In the wake of the recent Shoeper-Gate scandal, my wonderful (and hilarious) friend Juliet suggested I start a new blog. It would be called “Stealing Amber”, and would document all of the people who try to pass themselves off as me on the Internet and get caught – or who are ‘Caughty Doing a McNaughty’, as Juliet called it. (She needs to start a blog herself, doesn’t she?)
Well, as much as I love this idea, I realised I already have more blogs than I can handle right now, so I decided to give this subject its own category here at Forever Amber instead. (And if I’d known when I started blogging that I would one day need an entire category, just to document the Amber Imitators out there, I’d have… actually I have no idea what I’d have done. Laughed, probably. And then maybe deleted my fledgling blog in sheer horror.)
Anyway, to celebrate this new category, I thought I’d do a quick roundup of all of the times my identity has been stolen online, so here, in chronological order, are all of the people who’ve been ‘Caughty Doing a McNaughty’…
August 14, 2009: Someone calling herself “Milkbubble” posts my photo on a Sonic Youth forum and claims it’s a photo of her. Another member of the forum spots that the photo has been hotlinked from my blog, and tells me about it. When challenged, Milkbubble (who is a “little trouble girl”, to be sure) claims it was a “social experiment” and that on a male-dominated site (“It’s a maaaaaannnn’s wooooorrrllllld!”), she felt she “needed sex appeal” to be accepted. Everyone else on the forum wonders aloud why, in that case, she didn’t choose to steal a picture of a hot chick instead? Ouch.
October 2nd, 2010: Someone claiming to be called ‘Susan Veltri, female’ posts my photo on a writers’ community called She Writes, and claims it’s a photo of her. Or rather him, because it later transpires that ‘Susan Veltri’ is a man posing as a woman in order to get real women to phone him and discuss what it might be liked to be attacked. And this just in: the Internet is creepy.
She Writes never responded to my email to them about this, and I couldn’t work out how to delete the profile I was forced to set up to complain directly to “Susan” instead. They continue to spam me to this day.
3 – 10 (Approx) EBAY, GAH.
October 2009 – present day. My friend Lindsay contacts me to let me know that I’m now modelling false eyelashes on someone’s eBay account. This is, indeed, news to me, but I go and check and sure enough, there’s my face! On eBay! Awesome!
A few weeks later, my lips pop up, too:
They are soon joined by my legs:
To this day, various body parts of mine continue to appear on eBay with worrying regularity. At first, I used to contact the people and politely request that they either pay me for the use of my images or remove them. After receiving a particularly rude reply from one such seller, who apparently believed she had the right to use my body parts any way she liked, and discovering that eBay really couldn’t care less if they tried, I gave up on this, and now just allow myself to be plastered all over eBay at sellers’ whims. When your identity is stolen as often as mine is, you learn to pick your battles.
February 26, 2011: Someone calling herself ‘Libby’ starts a really, really bad blog. In the ‘author’s profile’ section, she posts not just one, but TWO photos of yours truly:
Don’t be fooled, though, readers: far from being “just a regular girl” (who can’t spell), my sources tell me that ‘Libby’ was, in fact, a very irregular guy, and that by “loves to make new friends”, Libby meant “loves to steal photos of redheads and claim they are him”. So that was creepy.
When cornered, ‘Libby’ apologised for stealing my images. Because that makes it OK.
April 2011: Someone uses the same name as my shoe site, Shoeperwoman, and tells me she “[can't see] much in common between the two sites” other than the name and the fact they’re both about shoes. Oh, and she tries to trademark the name, too. I call in the lawyers, and spend lots of money trying to stop her: I eventually win, but lose some of my faith in humanity in the process.
13. THE LIN SHUIDENG SAGA
In May 2011, a Lin Shuideng, based in China, stole 500 posts from Shoeperwoman.com, complete with photos (many of which were of me personally), and used them to set up a site called “Discount Shoes”. We filed a DMCA with the webhosts and had the site removed… then, a few days later, it was back up, with a DIFFERENT set of stolen Shoeperwoman posts (again, around 500 posts were stolen), on a different domain. So we complained to the new hosting company, and that site was removed, too. Then, a couple of days later, another one sprung up, also owned by Lin Shuideng, and also using 500 posts written by me, plus photos. Naturally, we complained to the host of this site, too, and it was removed, but then, a few days later… you can fill in the rest yourself, can’t you? Suffice to say that this went on for around three weeks, with Lin Shuideng stealing my content, us having the sites removed, and new ones springing back up. Lin did eventually give up, but continues to rip off other bloggers on a regular basis.
Also in May 2011, we discovered that a site called Chiq.com had republished around 40 posts from Shoeperwoman.com, complete with images. The content had been uploaded by one of the site’s users, and the site owner did agree to remove it all, however, some damage had already been done, as the stolen content was ranking higher in Google than the originals, and had been there for God knows how long before we discovered it. We weren’t amused.
15. EBAY, AGAIN
In the most blatant use of my images on eBay yet, in June 2011, this seller used photos of, not just my feet or eyelashes, but of my WHOLE BODY, to try and sell boots on eBay. She used three photos of me in total, all of which were watermarked with the URL of this site, but when I contacted her she said she “hadn’t realised they belonged to someone” and that “It wasn’t like they’d have helped her sell the boots anyway.” This is fairly typical of eBay sellers who steal images, I find.
16. STOLEN TEDDY BEARS
In June 2011, I wrote a lengthy post about stolen teddy bears, which I illustrated using images I’d taken myself. The very next day, all 2,000 words of the post, plus all of the photos, turned up on a site selling teddy bears. They’d placed adverts all around the post, so were presumably hoping to make some money from the stolen content. Nice, hey? Must be awesome to be able to make money from other people’s work without having to even ask their permission first! I left a comment on the post, and it was removed the next day. I’m still waiting for my apology/explanation…
17. “I’M SORRY MISS AMBER!”
June 2011 was a bad month for McNaughtiness, for, in addition to the two incidents above, I also discovered this Facebook page:
The profile picture is a photo of me: in fact, it’s the same profile picture I use myself, on the Shoeperwoman Facebook page. The word “Shoeper”, meanwhile, seems to suggest that this page is connected to Shoeperwoman.com in some way, and, indeed, if you’d clicked on the profile picture to look at the other photos this user had uploaded, you’d have found the Shoeperwoman.com banner, which also appeared on the page. Misleading, much? Well, I thought so, and I contacted the person to tell her as much. Here is her response:
“im sorry miss amber, im one of your admirers. it was really not my intention. im sorry again. i remove your photo and also change my name to shoe instead of shoeper. i was not impersonating you but just got your pic in your web because i find you so pretty with those shoes beside you. it was a misunderstanding. i have not respond to any of your message because it was just now that i have check and open my facebook. again im sorry miss amber. :(“
So THAT’S OK, then!
18. Albert Martino
In September 2011, Albert Martino of Wilkes-Barres, PA, set up a company called Hot Igloo offering web design and internet marketing services. This is a problem for me, because I already own a company called Hot Igloo. Which ALSO offers web design and internet marketing services. (This is my husband’s business, so I don’t take much to do with the day-to-day running. It is our limited company name, however, and Terry’s primary source of income.) Essentially, Albert Martino has just duplicated our brand, presumably in the hope of stealing our internet traffic and clients. Awesome guy, Albert. To date, Albert has resisted all of our attempts to speak to us about this, which seems to confirm the idea that he has done this maliciously: he even went to far as to block every country in the world, with the exception of the US, from viewing his Facebook page after we tried to use it to contact us. Sadly for him, Facebook removed that page when we complained to them: we’re now in the process of taking legal action to put a stop to the rest of his endeavours to destroy our livelihood.
EDITED TO ADD: I watermark all of my images, but it doesn’t stop the theft because the impotors crop out my face – I’d have to place the watermark over my own face to deter them. And right-click disable is completely useless because it’s too easy to just screenshot instead. So the theft goes on…
And that brings us up to date.
All of the above people were Caughty Doing a McNaughty. Who will be next? Tune in to find out…
(P.S. Have you caughty someone doing a ‘McNaughty’? I’d love to hear about it…)