sometimes their sense of entitlement and hubris, especially when they’ve been caught red-handed and confronted, boggles the mind. There is an ever increasing trend to steal and use without any compensation to the original author because so few authors/photographers pursue simple actions against violators. I personally feel that the best and most effective way to stop theft of intellectual property is for everyone who is victimized to push back: go after flagrant thieves, confront them, report them to their superiors (Elisa, I hope you asserted ownership of your work when your photo won the contest!!), report them to their ISP provider, and if appropriate, sue them. Yes, bringing suit is an extreme step and not one to take lightly, but there are cases when there really is no other option.

    It’s been my experience that watermarks do little to dissuade determined thieves but recent changes in the law now provide for significant fines if someone deliberately obscures or crops a watermark. Especially with photos that have your quality and commercial value, Donna, it’s definitely worth the effort.

    Watermarks that are placed along the edge or in a corner aren’t an issue for me as they don’t really detract from my enjoyment of a photo. I’ve come to expect them. But it’s such a chore to add them manually, I rarely bother anymore unless I am posting a particularly unusual photo or an image of uncommon flora or fauna. It’s worth noting, however, that every photo of mine that was stolen (that I’m aware of, anyway) had been watermarked and the watermarks cleverly removed, cropped, covered, or obscured, and with the exception of some garden pix, none were anything that I would have thought would have been of commercial value or really, anything worth stealing. Go figure!

    I think coding your metadata is an excellent idea – it won’t prevent someone from stealing but it does make it easy to prove that it’s your work. That said, your intellectual property is your intellectual property and whether it’s watermarked or officially copyrighted or not, you own it. I got that legal opinion the hard way – we paid for it. Registration is critical if you’re a professional author, artist, or photographer whose work is stolen and you wish to bring a federal suit and seek monetary damages. (But it can be done after the fact, after you discover that your work has been stolen.) From your standpoint, Donna, it’s definitely worth looking into and I would talk to an intellectual property attorney about it. But my guess is that most of us “hobby” bloggers simply want our ownership of our photos and text respected. It’s troubling enough when that doesn’t happen but downright infuriating when someone thumbs their nose at you after you’ve caught them stealing red-handed. But we do have some pretty simple recourse that now makes it easier to demand credit and proper attribution or force someone to remove our work from their blog or website.

    We consulted an intellectual properties attorney about two cases that were pretty egregious and he walked us through the steps to follow. Confronting the person and asking them to either remove it or credit it is effective probably 95% of the time. If someone is really nasty or refuses to take down a post they’ve stolen, you can ask their ISP provider to take it down. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) requires that once an ISP provider has been notified of a copyright violation, they must take it down or block access to the material. If they don’t, they can be held financially culpable and they generally have deeper pockets than the person who violated the copyright to begin with. It’s a law worth researching. There are some exclusions and the other person can appeal, but especially if a watermark violation is involved, they are going to look at your evidence and take down the offender’s blog post. It’s better to P— off a customer than invite a suit and a federal penalty.

    One of our two most frustrating instances of theft from our blog involved a garden blogger who used multiple photos of our garden on her garden blog and represented them as being hers, taken of her own garden. One of the photographs she used was of my husband planting bulbs. One of our dogs was also in the photo. She insisted that it was her dog, her yard, her husband, etc. She had cropped it and cut off my watermark but my husband and dog were still clearly recognizable – the dog was front and center LOL. I’m laughing now but I was irate at the time. It’s one thing to claim my peonies, quite another to claim you’re married to my husband!

    She ignored repeated requests to delete the post and at first even her ISP provider was not helpful at all. Finally our lawyer contacted her ISP provider and advised them that she had not only stolen the text and photos but also that she had cropped the watermark. He gave them a deadline to get the post down or face action in federal court. The entire blog was down less than 24 hours after they got the letter and the ISP provider not only shut down her blog but she was denied Internet access through that provider permanently. There is a major legal penalty for obliterating or cropping a watermark and the ISP provider has a legal liability if they have been notified of a gross violation and refuse to remove the offending material. The original post on our blog had been posted two years before she had posted on her blog, it was easy enough to prove that at the very least, the photo of my husband was stolen and once we pointed them to the post on our blog, they bent over backward to be helpful.

    In that case, once we got an attorney involved, things proceeded very quickly, but if I may offer a word of advice, get a mail drop address in a neighboring city when you are dealing with people from out of state. The woman involved was seriously troubled and after her ISP cut her off, she began stalking and harassing us using a relative’s computer and email account. We eventually learned that she didn’t have a garden, a dog, or a husband, her entire blog was a work of fiction and almost everything was copied from other blogs. Dealing with her and her ISP through an attorney helped to get it resolved quickly and not having our home address listed as our address of record on paperwork that had to be served to her helped protect our privacy and safety.

    But the most egregious case of misappropriation I’ve fallen victim to involved a popular magazine who contracted for an article by a freelance writer who used two of my watermarked photographs for an article she wrote (and was paid for) on the same topic that I wrote a blog post on in 2011.

    In the mother of all coincidences, we were at an emergency veterinary hospital on Christmas Eve afternoon that same year with the dog in the photograph. I was waiting in the waiting room with my dog and another pet parent who was also waiting was reading some magazine articles that a thoughtful employee had tacked up on a bulletin board in the waiting area. She casually remarked, “Wow, this dog looks just like yours! Look at that spot on her head!” and brought the article over for me to look at. Sure enough, there were photos of Katie in the garden minus the watermarks they’d been published with

    This could have been dealt with quite easily but every interaction we had with the writer and the publisher was so unpleasant and confrontational, we eventually did bring suit and we prevailed but it was a dragged out mess. They eventually admitted culpability and settled with us but it took almost 3 years.

    A couple of interesting things about that case: we sued in another state where the magazine was based. This was very expensive as we had to have co-counsel in that state and even though we asked for our legal fees and expenses to be covered as part of any award, it could have gone either way. The more egregious the case, the more likely you are to get your legal fees reimbursed but it’s not guaranteed even if you win, especially if the judge thinks it’s a frivolous case that’s a waste of the court’s time. Our lawyers told us that the fact that the journalist was paid for the article, that watermarks were removed, and the publisher was so unbelievably rude to us helped our case enormously.

    Another important point that came out of that case is that someone does not have to copy from you word for word to be guilty of plagiarism. They asked for a hearing on the allegation of plagiarism, asking to have it thrown out. They contended that since there was no direct copying of text, there was no plagiarism. The judge ruled in our favor and said the case could go forward. While she didn’t copy any of the text from our blog verbatim, our attorney successfully argued that her article was so similar in content and the way it was organized and laid out, that along with her use of our photos, it counted as plagiarism and the magazine ultimately stipulated to that. But there is no question that what really got us a settlement was that they were facing hefty fines for the watermark violations.

    Anyone who opts to pursue a legal remedy should be prepared for a slow, tedious, expensive process and not necessarily a gratifying one. It’s emotionally draining to catch someone dead to rights using your work and then have them insist that your work is their work. Also, you have to pay your lawyer up front and then fight to get reimbursed. But there are times when it’s really the only and best option. In the above case, our legal fees and travel expenses for our lawyer and his staff to make several trips and for a local attorney were all reimbursed but even that could have just as easily gone against us.

    On the flip side, I purchase vintage images, photos, and ephemera regularly for use in my paper art business. I find it doubly annoying that some people feel that they have the right to take my work and pass it off as their own, even moreso if they profit by it, because I try so hard to be eminently respectful of other artists’ work and copyrights.

    Cathy

    • Great comment Cathy. You really had quite a lot of experience dealing with photo snatchers where you offered up good info for my readers here. You covered every base so I have little to ad other than saying thank you for your very detailed comment. I myself never went the legal route, so I learned some things too.

      • Cathy says:

        Honestly, Donna, I’m not certain I would do it again. But there are options available to us now that didn’t exist then. I was so outraged when I saw my dog’s photos in that magazine article, I wanted blood LOL (legally speaking of course). Today, it’s very easy to get an ISP’s attention if watermarks were removed. It would be a tragedy to lose the ability to enjoy your gorgeous photos because of people who are either ignorant of the law or simply could care less.

        • Not your husband? 😀 I know you were not too happy seeing him being claimed either. It is funny now, but not then I am sure. I would have been mortified that my dog was snatched like that too. It is hard to believe a blogger would invent a life that was borrowed like that. At least her “family” was bigger by stealing from other blogs too. Good you had it resolved, but it was a shame all these cases had to cost you. Great story though, I am sure my readers enjoyed reading it as did I.

          • Cathy says:

            When either the dog or the husband step out of line, I remind them that they are free to go home to the “other” wife in PA LOL…..

            Yes, we laugh now…. Then, not so much. 😉

            Fortunately my husband and I have a very solid marriage and we had access to exceptional advice from a crackerjack intellectual properties attorney/ We had a lot of sleepless nights though, and I second-guessed myself every other minute.

  35. Annette says:

    I watermark mine and don’t care if I loose or don’t get as many followers. Sure, it can be removed but it’s a bit of a hassle anyway. I’m delighted that you’re finding lots of customers through your blog – no wonder with such fabulous photographs. I regularly look for stolen images, it’s just a risk we have to take. Hope your trip went well!

    • I read your blog and never gave it a second thought because your photos and posts are always so well done. I don’t look regularly for stolen images because of time, but when I do, it is so disappointing seeing my photos under another URL. It is true we take the risk knowingly too. Thanks for asking, my trip was great. More on it coming.

      • Annette says:

        I may even consider placing the watermark in the centre although it is somewhat disturbing. Hope the winter is not a tough where you are…we see horrible pics from the States.

  36. Donna, phew a lot of comments here! As a photographer who abhors photo theft, I finally removed all the links on my posts to help cut down on their use elsewhere. I do not watermark, as WP does not make it easy, and Picasa does not either. I have asked WP to make a way to watermark once on WP, yet so far NADA. I also posted Copyscape in my sidebar, yet that really does not follow images. It does help. No one has ever asked to purchase my images, yet on WP stats page, I see where my images are regularly searched. WP needs to do more to protect us paying bloggers!! Good topic. We should all press WP for help on this matter at support@wordpress.com

  37. Lula says:

    I am so sorry to hear your complaints, but it is true what you mention. I have decided to not watermark my images form now on, it seem it does not make difference when steeling and I prefer to have the image clear of distractions. Just trust your thieves will be prosecuted some day.

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