Mar 9, 2014

Copyright violation issues

Some time ago I was browsing the website of a large international sailing equipment manufacturer, when I noticed an image of one of their products, which somehow felt very familiar. I did a quick check from our photo archives, which confirmed that it was indeed the same image that I had taken and published in this blog almost three years ago.

In my opinion, it was not a particularly good photo, but it was showing one of their products in detail. Nobody from the company had contacted me and asked a permission to use the photo, so the case was clear: they had used the photo without permission. I know that the internet is a dark place when it comes to copyright issues, but I was surprised to find my photo being used by a well-known global company with multi-million turnover.

I can understand that when building the company website for example, there may be a temptation to google images if some image that is needed is missing. It is all too easy – just a few clicks and the photo is added to your website. It is also easy to forget the whole thing. However, the google search works also the other way a round, since the image search is a great tool for a photographer to track down his/her photos that may have been used illegally. Just drag and drop your photo, that you want to test out, to the google image search field and just in a few seconds, it will tell all the websites where the photo is used. 

I tested this feature with some of our photos, and just in five minutes I could find a couple of more websites which had used our photos without permission. Therefore, I would like to recommend all of you who keep a blog or share photos in the internet to check regularly if your content has been used illegally. It may not be the photos that you consider as your best ones that are used, but the ones which are showing products for example. Pay attention to photos that you think might have a commercial value. On the other hand, some general sailing photos may be used as well to illustrate the commercial website.

A whole another story is a website called Like Sailing, which publishes our complete blog posts on their website as if they were their own. I can see those blog posts appearing on their website just a few hours after they have been published in this blog. Problem with this kind of trash websites or 'splogs' (spam blogs) is that it is often difficult if not impossible to contact the owner of the website. Thus, the pretty much only option is to file a DMCA complaint against the website. Here is more information about sending the DMCA takedown request.


Just to make things clear, sharing someone else's photos on your blog/website is not legal, if you do not have the permission from the copyright owner. Contrary to common belief, writing the name of the photographer or linking to the photo source does not make things any different.

Personally, I would not mind if someone would like to share our photo in his/her private blog with a proper photo credit. I can also share my photos in a commercial website, if I like the product and how the photo is presented. But what I do not like, is that the content, which is created for free is used commercially by someone who is just too lazy to create the content by himself and dishonest to pay for the use of it.
/Antti

8 comments:

  1. I agree and thanks for the tip of how to do detective work of one's own photos. I know that some of the photos of my blog have been already used in some other private blogs without premission, but as they have been writing about our boat and it has been noncommercial use, I havn't made an issue of it. Still it would be nice and correct to ask permission.

    I concider the use of my blog's photos for commercial purposes as stealing, and in those cases I would make it an issue... So what are you guys going to do about your case?

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    Replies
    1. Your welcome, the first copyright case with that international sailing company got me to dig into these copyright issues. The case is actually closed now and we reached an agreement. I contacted them and provided copy of the original photo together with a screenshot from their website. They admitted right away that they had used the photo without permission, so the case was pretty clear. I thought that just removing the photo from their website was not enough, since they had already used it maybe for years. I agree with your comment about stealing, of which one will not get away with by just apologizing and returning the product. It should be the same thing in case of intangible goods.

      I decided that the easiest way was to let them keep the photo on their website, so I attached an invoice to my e-mail.

      The other two cases are still open.

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  2. Hey guys, it stinks, doesn't it? I think I emailed you about that %&$@ spam site a few months ago. They removed my content eventually, so if you're not getting action from them, email me and I'll help. I did get a direct address for the jerks eventually. I would love to see them taken down.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Behan, we owe you thanks, since without your e-mail, we probably wouldn't have come across this spam site that is stealing blog posts from others. We actually quit sending RSS-feed from the blog, but it did not stop them publishing our blog posts. I am not sure how automated their site is, but I have been monitoring their site lately to see, if they will share this newest post. I think that it would be kind of funny if they did :)

      But actually the good news is that they haven't 'published' new articles for five days and also their social media channels have been quiet since 6th of March. So maybe the site is now inactive. I hope that's the case! Still it would be nice if all the stolen material would be removed from their site.

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  3. This is a good topic to raise – I doubt that the awareness is not particularly high among the bloggers. I too have to admit that I recently used a Bold & Beautiful photo to illustrate one of my posts. Shouldn't really have done it, but couldn't resist.

    In my opinion, it's an entirely different issue when a photo or content is used commercially without permission. Then we are really talking about stealing as Merenneito put it.

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  4. Timo, you are right, I guess that it has been kind of unwritten rule or commonly accepted practice among bloggers, that one can 'borrow' an image if the source is mentioned. Actually, I thought earlier - not so long ago - that this practice was totally legal, but obviously this is not the case as mentioned earlier. Although the law might be the same, I think that it is a huge difference whether the use of photo is commercial or non-commercial.

    As I wrote earlier, personally I wouldn't be too concerned or strict about our photos being shared in non-commercial connections, but I think that it is a good practice to link to the original source (compared to just writing the name of the photographer) since this will improve SEO rank and generate traffic to the original website.

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It would be very great to hear your opinion or comments. Thank you in advance for commenting! -Antti & Minna