I love the internet, the things you can discover, places you can see, or those odd questions that plague you but now the answer is only a search away. And sometimes, the internet feels like the Wild West, where the rules are not so much rules as a trust in others to do the right thing. Yesterday, I discovered that one of my photographs had been stolen and posted to flickr by another individual, claiming it as their own. Another photographer alerted me to the copyright infringement. I can only guess how she discovered it. The person who stole my photograph has an entire account, it seems, of other photographers' work. I assume the woman who contacted me was also a victim. I spent the better part of my afternoon figuring out what I needed to do to have my photo removed from this person's account. Yahoo is to be commended for their prompt action - my photo was removed last night. The account, however, still exists and mine is the only photograph removed so far.
So what can you do? There are a few things, nothing foolproof and won't begin to stop someone determined and skilled at these things. But what I've learned over the last year or so -
- Be sure to include copyright information in your metadata. (I believe that's how my guardian angel found me. That's how I found several others - their names were in the metadata of photos supposedly taken by this individual.)
- Upload to the internet small, low resolution files - 1024 pixels on the long side maximum, 72 dpi resolution. This won't stop someone from posting your image somewhere on the internet but they won't be making screen savers or prints.
- Watermark your images. I don't especially care for this. The only way to make it foolproof is to plaster a very large watermark across the very center of the image. And that detracts from the very reason we post to the internet in the first place - we have an image we like that we want to share with others. Still, a watermark, even a discreet one, announces to the world that this is your work.
- Watch where your referrals come from. Another friend of mine discovered an infringement when he noticed that he was getting referrals from a realty company, not a common referral for a flickr photograph.
- If you see an infringement, yours or someone else's, I ask that you do something. Someone took the time to find me and let me know about this. I took the time to find two others and let them know. With this particular individual, the news went rather viral over the course of yesterday afternoon.
It's a shame but it is a fact of life in this digital age. Keep sharing your wonderful work - and know how to protect yourself.