Photo Stealers

Q:  How many people run Photo Stealers?
A: One.  However I have a long reaching support system that helps me out behind the scenes quite often.  I’ve kicked around taking on others to help blog but I ultimately decided that this is my baby and I’ll be the only one to blog (for now).

Q:  How did Photo Stealers come to be?
A:  A few years ago there was a photographer caught stealing images and using them in her portfolio to sell a Groupon Ad.  I helped source the images and afterwards people kept coming to me whenever they found a new photographer stealing images.  Eventually I moved from Twitter to Tumblr to make the information easier to access and read.

Q:  Why did you move to a domain?
A:  I used tumblr at the time because it was easy and quick to set up but as time went on I became limited to what I could do with Tumblr and it always bothered me that I was running a copyright infringement website on a blog website that is notorious for copyright infringement.

Q:  Why are there ads on this website?
A:  For almost two years I spent a lot of time investigating and researching material for Photo Stealer with no compensation whatsoever.  I eventually put up a donation link and decided to place ads on the website when I moved to a domain to help pay for the costs of running this page.  There are some costs that come with running this site and I was hoping to get it to the point that it could pay to run itself and I’m close to being able to do that now without investing my own money into it.

Q:  Are you selling ad space?  My company would love to run an ad here?
A:  I am making a limited amount of ads available for this site.  Please email me to discuss this further.   Note that all companies must be approved by me as a good fit for my audience.

Q:  What kind of costs are associated with Photo Stealers?  It’s just typing!
A:  Hosting, domain registration, Copyscape, Blog Stomp, security software for the blog and other various minor things.  The revenue also has gone towards fees for lawyers.   This is not a big money maker though but I’m glad that it’s at least making enough to keep itself going without my having to put too much of my own money into it.

Q:  Security?
A:  After outing one particular thief I had a month long battle with someone trying to hack into the blog.  Security is kind of necessary now that PS has grown.


The Blog

Q:  What do you mean when you say “unknown origins/unknown original source?” What is your reason for suspecting that image as being stolen if you haven’t found it somewhere else or no one else has claimed it?
A:  Sometimes an image has been pinned and reposted so many times it’s impossible (or I don’t have the time) to tell who the original source is.  This is often a problem when a wedding has been blogged or featured on a website other than the photographer’s (i.e. Style Me Pretty, Wedding Chicks, Style Unveiled etc.).  Sometimes it’s a stock image that I can’t find the original source for because it’s used everywhere.  While I am pretty certain the listed photographer is NOT the person listed in the blog, I can’t say for certain where the origin may be.

Q:  What side is which when looking at the images?  
A:  The PS listed photographer is always on the left and the original source is always on the right.  In the older posts pre-move the PS photographer is first and the original source is second.

Q:  Which is the original source?  Why don’t you list the name of the original photographer?
A:  The original source is above the image showing the thief vs. original side-by-side.  I do not list the name of the original photographer because I don’t want their future clients to ever think that they were a thief or for Google to attach their name to a listing.

Q:  What is the difference between original source and original photographer?
A:  Original source means I’ve been able to locate where the image was on the photographer’s blog/website.  Original photographer means I’ve located who the photographer was but didn’t have the time or ability to find the image on the site.  Often this is when an image is used for advertising, rehosted on a features blog (i.e. Style Me Pretty, On to Baby etc.), used on a flash built website or just has been pinned to death and the source link is the main URL and not the original blog post.


The Thieves

Q: Does stealing photos usually result in more business from the infringing photographer?
A:  It’s hard to say but it seems that they are able to book more business with the stolen images than without – especially when they’ve stolen images that are from a genre of photography they are looking to branch out into (i.e. boudoir, weddings and newborns).

Q:  What are some of the most common excuses? What are your all time favorite?
A:  Someday I mean to go back and tally all of the excuses.  I may do that soon just to make me laugh.  Most common is blaming someone else – intern, web designer and hackers are the top contenders.  That’s closely followed by it was a mistake/misunderstanding and stating that if it’s on the internet it’s free to use.  My favorite may be the photographer that stole an image from me then claimed that I stole it from HER and she let me keep it up because it was a complement to her that I liked her image enough to steal it.

Q:  Will you be placing the thieves code of conduct and protocol for them to follow when busted?
A:  Call me an asshole (and many do!) but I’m not inclined to give the thieves any help getting out of the mess they’ve created.   I’d rather see them prove themselves by doing the right thing on their own.

Q:  WTF is wrong with people?
A:  Egotism.

Q:  Why haven’t I been featured on your site?
A:  You haven’t stolen from the right person yet!

Q:  What do you use to search for images? 
A:  Google Reverse Image search, TinEye and instinct.  Sometimes you just KNOW an image is stolen but it takes a bit more finesse to find the image than just Google.

Q:  What genre of photography seems to be stolen the most? And why you think that is the case?
A:  Probably the most stolen is landscapes because people make money on those but I rarely get submissions with them.  The most featured here is weddings – partially because I am a wedding photographer and partially because of the money associated with booking weddings.  People generally start out photographing babies and families and when they want to go for “big money” they decide to start offering weddings.  No one books because they don’t have any examples so they steal an image or two and it goes from there.  Second is boudoir because it’s a very popular genre that also generates a lot of money but is another thing that clients want to see examples of before booking.

Q:  How do you determine who the original photographer is and who is the thief is?
A:  The dates on the images and/or blog post along with EXIF data when available.  You don’t know how many times the thieves don’t realize the image still has the original photographer’s copyright in the EXIF data.

Q:  How often do you get referred “stealing” photographers that are actually in fact legit?
A:  Very rarely.  I think I’ve only had a handful of people that have been submitted that end up being legit.  However, none of those people ever made the blog and no one featured here has ever been found innocent.

Q:  Have you ever removed anyone listed here?
A:  I have, a few times in fact.  When the thief is contrite, honest and admits fault without qualifiers or excuses and the victims are agreeable, I’ve removed the post with the understanding that if/when they steal again the post will come back.  So far, none of them have made the same mistake again.

Q:  Does being outed here stop the stealing or do they go on to steal again?
A:  MOST go away, rebrand and come back without stolen images but there have been a few that go back to their old tricks once the smoke blows over.



*I am NOT a lawyer nor do I pretend to be one*

Q: With no international IP or copyright laws, what are some ways to deal with international copyright breaches?
A:  It is definitely harder to enforce in other country and it all depends on the relationship your country has with the offending photographer or their host.  It’s very hard to pursue the matter legally but most website hosts across the world will honor DMCA requests from any country.