Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Photo theft

I know it's just Wednesday morning, but this has already been a week filled with problems for the Buxton family.  Seth has work problems, I have health problems, Ryan has almost-teenage problems, and Emma...  Emma has shoe/sock/underwear eating problems plus she's doing her best to flunk out of beginner dog training school.

The good news is that none of these problems are insurmountable.  However, dealing with so many issues at one time has left me tired and crabby, so I was really, really unhappy yesterday when I discovered yet another one of my photos had been stolen and published by a "professional" Facebook page called Equine Calculator. 

It's been several years since the first time I discovered one of my photos used without permission on the internet.  I was researching mule performance classes for Balthazar and I came across this photo on the versatility page of the North American Saddle Mule Association's website.
Although I was mildly offended that they'd used it without permission, I was also somewhat flattered.  I did not contact NASMA and ask them to remove the photo, and it doesn't bother me (much) that it's still there.

As my blog grew in popularity, incidences of photo theft became more frequent.  I started seeing my pictures on other people's blogs and websites, usually without credit.  This was annoying, but not terribly so.  Most of the offenders were obviously young and wishful, kids who dreamed of owning the horses and tack in the pictures they'd borrowed.  I know how that feels, so I don't judge too harshly.
Recently, however, I've been the victim of a completely different type of photo thief, and this one does bother me.  In fact, it bothers me a lot.

There are a number of professional--and I use that term loosely--organizations who routinely post other people's photos on their Facebook pages.  Usually, they do so without permission and without crediting the photographer or linking the photo back to the website from which it was stolen.  Many of these pages have tens of thousands of subscribers, most of whom have no idea all those pretty pictures they like looking at are stolen.

The first experience I had with one of these sites was Equine News Today, who published my picture of the see saw at the Elkhorn Lodge without crediting me, my blog or the Lodge itself.  By the time I saw the photo on my Facebook feed, it had been shared more than five thousand times.  I left a comment indicating the photo was my property and was completely ignored.
The next offender was  They not only used my pictures of Tracie's guinea pig Barney without permission, they actually cropped out my watermarks.
When I called them on their actions, they stated: We get hundreds of pictures from our fans every day.  We cannot check all of them, where they came from or who has the copyright on them.  If you wish, we will delete your picture right away.  The pictures were, in fact, deleted immediately, but I think that response is a cop out.  Professional organizations shouldn't promote themselves with pictures they can't source.
This brings me back to yesterday, when my picture of a barrel racing draft horse showed up on Equine Calculator's Facebook page.  It was brought to my attention almost immediately by another hobbyist.  Once again, there was no photo credit and no link back to my blog.  I immediately tagged it with stolen photo comments, and several other hobbyists followed suit.  Within a couple hours, the photo was removed, and all the people who had made comments as to its origins had commenting their privileges revoked.  Meanwhile, Equine Calculator continues to publish professional quality photos without photographer credits.
I realize photo theft is not the end of the world.  However, I have grown very weary of protecting my work from this kind of thievery.  Yesterday was a bad day, and the episode with Equine Calculator had me seriously contemplating deleting my blog in its entirety.  Today I realize that's not best solution, but I do feel as if something needs to change.  Image and content warnings on the sidebar and unobtrusive watermarks do not seem to be working.  I hate the thought of placing a watermark in the center of the picture, but that seems to be the path of least resistance...

So, that's my rant for today.  Don't steal other people's copyrighted material, don't post things on Facebook without crediting the source and don't support professional groups who don't know how to act professionally.  

Tomorrow, I promise I'll be a lot less crabby.


  1. I don't blame you for being frustrated. What a headache!

    I don't think I've had any of my pictures stolen (*knocks on wood*) but it would annoy me too, especially if they were ones I was proud of or happy with. (like some of my Flickr images)

    This is the internet though, and it's kind of unavoidable, sadly. It's one reason why I save my images so small and at a quality best suited for web. (around 72 ppi) Even if the photos were stolen and posted elsewhere, I doubt anyone could really do anything with them, besides share them online.


    Hope you can find a solution of some sort.

  2. As one of your readers, I just want to put out there that I would not mind seeing all your pictures with your watermark at the center. I don't think it would detract from the quality at all. Especially if it helps limit the amount of theft. I can't imagine how frustrating that is!

  3. I'm so sorry you had to go through this, especially on an already-difficult day. It's a real backhanded compliment that people like your photos enough to steal them.

    I hope it doesn't come to you ending your blog- it's a real gift to the hobby and it would be sad to lose it.

    I hope you find a way to avoid that- maybe big watermarks are indeed the solution?


  4. *hugs*

    As I stated on FB, I can help you set up a batch command in photoshop if you want to go through and make all your photos watermarked in other ways.

    Plus, I can help you set up the watermark process in the future to be a one click thing, also in Photoshop :)


    (And the suggestion of right click disabling is a good one too.)

  5. Jennifer Scott sent me a link to a site that shows how to disable the right click/save, and I intend to make use of that. I realize it's not a foolproof solution, but it should stop a lot of the casual thievery.

    Unfortunately, casual thievery isn't the thing that bothers me. I really do not mind if people save my photos to their computers and use them for painting, sculpting or performance showing reference. In truth, I WANT people to do that. That's half the reason why I post so many pictures.

    In my mind, there is nothing casual about the photo theft perpetuated by Equine Calculator, Equine News Today and's Facebook pages. These sites routinely post high quality STOLEN photos for the sole purpose of promoting their business to a large number of horse lovers. This is not ok. It's not even close. It's theft, plain and simple and I do wish people would realize that every time they "like" one of those sites.

  6. Uuggghhh I am so totally with you and so totally in agreement with your ire. I've had only minor things happen with my photos, but ooohhhhh how I just want to go around and kick everyone in the shins. Flattery, shmattery. Don't take what isn't yours - especially without linking or crediting!

    I hope your day is better and that all the fuzzy and non-fuzzy animals in your life help put a smile back on your face.

  7. I tell people all the time to go to your blog because you do an AWSOME job! Please please PLEASE dont delete it! I only used your photos for my referance cards for my performance classes because I read on the side that that was ok

  8. I really understand your frustrations!! Some of my pictures have been stolen too and they are the least as good as yours. I was thinking of placing a watermark in the middle of every single picture too and I wouldn't mind if you did this too! Please don't disable the right click. Your blog and all these (large) pictures are such a good help and I allways save them to my computer. Just as a reference, not for publishing. Please keep up the good work and keep posting. If it has to be with a big watermark! :)

  9. So want to put a wager on your promise to be (and stay ) in a better mood tomorrow?

  10. Tomorrow I get to go riding with Carol. We'll be gone all morning and I won't be on the internet. That should make it a lot easier to stay happy.

  11. I admit, I'd be sad if right-click saving was disabled on the blog, because I can't get internet where I make my tack and props (and often where I put together my performance reference sheets). I mean, I personally know a couple of ways to "beat" a blocked right-click save (Google Image Search, for one), but if the primary purpose of so many photos is to make them available as reference materials for hobbyists (which we all greatly appreciate), blocking right-click save might be casting too wide of a net. That is, all the "legitimate" users of the photos are stopped from saving them as well. I'm sure you've thought about that already and I don't want to belabor the obvious, but it bears mentioning.
    Internet appropriation of photos and other art images IS theft and DOES violate intellectual property laws, but it does seem like a bit of a shame to either obscure the middle of an image with a watermark or delete the whole blog over a few bad apples. Also, a big, obvious watermark in the middle of the image would probably give judges pause at a live show where the photo is being used for reference- a watermark like that says that the person using it doesn't have permission to do so. I would probably stop using your pictures for live show reference materials because I wouldn't want to lose a class over the judge thinking I "stole" the photo. Plus I would feel terrible wasting your time doing something like asking for a non-watermarked version via email or similar every time you posted something I thought I might be able to use.
    Photo theft is incredibly annoying, but it's a sad thing when a few unscrupulous people can make someone doing something as kind and useful to the hobby as posting great reference material want to "take their toys and go home" by deleting their gallery or blog. I'm rambling, but I guess my point is just that the impression I get from your post (and from being a long-time reader) is that your blog gets a remarkable amount of traffic and the vast, even overwhelming, majority of that traffic are not thieves and are working well with the current format. A few takedown notices sent out now and then is pretty much par for the course for anyone posting any kind of intellectual property on the internet. Annoying and upsetting, yes, but not by any means unusual or indicative of a huge problem.

  12. That sucks. I would put the watermarks were cropping them would ruin the picture.

    Don't delete your blog. I read it religiously and love it!


  13. So sorry Jennifer. I'd be pissed too.

    When I use your photos for reference for performnace...I put your name on my references!!! I think it is not right to forget to give credit... I'm trying to do it will all my reference photos, but some I can't remember where I got them now!!!

  14. I also save lots of your pictures but for reference only. I would be super sad to see the pictures go. I get inspired from most of what I see and I also use them to critique my own tack. A watermark across the picture wouldn't bother me at all but it is so sad that a "professional" like that would steal pictures and then block the people that defended you.

  15. While searching on Google for many real life horse related things, your photos do show up (linked to your blog) a lot in the Google Image Search, but hey, you're popular what can you do? ;)

    My suggestion is that you put a center watermark on your photos (they're beautiful either way) and if someone wants to use them to share or for live show documentation they have to email you for the picture without the watermark

  16. I used some pictures of rev on my blog. But I also refer them to you and your homepage. If you don't want me to do that let me know and I want in the future.

    I went out there yesterday and gave him some carrots, I miss him so much. I guess the farrier never came out. Going to call him again and see if can come next week. Do they look really terrible, his feet?

  17. I think it absolutely STINKS that a supposed reputable business owner is in the habit of stealing photos from anyone. I believe because this is happening on the internet, people think it’s a faceless-crime (like internet bullying)! Just because you are not face-to-face with a person does NOT mean you can say or do whatever you want without consequences!! Stealing is stealing, no matter where or when it happens.

    I’ve had to use right-click blocking technology in my eBay auctions because of photo theft.

    I’m sorry this is happening to you Jennifer.
    Hope you figure out something to thwart the jerks!!

  18. I'm so sorry you have to deal with that. As a former pro photog, I got sick and tired of my photos being stolen by businesses while I was trying to make a living by selling the images as stock. The best money is to be made by images that aren't overused so it made the problem even worse.

    However, there was an effort of producing some sort of image recognizing software- it was supposed to crawl the web and find all instances of your photos used. That was roughly 5 years ago and have no idea if any advance had been made on it or if the idea had been canned.

  19. That is so frustrating that those sites would do that. I hope you feel better and everything else works out!

  20. I can't believe that site revoked people's commenting privileges, for merely stating the obvious! "How to win friends and influence people" - NOT. I've never visited there and now I never will. Grrr...

    I think if you move your watermark to maybe not the middle, but a location that would ruin the photo should it be cropped, that would help. I sure don't want to see this blog shut down, or great big watermarks covering up the pretty horsies, so hopefully you can figure out a compromise.

    Signed, Mother of the Infamous Pig :-)

  21. P.S. I hope you are feeling better soon and things improve at Seth's office. What a drag.

  22. Ya know, at the end of the mule versatility page, it says they would take it down...
    I know what its like to be so frustrated with this kind of stuff. Hang in there.

  23. I never noticed that statement at the bottom of the mule page. Like I said in the post, that one has never really bothered me. Maybe because it was first? Or because I like mules? I dunno, but whatever the reason, I'm fine with leaving it where it is.

    I do appreciate everyone's thoughts and support on this issue. I haven't made any firm decisions yet regarding pictures. Still thinking!

  24. PLEASE don't delete your blog! You could at least put the water mark somewhere that would be small but in the center and would ruin the picture if you cropped it out. Ex: on smarty jones cheek, on the grey draft horse's shoulder, on Barney's shoulder, etc...

    Devon Comstock♥

  25. Sorry about the photo theft. People really shouldn't take your pictures, but the are great!

  26. I like to borrow your ideas... they inspire me! I hope that is ok.


    Beth P

  27. I have to second, third, whatever number we are on . . . Please don't stop your blog! I love it. I also wouldn't mind having the copyright across the middle if that's the best option for you, I think we could still use them easily, and if worse came to worse, I just might have to email and see if I could get the original. Bob Langrish typically watermarks his that way and I still save plenty of them and even buy a few when I want to nice version. I personally like people who water mark their photos because I do save a lot of them, and while I often try to put the name of the poster in the name of the photo when I save them, if I'm in a hurry I don't do it, and then half of the time I can't remember where I got the photo. If it's watermarked, then I don't have that problem! Then you could even charge a tiny bit for your photos (more than fair!!) for your time.