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Don't Steal Photos!
August 10, 2013 10:41 AM   Subscribe

"This wall of shame is dedicated to photographers that feel that it's okay to steal others work and post it as their own. Oh I'm sorry, it's okay to let their "web designer" do it."
posted by nevercalm (53 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
The invective and level of research here is kind of impressive. The chip on this guys shoulder is enormous.

I totally understand it, as I've had a few of my photos used without attribution or payment.
posted by lattiboy at 10:58 AM on August 10, 2013


"I got hacked! One of those hacks that makes your watermark appear on photos you didn't take! "
posted by The Whelk at 11:00 AM on August 10, 2013 [12 favorites]


It's probably good work he's doing, but he's also incredibly sanctimonious, and criticizes people for totally irrelevant things, like taking pictures of babies in "dangerous situations", which includes in the middle of a deserted road and in a hammock which seems to maybe be above water.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 11:04 AM on August 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


Google Image Search changed the game quite a bit. Before, sites like TinEye were fairly useful in spotting issues (particularly stock art being passed off as original). Now anytime you see an image that might look to be a bit too good against the others, it is easy to run a fast check. Particularly useful with image searches where people grab an image of another person and claim it to be them.

The guy may go a little too far with his comments at times. On the other hand, people who have been plagiarized (read: victims of theft) have few options other than cynical ridicule and public shaming. What more, these plagiarists are going to be the very same people who muck up your wedding photos and not return the deposit to boot. While not the most desirable way to deal with the issue, it does have at least the benefit of creating stir that has to be responded to.

I don't particularly care for public shaming sites, but in this case, I have to side with the site owner. Having worked in the freelance world for a long time and exclusively online over the past few years, it is shocking what plagiarists will pass off as their own. And I am not just talking about photos - anything is fair game to a thief. In my profile on the sites I look for work on, I long ago removed all my samples and replaced it with a simple note to contact me for them. And these samples were spreadsheets and PDF forms. I have even had my "tag line" and resume items stolen by people for use on their online resumes.

There are countless plagiarists undermining the good reputation of hard working people who are honest in their business practices. So someone employs some less than polite tactics to combat the issue. I don't have a problem with that. From what I see, the site owner seems to do some pretty extensive research as opposed to just a quickee look over a Facebook page.

/rant
posted by lampshade at 11:19 AM on August 10, 2013 [8 favorites]


It's also crazy to think how Google Image Search (which is how most of these thieves find photos) is now making it almost impossible to steal a photo without consequences.

I threw one of my more popular flickr photos in GIS and I found 7 websites using it with little or no attribution.
posted by lattiboy at 11:20 AM on August 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Holy shit, some of the "photo stealers" are just nuts! Most of the images are very technically proficient, and it seems crazy to try to pass them off as their own. One can only wonder what kind of crap they pass off on their clients, and how their clients feel with the finished results.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:26 AM on August 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, this is one reason I don't do much actual photography and I certainly wouldn't put any of my work on the internet. So spend all my time on alt process printing, which can't be duplicated easily. But then, I'm not making any money at printing either.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:30 AM on August 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Amazed that one photographer is passing herself off as a nature photographer, a fashion photog, a music photographer, a landscape photographer...

The only thing she doesn't do is war photography and that's only because she doesn't know how to get her passport.
posted by dobbs at 11:31 AM on August 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


This isn't just an internet thing.
I was an art/photo major in the 70s. I recall with wrapped pride the time I walked past a classroom critique and saw some of my rejected photos I'd thrown in the trash being presented by a fellow student as his own.

In another instance I was sitting in the cafeteria listening to a guy I didn't know brag about the great photos he'd shot of Buddy Rich and how the school paper had run them. All well and good, but they were mine.
posted by cccorlew at 11:34 AM on August 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


One can only wonder what kind of crap they pass off on their clients, and how their clients feel with the finished results.

I just said the same thing to my wife.

Years ago, I discovered my portfolio site completely stolen (design, not photography)...the whole thing was scraped, the logo was replaced, and put back down as their own work. Thankfully, I think the availability of inexpensive and nicely designed themes for popular content management software has put somewhat of an end to that sort of thing.

I still get clients saying things like "can't we just copy this site?" Including people who should know better.
posted by maxwelton at 11:35 AM on August 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Amazed that one photographer is passing herself off as a nature photographer, a fashion photog, a music photographer, a landscape photographer...

Yes, I think I would know just from looking at her site that those photos just couldn't be hers.
posted by orange swan at 11:35 AM on August 10, 2013


I used to wonder if there was some central source or sources for a lot of these fraudulent wedding- and baby-centric "photography" businesses, someone out there promising easy money in return for a prepackaged web design and shitty business plan making the rounds at local "Make big money from home!" lunch seminars everywhere, because they're endemic and they all look so similar. But now I think it's just endless cannibalizing, because you see the same thing with the deluge of websites for "life coaches" (hobby businesses for people with money and idle time, in my experience), and I was approached by someone starting up a life coaching business to do web design and their idea was basically "I need a WordPress site (for no real reason, barely utilized the features) and I want you to copy elements exactly from [long list of drearily similar life coaching WP sites]." Luckily I was able to convince them into an alternate design that wasn't a shameless ripoff, though their actual text content ended up being just a mashup of the same reheated boilerplate stuff.

And lord knows web design is too often the same thing, bored financially secure people with Dreamweaver and the ability to Google for free watermarked Flash slideshows and copy-and-paste form code from the mid-90s in need of a hobby, overpromising and undercharging small businesses and then calling up actual designers to try and get them to do the hard work for a pittance when they realize they can't deliver. There's like this whole sub-economy of networked low-effort low-knowledge entrepreneurs out there, though it took a hit when Etsy started eating their lunch by taking the handmade crafts market out of the loop and when a lot of these businesses decided they don't need more than a Facebook page (which a lot of them don't, really).
posted by jason_steakums at 11:36 AM on August 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


Why is it that thieving eejits love to use the most atrocious fonts? Swirly, fancy fonts always make me suspicious - especially if the rest of the visual content is tasteful and streamlined.

Almost, general lack of visual focus = instant give-away in most cases.
posted by kariebookish at 11:44 AM on August 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Man. As if it isn't hard enough making a living as a photographer, what with people simply not wanting to pay a fair price for the work...but this sort of blatant rip-off is...demoralizing.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:48 AM on August 10, 2013


As a musician and author, I say welcome to the club of people whom Hip Internet Society has decided don't need to be paid for their work, photographers.

You know the arguments already, I'm sure.
posted by spitbull at 11:53 AM on August 10, 2013 [10 favorites]


Hah. This guy pulled my sign out of a trash can. He carefully avoids saying it's his, but the implication is clear.
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:57 AM on August 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


This isn't people enjoying art without attribution or stealing things to enjoy them--this is stealing to pass off as your own for profit. One is not at all like the others. Even poets (the least paid of any major arts for the past 100 years) would go after some jerk off who decided to pass stolen poems off as their own.

But you know that when you dropped that derail in here already I'm sure.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:58 AM on August 10, 2013 [9 favorites]


the club of people whom Hip Internet Society has decided don't need to be paid for their work

Upstart branch of the League of People Whom All of Society Has Decided Don't Need to Be Paid for Their Work! Splitters!
posted by jason_steakums at 12:04 PM on August 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


As a musician and author, I say welcome to the club of people whom Hip Internet Society has decided don't need to be paid for their work, photographers.

As a musician and an author, I have never had someone take one of my stories or pieces of music and put them on their website claiming authorship, so you're straying a bit from the topic of this thread. Since IP sharing is a contentious topic, I wonder if we could stick to the actual subject of this thread, which is people literally passing off somebody else's work as their own.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:04 PM on August 10, 2013 [11 favorites]


Even poets (the least paid of any major arts for the past 100 years) would go after some jerk off who decided to pass stolen poems off as their own.

Neal Bowers wrote a book, Words for the Taking, about discovering that someone was plagiarizing his poetry and publishing it under a different name. Often just the title and first line (used for indexing) were changed. The reactions he gets as he investigates are fascinating; most people don't understand what he's upset about, and one person even says that the plagiarist improved the poem. It's a good read.

I was very interested by that first photographer as well--the one who did nature photography, weddings, landscapes, news photography. To have that website up, and that presence on Facebook, requires constructing a whole false narrative including travel to unlikely places. I wonder if she, or someone like her, might put up a website like this without being a photographer at all--using it to live a false life, and get positive reactions for it. Kind of a variation on a cancer scam.
posted by not that girl at 12:07 PM on August 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I wonder if she, or someone like her, might put up a website like this without being a photographer at all--using it to live a false life, and get positive reactions for it. Kind of a variation on a cancer scam.

I think that's exactly what she is doing. The photos she's ripped off require a diverse array of different skills and access, and it's unlikely that as a relative amateur she could do anything herself remotely comparable to the images she's appropriated. She probably doesn't even realize how much effort is required to get some of those pictures, and just picked them out to call her own because she liked them.
posted by localroger at 12:13 PM on August 10, 2013


Heh. During the Wisconsin protests, I think I may have been one of the first to use this SOLIDARITY WISCONSIN image on a sign. I was rushing to get to an impromptu local protest and printed it out poster-sized, then cut out along the state boundary (it wouldn't fit on the sign as it was), but that also removed the website name/attribution truth be told I don't even remember if it was on the original at that point or added later. So I'm at the protest, showing off my sign, and this photographer comes up to me and asks me if I made it myself. I had no problem with the answer, "No, I just love the image so much I had to use it". Glad I did, because I found out later that was the image's creator. Despite a share-and-share-alike culture amongst protesters, I don't see why anyone would want to take credit for what someone else did first.
posted by dhartung at 12:15 PM on August 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Appropriately enough, one of the older posts mentions the photo thief had also had a blog about her fight with cancer that she didn't have.
posted by RobotHero at 12:18 PM on August 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


The only basis for contesting plagiarism as an economic affront, and not just a moral one, is an intellectual property argument. So I'll thank you not to condescend and presume to delimit the "subject of this thread," since you are but one of numerous participants within it.

Now the distinction you make -- misrepresenting authorship for commercial purposes vs. presumably, say, downloading a pirated copy of a pop song -- would be relevant, had I actually specified this to be the version of "not getting paid" I had in mind. But I didn't do so. There are plenty of ways a general disdain for the concept of intellectual property, deeply embedded in digital culture, leads to commercial plagiarism and theft of trade identity in print and music creative work too.

That said, it was a mere quip, not meant to bait the sensitive into an indirect rules-citing response. My sincerest of apologies.

I should have said, "well, it is true anyone can take a picture."
posted by spitbull at 12:23 PM on August 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's gotta be super awkward when one of these people is hired and delivers photos noticeably inferior to what's on the site. Maybe there's a whole spiel at some point where they explain to the client that those photos required some elaborate equipment and setup for the shoot that is only available at some price clearly out of the client's range? A dash of that, a dash of people's unwillingness to believe they've been conned, stir to combine.

The "What to Do If Your Imags Are Stolen?" page suggests cease & desists, DMCA takedowns, invoices, lawsuits - is there any reason not to report them to the Attorney General's office of whatever state they're doing business in, if they're profiting off of people fraudulently?
posted by jason_steakums at 12:23 PM on August 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


"I got hacked! One of those hacks that makes your watermark appear on photos you didn't take! "

Oh... A VIRUS.
posted by Artw at 12:24 PM on August 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


is there any reason not to report them to the Attorney General's office of whatever state they're doing business in, if they're profiting off of people fraudulently?

There's no reason not to, but I wonder whether the AG would have time to deal with that.

Sounds like the sort of thing that local TV is made for, though.
posted by grouse at 12:25 PM on August 10, 2013


Local TV is probably using pirated B-roll too.
posted by spitbull at 12:26 PM on August 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


I have a sneaking feeling we are mocking the mentally unwell here.
posted by Artw at 12:27 PM on August 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


Local TV is probably using pirated B-roll too.

B-roll not so much because the reporter usually gets it while on a story or, for national news, it comes from the parent network, but for news graphics I've seen a lot of producers go to Google Images because they assume that between fair use law, the low chance of being caught and the ease of simply complying with a takedown/attribution request or paying the creator after the damage is done (assuming the creator will take what's offered instead of wading into the muck of Fair Use law as it applies to news) there's low risk. It's a lazy, shitty, very widespread practice and honestly? The risk is low.
posted by jason_steakums at 12:44 PM on August 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


As a musician and author, I say welcome to the club of people whom Hip Internet Society has decided don't need to be paid for their work, photographers.

What does this even mean? Do you see the plagiarists here as being hip (or "hip")? This doesn't even seem to be an issue of compensation, but one of attribution.
posted by ODiV at 1:31 PM on August 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've had someone take my entire website site design (this was either Movable type or WordPress, but long before you could purchase templates) and put his content inside. He didn't change the images/graphics and in a few instances left in copy about my personal travels. I found out because he also forgot to strip out the Google Analytics code.

The images of mine I've seen stolen were nothing spectacular. I always figured people would never be bold enough to claim a professional photograph as their own. The world these days!
posted by Bunglegirl at 1:41 PM on August 10, 2013


They should get Tumblrs, where this sixty of thing is the norm.
posted by Artw at 1:43 PM on August 10, 2013


That said, it was a mere quip, not meant to bait the sensitive into an indirect rules-citing response

It was a "mere quip" that had nothing to do with the post, despite your attempts to shoe-horn it in after that was made clear followed by a "forget everything I just said" "that said" segment cited here...just keep shuffling that turd of a comment along the ground and we'll try to pretend we don't smell it until you kick it off the bridge.

The "anyone can take a picture" troll practically merits a call-out, I've noticed a long of strange smells in threads lately.
posted by lordaych at 1:49 PM on August 10, 2013


If the site is hosted in the USA or by a company in the USA, a DMCA takedown is trivial. The ip owner wields a huge amount of power, so complaints of "there's not much else you can do" seem kind of whiney. There isn't much you can do to prevent it happening, true, but if it does happen, the victim is the one with the 800 pound gorilla. I've had my work ripped off multiple times over the years. I don't see it as any threat. Other people's situations may be different, of course.
posted by anonymisc at 1:53 PM on August 10, 2013


I have a sneaking feeling we are mocking the mentally unwell here.

Yeah, it's a tricky thing trying to decide where this is "okay" to do. We can highlight some instances where it's happened and get a sort of gut reaction about whether it was cool to mock them or not, but hard to set any sort of rule in stone. At least that's how I feel about it. Maybe it has to do with the relative power of the people involved and actual harm that resulted.
posted by ODiV at 1:56 PM on August 10, 2013


What's crazy about the wedding photographers is their photos are all over the place. I think I'd be suspicious of someone trying to pass themselves off as local if none of their photos looked like my current city.

The blog uses the term MWAC which I assume is Mom With A Camera which lead to the MWAC attack vlog which answers Jason_Steakums question about where theses photographers come from (at least some of them.)
posted by vespabelle at 1:58 PM on August 10, 2013


I'm a photographer and can't stand
image thieves as much as the next guy but I can only feel sorry for the woman with all the different styles because she's clearly mentally ill.
posted by photoslob at 2:08 PM on August 10, 2013


I think it must be the perception that things on the 'net are "free" that makes so many people think it's OK to use the same words, images, photos, especially if they modify them however slightly by removing pesky identifying information. Combine that with a self-absorbed belief that they could take that very image/write that very text/create that very element if they wanted to, and the idea that copying is a compliment (one of my friends was told that when she discovered and confronted someone who putting her photos on her blog with the clear implication that she had taken the pictures herself, accepting compliments on the pictures, etc) ...

maxwelton:
Years ago, I discovered my portfolio site completely stolen (design, not photography)...the whole thing was scraped, the logo was replaced, and put back down as their own work.

The same thing happened to me in the late 90s several times (before I too, password-protected my portfolio and provided passwords upon request+screening), but the "best" instance was when someone tried to use my portfolio to get a job from a friend of mine ... who called me from the interview to fact-check the interview/portfolio/claims. Needless to say, he didn't get THAT job. I have no doubt the thief used my portfolio to get hired elsewhere, though.
posted by julen at 2:24 PM on August 10, 2013


The only basis for contesting plagiarism as an economic affront, and not just a moral one, is an intellectual property argument. So I'll thank you not to condescend and presume to delimit the "subject of this thread," since you are but one of numerous participants within it.

It's not condescension merely to ask you not to derail with a snarky one-liner comparing an apple to an orange. If you had more to offer than that, it might have been best to start with that.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:29 PM on August 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's gotta be super awkward when one of these people is hired and delivers photos noticeably inferior to what's on the site. Maybe there's a whole spiel at some point where they explain to the client that those photos required some elaborate equipment and setup for the shoot that is only available at some price clearly out of the client's range? A dash of that, a dash of people's unwillingness to believe they've been conned, stir to combine.

The Dream Wedding Production post had a comment saying the fake photographer had posted likely-fake reviews on her own The Knot profile. One of the probably-fake reviews says that the wedding package includes 9+ hours with two photographers, a printed album, all photos on CD, and a one-day turnaround for the first portraits, all for under $1,000. What?

I have an image of her presenting someone else's photos of someone else's wedding to her in-person clients and then making a quick getaway.
posted by jaguar at 3:02 PM on August 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


MWAC Is A Four-Letter Word.
posted by elgilito at 3:21 PM on August 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


KokuRyu: "Holy shit, some of the "photo stealers" are just nuts! Most of the images are very technically proficient, and it seems crazy to try to pass them off as their own. One can only wonder what kind of crap they pass off on their clients, and how their clients feel with the finished results."

I think we're seeing the Dunning-Kruger effect in action.
posted by adamrice at 4:04 PM on August 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I know at least a few pro photogs who have mental illnesses of various sorts, yet refrain from profiting off stealing others' work. Mental illness happens to assholes, too - it's a disservice to the vast majority of people suffering mental illness to confuse bad behavior of people who have mental illness with bad behavior caused by mental illness.
posted by gingerest at 5:40 PM on August 10, 2013 [12 favorites]


The thieves are stupid - they should've taken photos published in books, scratched them up a little, slapped on some white paint - now it's art.
posted by AnnElk at 8:55 PM on August 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


when a lot of these businesses decided they don't need more than a Facebook page (which a lot of them don't, really). --jason_steakums

I hate people who follow this advice, as now I can't join in any discussions on your product, message you about it, sometimes even view large parts of it, as I don't have Facebook; I deleted mine back in 2010. The web is for everyone: Facebook is for people who have Facebook.
posted by Canageek at 11:15 PM on August 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


A friend of mine takes lovely photos of beers and pubs and posts them on his site, BeerLens. The pubs, beer companies, and media outlets will shamelessly steal his work and post it without permission or attribution. He calls them out on his Twitter feed and, I believe, also directly contacts them. The most appalling cases are the ones where he's offered something absurdly small in compensation, like a pint of beer.
posted by knile at 12:30 AM on August 11, 2013


Joakim Ziegler : It's probably good work he's doing, but he's also incredibly sanctimonious

Apparently, he's a she. The curator of this blog is reportedly a photographer from Ohio named Corey Doyle Balazowich. But I agree with Joakim Ziegler that she comes across as sanctimonious, and with too many unnecessary criticisms, (e.g. "PS - I bet [alleged thief] doesn't have a permit to use New Orleans City Park for photo sessions") that turn a useful public service into a vindictive circus by making Ms. Balazowich look unhinged petty and officious, when there is absolutely nothing trivial about stealing another photographer's work (which, in addition copyright infringement, could constitute unfair competition and consumer fraud as well).

tl;dr: Christ, what assholes!
posted by applemeat at 9:03 AM on August 11, 2013


Wow, some of them even steal the "about me" bios.

And I'm not getting this "vindictive circus" vibe some of you seem to be getting. At all. The offenses are really, really awful - stealing a photographer's work and *then* also claiming the awards that photographer won as your own? - and the blog points them out in a careful, methodical and relatively snark-free way, with just a couple of off notes like the park permit thing.

Sure, it'd be more fun to read with some jokes or a lighter tone or something, but I'm not seeing any chips on the blogger's shoulders that aren't completely justified.
posted by mediareport at 9:21 AM on August 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm glad that my photos are weird enough that I don't feel insecure about people stealing them. And it'd be weird to steal them anyway, for most of them, because the real work is prints, not digital images. It'd be more like taking pictures of my lunch than eating it.

I will say that GIS has been a godsend for the nonprofit I work at — being able to search by license means that I can almost always find a free image that I can modify and redistribute (even commercially) with only attribution.
posted by klangklangston at 11:05 AM on August 11, 2013


The only basis for contesting plagiarism as an economic affront, and not just a moral one, is an intellectual property argument. So I'll thank you not to condescend and presume to delimit the "subject of this thread," since you are but one of numerous participants within it.

It's not condescension merely to ask you not to derail with a snarky one-liner comparing an apple to an orange. If you had more to offer than that, it might have been best to start with that.
I read the original aside as an intent to assimilate the music industry and the photography industry in that they both suffer from serial plagiarism. Which I think is factually correct.

You don't even have to steal someone's complete song to make it an apples to apples comparison. And you don't have to strain yourself to find it happening on a large scale.

The only derail I see is people complaining about the derail.

/derail

To be honest and oust myself... some of the examples above were exactly how I taught myself HTML. I was always more than happy to purge the source code off of something to see how it works. Granted, I never used the internet to sell anything, which I think is the line that's been drawn between curiosity and abject fraud.

But I figure if a DMCA takedown notice only requires a valid claim (with no evidence whatsoever) to be submitted... (i.e. half of everything taken down on YouTube) then what's the problem with submitting them voraciously in these scenarios? I mean, as mentioned already, it's not hard to use Google Image search on your own work to see who else is using them...
posted by Blue_Villain at 7:30 AM on August 12, 2013


Okay, my favourite now is the guy who posted on Facebook with little comments like "Sherie and Andrew, I had a blast with you that day. Sorry it took me a little while to get these up for you."
posted by RobotHero at 8:55 AM on August 12, 2013


And if you're going to make up a story, why make up a story in which you are late with the photos?
posted by jaguar at 1:47 PM on August 12, 2013


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