Wednesday, December 2, 2009

To Stop Photo Theft, The Best Defense Is A Good Offense

My "Animal Antics" funny animal pictures, such as these two bulldogs sumo wrestling, are my most infringed upon images.
Appropriated Images And Lost Opportunities
Sometimes it makes me a little crazy when I do a Google search for my images and find image after image appropriated with no reference to me at all.  The vast majority of these infringements are not worth chasing after, but they still annoy the heck out of me. I also can't help but wonder how all of these pictures, that I have worked so hard to create, being loose on the internet without my name represents a "dilution" or at least a lost opportunity in regards to my personal branding. But what to do? How can I defend against such image theft?

Minor Infractions And An Unhappy Ego

I few times I have tried to request that offenders take down my pictures, but the amount of time I have to invest in that is kind of ridiculous. When I complained to flickr about an infringement what they required of me to get them to take action, well, I looked at for a moment and said “aw the hell with it!”  Same deal with Squidoo, or innumerable other cases of bloggers and such making use of my photos; minor infractions with a lot of hassle to get my images taken down. Most of these cases of my purloined imagery hold absolutely no opportunity for any monetary gain, so it might just be a case of my unhappy ego, or as mentioned above, a dilution or loss of branding opportunity.

The Best Defense Is A Good Offense

It has taken awhile, but I have come up with a defense strategy. In this case it is a return to the old maxim that "The Best Defense Is A Good Offense". That strategy is to get my images up as quickly as possible in any and all searches that might return them in the results, and to have my name on those images.  I put that name up as ©  That way people know the images are copyrighted, and if they have half a brain (I might be generous here) they can find me to license the images, or at least ask for my permission. Recently I have had several examples of people tracking me down because they did see my images used somewhere and did have that credit line on them, so I know, that at least to some degree, that process can work.

SEO, Name And Copyright, And Personal Branding
I have already wholeheartedly committed to SEO and getting my images seen, but this adds just that much more incentive to do so. People only steal the images if they find them, therefore I want them to see my images first with my copyright and name clearly on them. That way there is a much higher probability that I will benefit at least in some way, and that outright theft will be lower. Years ago a friend and I created a company to distribute training films.  Our first film was titled "The Ten Billion Dollar Rip Off". It was a video to show to store employees detailing the damage of employee theft and the various repercussions.  Apparently, just showing that video to employees, significantly reduced employee theft.  Having your name and copyright notice on an image is a step in that direction. I don’t think it will stop non-commercial picture pilfering (love that phrase), but it will at least increase my name awareness, my personal branding, if you will, and will contribute to deterring commercial use of unauthorized images.


Unknown said...

John - I think your analysis is accurate for non-commercial users. The fact that people like your images is a good thing,. The challenge now is to turn it around and monetize the consumer interest.

Drawing people to your site and having something to sell them would do that. The sumo dogs would make a great greeting card or t-shirt or poster. Offering it as an e-card with a clickthru directly to a landing page with micropayment purchase via Facebook would be worth trying.

John Lund said...


Thanks for the suggestion. BTW, the last time you suggested something to me it took me two weeks to figure out how to do it...even though it was incredibly simple...the more "archival" url for this blog as posted on twitter!

I do offer the sumo dog image and others on CafePress...but I love the idea of the micropayment.



Ken Cavanagh said...

Hi John...have you looked into I'm not currently using it (or affiliated) but seems like a good idea/solution for image creators.

One product they have, according to the site "monitors usage of your images across the Web and resolves unauthorized use with automated tools".

btw...enjoy your blog and perspective.

John Lund said...


Thanks for that tip...I will check into it!