Monday, August 05, 2013
Stealing Steve McQueen
Being naive I didn't think too much about copyright stuff when I began 40on2 nor when I posted the McQueen pics, but down the road when Google Images search came on-line I began to poke around and see who might be stealing photos from my blog. My photos, however modest, have value to me if not anyone else.
Well, lo and behold in 2011 I found my pictures of Steve McQueen used on a commercial web site in England and more recently on site in France. Not only were they on the sites but my name, "photo by Doug Klassen" had been cropped of one photo and on the French site, PhotoShopped out. Not nice. Also illegal. Apart from that I've also found whole pages from my blog re-posted elsewhere, interestingly, also in the U.K. Those I got removed with a single e-mail.
I contacted the offending Brit site using my McQueen pic and asked that my photo be removed. They blustered a bit, said they thought they had a right to use it, blah, blah, blah, but would take it down one of these days. Eighteen months went by and the photo was still up. What to do? Well, I did a bit of research and next wrote not to the website but to the hosting company for their site. Hosting sites / Internet Service Providers seem to take piracy and copyright matters more seriously than many websites do. I explained to the hosting company that the photo in question was mine, had in fact been registered with the US Copyright Office, and I provided the copyright registration number for the photo. I politely asked their assistance in having the photo removed.
Two days later I received and e-mail from the owner of the offending website asking why I'd not contacted them first, "before going to our hosting company??" I replied that I contacted them on two occasions and I provide them the dates for the e-mails we'd exchanged 18 months earlier. They had not removed my photos and so I took the next step. A day after that I got another e-mail offering to pay me for the use of the photo. Glad to do it (with limitations). They sent the money to my PayPal account, I acknowledged it, case closed.
The McQueen pictures also reside on a French motoring site and thus far they've not bothered to respond at all to my e-mail. I'm sure it doesn't help that their site is in French and my knowledge of French is limited to eating French fries and making out at drive-in movies in 1969. However, they could certainly run my e-mail, which which had as it's subject "Notice of Copyright Infringement" through Google Translate. My next step with them since they apparently own their own servers so there is no ISP to contact, will be to contact Google and ask that the content be removed from Google searches. We'll see how that goes.
Had those sites been someone's private, non-commercial blogs (like this one) I'd have probably written and asked that they either give me photo credit and a link or take the photos down. But the English site and French site are commercial sites out to make money and they have no right to make money off of me or anyone else without proper permission.
In reality there's not much else a small fish like me can do in the big ocean of the global Internet where stealing pictures is the norm. The McQueen pics are out there in unmarked form and likely will be spread around over time even if they are rather tepid pics. If I were rich I'd have lawyers sending nasty letters to people but I'm pretty well un-rich. And one could say "What's the diff? It's just an old picture." But for me the issue isn't about money it's about courtesy and doing things the right way. Without asking they took something that belonged to me and commercial publishing sites most of all know better than to do that.
If you're not sure about using pictures found on the Internet, what might be copyrighted and what might not be, here's a nice article on the photography site PetaPixel that is worth reading. Simple and free of legalese, it's worth a few minutes of your time if you routinely use photos other than your own on your blog or website: 10 Bogus Excuses People Use When They Steal Photos from the Web
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An Important reminder from the past:
"I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations." - James Madison