Posts Tagged ‘people who steal my photos’
It’s been a while since I last caught(y) someone doing “a McNaughty”, so for the benefit of those just joining us, hi, I’m Amber and I’m the most-imitated woman on the Internet! You can find a full list of all the people who have impersonated or ripped me off here: read it and weep, folks! (God knows, I sometimes do.)
Anyway, as I was saying, it’s been a long time since I last wrote about my copycats, so you’ve probably been thinking, “Gosh, people must have finally given up on relentlessly copying Amber: that’s nice!” Or, I mean, you probably HAVEN’T been thinking that at all, but if you had, you’d be wrong: people have, indeed, been continuing to steal my images and text (mostly on eBay), it’s just that it happens so often that it’s not really worth mentioning most of the time. Until now, that is.
Sunday night, as you probably all know, was Oscars night, a.k.a The Worst Night of Amber’s Year. Because I have a website about fashion, I am obliged to write about the Oscars red carpet, and because I’m not a filthy rotten image thief, I buy all of the images I require to do this from an image agency. With money. Money that I work for, and which I can’t spend on shoes and green dresses once I’ve spent it on image licences for my website. Boo hoo, woe is me!
On Oscar night, however, my image agency messed up. I sat up late, waiting for the images to come in, and, when they didn’t, I set my alarm and got up early the next morning. And the images still weren’t available. So I freaked out, and then Gemma told me I could get (legal) images from the PR Section of the Academy Awards website, so I did that, then my own agency coughed up the goods too, and I spent basically the entire day editing photos and writing text to accompany them.
Then I got up the next morning and discovered that some other website had just stolen all the posts and republished them, so all of those hours of work, all of those images, and all of the money I had spent purchasing them, had not, as I had imagined, been done to benefit my own business and website, but had been done to benefit someone ELSE’S.
Which was… yeah.
It’s OK, though: I mean, they didn’t actually COPY me. Oh no. I mean, compare this, from my site:
With this, from the plagiarist, I mean “person who just happened to write exactly the same thing, but in Pidgin English, because that totally makes it OK”:
Occasional actress. My Few Days With Marilyn. Your woman. The night-time.
Let’s just admit it: this is funnier than what I wrote, isn’t it? Only I don’t think that was the intention somehow.
Oh yah, totally: thus boom about trend! I SO know what you mean! Except, not really. I don’t think ANYONE would know what this meant, if it weren’t for my helpful translation above, which has obviously been run through some kind of software designed to replace certain words with other ones.
(In other news, I think my next tagline will be “One ruffle lacking any seventies bedspread.” Catchy, no? Orange can make it!)
There’s even more, too: this company has copied lots of my posts – I actually don’t know the full extent of it yet, because I had to stop counting in order to come here and take the crap out of them – and posts from other bloggers, too. My guess is that they think the fact that they’re re-writing the text makes it OK, so here is a newsflash for them, and for anyone else thinking, “You know what: I’d like to make money from blogging, but I can’t be assed doing any work or investing any money in it, so I think what I’ll do is, I’ll let AMBER do the work and spend the money, and then I’ll just steal it!”:
NEWSFLASH: RE-WRITING MY CONTENT IN THE MANNER OF AN (ADMITTEDLY HILARIOUS) NON-ENGLISH SPEAKER DOES NOT MAKE IT OK TO COPY ME. Or anyone else, for that matter.
This is plagiarism, pure and simple. I’ve done the work, now this company is profiting from it. (And I found the copycat site because I was Googling for info on Oscars fashion, and it came up in the search results before mine. So this site is stealing my work AND my traffic, just in case you were thinking this kind of thing doesn’t matter, or that it’s an essentially victimless crime.)
I’m not really concerned about the images on this particular post, because they’re ones I got from the Oscars’ press section, and anyone who is registered there would have access to them. They’ve also stolen images which I paid my agency for, though, and that REALLY rankles with me – as it does when any blogger takes images I’ve paid for – because images aren’t cheap, and I hate feeling like I’m paying for something just so other bloggers can use it for free. I’m willing to pay for my OWN images, but I don’t see why I should pay for yours too.
(Incidentally, this is another reason why it’s not nice to steal images. Someone had to pay for them. They didn’t pay for them FOR YOU. And some photographer DIDN’T get paid for your use of them. Not cool.)
We will probably be able to get Google to remove our content from this site (we always have before), once we’ve worked out exactly how much of it they’ve used. I’m not going to link to them because I don’t want to send them the traffic, but if you’re thinking it might be called “Fashion Trends for 2012″, then you are thinking right: please don’t reward it with clicks! And if you wrote any coverage of The Oscars this week, or celebrity fashion in general, there’s a good chance your re-written content is on it too.
I leave you with one of my favourite automatic re-writes of my text:
I said I liked Flower Byrne’s “bob”. They said they liked her “frank”. And I said her dress was black, but what was I thinking? That dress is AFRICAN AMERICAN, people. I hang my head in shame.
(Is it wrong that I want to ask them which program they’re using to do this? I’m thinking my blog would be MUCH funnier if I ran my posts through it too…)
When I wrote my post rounding up all of the people who’ve been caught imitating me, or otherwise rippping me off online, I honestly thought that would be the last post I’d write on the subject. Surely there’s a limit to how often one person can be relentlessly copied, I thought, and surely – SURELY – that limit has been well and truly reached in my case?
This morning the trusty Google Alert I set up a couple of weeks ago for the express purpose of catching people in acts of McNaughtiness threw up this site:
As you can see, the site is called ‘Discount Shoes’. It has nothing to do with me. Oh, other than the fact that I wrote every single one of the almost 500 posts on it. And even appear on it in person multiple times: that’s my little head you can see in the photo there.
This is me too:
This is TWO of me:
Not even my dog managed to avoid having his image plastered over the ‘Discount Shoes’ website:
Not only have all of these personal photos of me (and many, many more) been used illegally, all of the text on the site was written by me. There are almost 500 posts, and I wrote every single one of them. In fact, there isn’t a single post on ‘Discount Shoes’ that WASN’T written by me. As well as my own photos, some of them contain celebrity images which I paid my image agency for, and which are licensed for my use only: they have also been reproduced illegally. This is quite apart from the fact that, as a professional writer who makes a living out of blogging, I do NOT spend my time writing these posts so that other people can use them for free.
Quite apart from being staggeringly cheeky and very annoying, this does have potential implications for my business, too. As many of you know, Google likes websites to contain only original content, and it can and does impose penalties for duplicate content. Unfortunately those penalties don’t always apply only to the site doing the copying, either, so the fact that there is now a duplicate of around 500 of my posts on another website is cause for concern. It also means that people who search Google for the information I’ve written about have a chance (albeit a slim one) of finding the impostor site rather than mine, thus losing me traffic. (This is the reason I use partial feeds on most of my blogs. I know readers hate me for it, but it does stop content scrapers from doing this kind of thing, as they normally use the RSS feed to steal the content. In this case they’ve obviously gone about it some other way, because Shoeperwoman doesn’t publish full feeds, and these people have still managed to comprehensively rip me off.) To be honest, I’m actually wondering if this is the reason it’s been done: there are no adverts or anything on the copycat site, so there doesn’t seem to be any benefit to the thief, unless it is purely malicious. Someone also suggested on Twitter that the person could be doing it for SEO reasons, if they intend to set up a discount shoe store at some point: I guess that could also be a possibility.
As you can see from the “Shoeperwoman.com” watermarks on the images, they’ve all been taken directly from there. This is why every time someone tells me that all I need to do to prevent this kind of thing happening is to watermark my images, I just laugh and wish it was that simple. Watermarking images doesn’t stop people stealing them, as you can see. Right-click disable doesn’t stop it either (and also has a lot of negative implications for your site in general). Placing copyright and trademark notices on your site (Shoeperwoman.com has both) doesn’t stop it. If people want to rip you off, they will do it, and your only option will be to fight them.
I’m now at the point where I’m absolutely exhausted by this, and sick to my stomach about it. I feel like no sooner do I manage to get rid of one copycat, another one pops up. Both Terry and I are spending more and more of our time now just fighting people who want to copy me. That’s just ridiculous, not to mention time-consuming and expensive. When I mentioned this latest issue on Twitter, lots of people suggested suing the person responsible, or sending a lawyer’s letter. Having just engaged a lawyer to deal with the last issue we had with copyright/trademarks, I now know exactly how expensive both of these options are, and it is a cost that we just can’t afford to keep incurring. At the rate this is happening right now, I would be suing people or sending cease and desist letters every single month, and I would be bankrupt by the end of the summer.
To answer the questions that always come up about this:
1. Shoeperwoman.com has copyright and trademark notices on every page of the site – the copyright and trademark symbols also appear in the header. Our experience is that these don’t make the slightest difference to people who want to copy the site.
2. All of the photos taken by me have watermarks on them: you can see some of them in the images above. Again, this doesn’t make any difference whatsoever. Some of the time the image thiefs crop the watermarks out, other times they just blatantly leave them there. I’m now convinced that all watermarking does is take up a few seconds of MY time creating them.
3. Right-click disable doesn’t stop people stealing. It’s almost worse than useless, and can damage your site in other ways.
The one good thing about this is that Terry and I now have so much experience in dealing with this kind of situation that we’re able to swing into action when it happens and have the sites removed, and we’re just about to begin the process with this latest copycat – a process which may be a little more difficult in this case as the person appears to be based in China. The point is, though, that we shouldn’t have to. I shouldn’t have to YET AGAIN be having to divert my time from all of the many, many things I have to do right now, and start fighting someone who is breaking the law. I’m furious that I’m YET AGAIN being put in this position by someone else’s stupidity. I’m also furious that when it comes to theft of intellectual property, justice is something that is only available to the rich. As I said, I can’t afford to sue every single person who tries to rip me off. All I can do is keep on and on fighting them… and keep on and on blogging about it when it happens.
Finally, the domain this latest copycat site is hosted on is registered to one Lin Shuideng. Lin, there’s no way for me to contact you via your website, and you’ve closed comments, so if you happen to read this: you’ve stolen around 500 blog posts and at least 1,000 images that don’t belong to you. My contact details are on this site: I’d love to discuss this with you in person.
This week’s Friend Friday is about blogger copying, and as regular readers will even now be realising with a sinking heart, this is a subject I’ve come up against time and time again, both as a pro-blogger, and as a random girl on the internet who keeps finding photos of herself on eBay/forums/God knows where else. So, naturally, I found I had a LOT to say about it. Like, REALLY a lot. As in, “you might want to skip this one if you have any plans for the rest of the morning.”
1. What are the ‘unwritten rules’ about coping content that we bloggers should all abide by?
Well, I’m not sure about “unwritten” rules, but there are ACTUAL rules governing the reproduction of content, be it words, images or whatever. Publishing something on the Internet is no different from publishing something in a newspaper or magazine: you’re not allowed to just take someone else’s work and re-publish it without their permission. I think this is something a lot of people don’t really understand. There seems to be an idea that the Internet is “different” somehow, and that it matters less (or not at all) if you steal someone’s work online. It doesn’t. Copying someone else’s words or images is copyright theft. Passing it off as your OWN work is plagiarism. And copyright isn’t something that has to be explicitly stated, either. I have copyright notices on my images, and on my blogs now, but they’re purely there as a deterrent: I don’t actually NEED to have those there in order to make the work “my” copyright, it’s mine as soon as I write the words or take the photo. As this site explains in far better detail than I can, copyright protection is automatic, which, to me, means you should never, ever copy someone else’s work unless they’ve given their permission to do so.
I’ve rambled a bit here, but this is something that I think can’t be stated often enough, especially to people who are new to blogging. Because I started my career in newspaper journalism I have had a certain amount of training on copyright law and how it works, but it does worry me that the Internet makes it possible for people to publish anything they want, without having even the slightest idea about the legalities of what they’re doing. I think that as a publisher (which is what bloggers are), you have a responsibility to know what you are and are not legally allowed to publish – not just in terms of copyright, but also in terms of libel, etc. It’s not enough to say, “Oh, I didn’t realise I wasn’t allowed to use your images!” which is the excuse that’s invariably given to me when I discover photos of myself advertising products on eBay: sorry, but ignorance is no excuse!
(I feel I should also point out here that copyright law is more complex than I’ve made it out to be here. There is also a Fair Use clause in US law, which allows certain people to use certain images without requesting the permission of the rights holder. It’s a fairly grey area, and I’m not the person best qualified to explain it, but it’s something that’s worth reading up on if you’re planning to publish online.)
2. They say imitation is the highest form of flattery. But when is a post imitation and when is it copying?
This is a really good question, and it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently, as I’ve become aware of a handful of blogs which have clearly been “inspired by” The Fashion Police (some of them even admit to it in their posts, which are basically a long list of “I found this on The Fashion Police” and “I found this there too”), and which are doing exactly the same thing as I am: i.e. they’re not outright copying my posts word-for-word, but they’re writing about the same things, in the same way (often posting about the same products TFP has featured, right after we’ve posted about them), and some are even running the same daily/weekly features, and giving them the same names I do.
I’m not really sure how to react to these blogs, to be honest. I mean, sure, it’s flattering: these people obviously liked my blog enough to think “Hey, I could do that!” (OK, so maybe that bit’s NOT so flattering), but at the same time, I don’t really understand what the point is of having a blog that’s more or less a carbon copy of someone else’s site. Wouldn’t it be more satisfying to create something that’s your own? They’re not infringing my copyright, but I do think they’re “copying” me, whether they mean to or not.
The fact is, though, it’s really hard to know when someone is actively “copying” you. After all, I didn’t invent the idea of writing about bad fashion, or having a blog dedicated to “policing” the fashion world. I certainly didn’t invent the phrase “The Fashion Police” – it was an idea that was already out there, and which I decided to capitalise on. It’s perfectly plausible that someone else could come up with a similar idea and implement it without even having heard of my blog. In fact, the E! Network already have a show called “Fashion Police” and I’m pretty sure they’re not drawing inspiration from me.
What I’m trying to say is that when someone just copies and pastes your work, it’s pretty clear-cut. When it’s an IDEA, or an outfit, or a photo location, or whatever that’s being “copied”, then that becomes much, much harder. To be honest, I’d find a blogger who said, “OMG, I always take my outfit photos in the woods, so anyone else who takes their photos in the woods is copying me!” a little precious, and I suspect people would find me equally precious if I said, “Look, I’ve been doing a <insert name of regular feature> post every day for five years, so no one else can do that now or they’re copying me.” And maybe they’d be right.
I totally didn’t answer that question, did I? Even although I wrote four hefty paragraphs on it. Moving on…
3. Taking another blogger’s idea (perhaps for an outfit, or DIY tutorial) is pretty common in the blogging world. Do you think it is necessary to credit the original source?
When I first started blogging professionally, I was always instructed to credit the source if I’d found something on another site, and that’s something I’ve carried through to my own sites. I think it’s only polite, really, although I also think it’s important to realise that linking back to the original source doesn’t make it OK to copy and paste someone else’s text or images. I can’t count the number of times I’ve contacted someone who has just reproduced huge chunks of my blog and had them say, “Oh, but I linked back to you!” Yes, you did, and I appreciate it, but that doesn’t mean you’re allowed to steal from me.
Of course, there’s a massive grey area here, too. It’s possible to write about the same thing as another blogger without actually having seen their site, for instance. This is really common in the world of shoe blogs, where Net-a-Porter, say, gets a new delivery of Louboutins in, and every shoe blogger around posts about the same, stand-out shoe. We’re not copying each other, we’re simply working in the same industry, which means we’re exposed to the same things, at roughly the same time, and that can occasionally create an illusion of “copying”.
For instance: back when I worked for Shiny Media, I once got a series of comments from a fellow blogger which really upset me: she felt the blog I edited at the time was “copying” her blog, which was certainly news to me because I hadn’t even heard of her site, and when I checked with the other writers, they hadn’t either. I emailed her privately and we managed to establish that there was no “copying” going on, it was simply a case of us both monitoring the same retailers and ending up writing about the same thing occasionally. (I also pointed out to her that there were many occasions where she’d written about the product in question AFTER we had, so I could just as easily have accused her of doing the copying… if I’d known about her blog.)
My point is that sometimes people who blog within the same niche will end up writing about the same thing, just as newspapers end up writing about the same thing, and coincidences do happen, so it’s important not to jump to conclusions. You also have to take unconscious influence into account, too. You know when you see something somewhere, but don’t really remember seeing it, so it feels like it’s your idea? I suspect this happens fairly frequently in the fashion blogging world, and I’d really hate to think someone was looking at my photos and thinking, “OMG, she’s wearing a blue skirt and yesterday I wore a blue skirt: COPYIST!!!!” Again, unless the person is dressed EXACTLY like you, to the extent that it looks like a parody, I don’t think you can afford to be too precious about it, or make too many assumptions.
(I am actually so paranoid about unconscious influence and the possibility of being accused of copying people that I actively avoid reading blogs that operate in the same niche as mine too often. I subscribe to them, and dip in and out every so often, but I generally avoid them, so that I can be confident that my ideas are my own. I think this is pretty silly, but that doesn’t stop me doing it anyway.)
4. How have you improved your blog by comparing it to other bloggers? Have you made changes due to something you have seen others doing?
I try not to compare my blogs to other people’s, because I don’t think it’s always helpful: in fact, it can send me spiralling into a pit of despair, thinking, “WAH! Everyone is so much better than me, I want to change EVERYTHING!” I obviously do read other blogs, though, and sure, there are certain changes I’ve made, mostly on the technical or design side of things. For instance, I started using LinkWithin on this site because I’d seen it on a few other blogs and really liked it: I also recently started trialling Disqus comments because I’d seen it on some other sites, and had been looking for something that would let me integrate my Twitter and Facebook comments with the ones posted directly on the blog. Because I blog as a busines, I don’t tend to make changes just because I’ve seen someone else do it, though, because seemingly small changes can have a big impact on our revenue: if it’s a technical/design change, it has to be researched thoroughly first so I know it’s something that’s actually going to benefit us, and not just be a case of, “ooh, lookit! She did that, I think I’ll do that too!”
5. Have you ever had one of your posts copied by another blogger or publication? How did you handle the situation?
Ha. Where do I start? I’ve not only had posts copied, I’ve also had images copied, and, on two occasions, people have actually taken photos of me and claimed they were photos of THEM, so you could say I’ve also had MYSELF copied, as bizarre at that sounds. (Full story here and here, just in case this post wasn’t long enough for you) By this point, I have a set technique for dealing with it, which is to first of all contact the blogger, either privately, or, if there’s no email address displayed on the site, by leaving a comment.
I try to keep it friendly at this point (well, except in the two cases where people were actually trying to claim they WERE me: I must admit, the gloves were left at home for that) because my experience is that most of the time, the person doesn’t mean any harm by it, and just doesn’t realise they’ve done something wrong. So I’ll just say something like, “Hey, thanks for your interest in my post: I’m really flattered that you liked it enough to want to put it on your site, but I’m afraid my work is copyrighted and I don’t allow it to be reproduced elsewhere, so I’d really appreciate it if you could maybe just link to it instead, rather than posting it in its entirety.”
If that doesn’t work, and a large amount of content has been copied, I have, on occasion, contacted the company who hosts the website and asked for the copyrighted work to be removed. I should stress that I would only do this if it’s a “splogger” (i.e. someone who deliberately steals content in order to make money from it) or if the copying has been done to such an extent that it could be damaging to my business or reputation. In other words, I pick my battles.
In cases where the person hasn’t copied and pasted my post, but I’m pretty sure they’ve copied the idea behind it, I don’t normally do anything. After all, I can’t prove the person has copied me, and even if I could, what would I gain by “outing” them? They’d only deny it, anyway, so I normally just leave it be, and hope that any of my readers who happen upon the copycat post/site will realise what’s going on. I also try to take it as a compliment. When people STOP wanting to copy me… then I’ll start to worry.
(For more answers to these questions, check out the list of Friend Friday participants at Modly Chic)
P.S. Just in case that long ramble wasn’t enough for you, I was also interviewed by TribaSpace this week on the subject of blogging and shoes – you can read it here.
No matter how many times people steal my photos and try to pass them off as their own, it never fails to surpsize me.
Yes, folks, those are my legs. And that’s not my eBay auction. Gah.
One of my readers left a comment on Shoeperwoman (where this photo was originally published) yesterday, to let me know that my legs were on eBay. Sure enough, there I am, helping someone sell a pair of size 7 used shoes. Of course, nowhere on her auction does this seller indicate that the shoes pictured (she’s included no less than three of my photos, so my bed gets to make a cameo on eBay, too – hi, bed!) aren’t actually the ones that she’s selling. Mine are size 4, and were brand, spanking new when these photos were taken – I hadn’t even been outside in them yet: personally I think it’s just a little misleading to use a picture of a pair of brand new, fresh-from-the-store size 4 shoes in order to sell your used size 7s, but the frequency with which this happens suggests I’m pretty much alone in that.
Again, this is no big deal, really (or not for me, anyway: it may be a big deal for the person who thinks the shoes they’re buying are the exact ones shown in the photo), but it does lower my faith in eBay even more. I mean, who knows what you’re getting when you buy something there? How do you know you’re bidding on the item in the photo, or whether the seller just stole that image from some random shoe blogger?
Oh, and the seller’s response to my, “Hey, those are my legs!” email? She “thought the photos were from the Miss Selfridge website” (Because they always photograph their products on top of someone’s duvet, obviously) and she “will take them down at the weekend,” presumably after a bunch of other people have viewed them and assumed they were bidding on the shoes in the photo. Was very tempted to reply with, “OK, well, my daily rate for modelling shoes is £100 per photo: just let me know how many days you want to use them for!”
(P.S. I changed the banner on this site today, as you may have noticed if you’re not reading this via a reader: I fully expect to find the photo of me advertising something on eBay any day now!)
Yes, folks, it’s yet another edition of Friday (Stolen) Photo! Which can only mean one thing: another poor fool has stolen a photo of my face and is using it to sell things on eBay! Or at least, I think it’s eBay. I have no idea what “gittigidiyor.com” might mean, so I’m going to have to assume it means “Site where people habitually steal photos of Magic Amber, and use them to sell products including – but not limited to – false eyelashes and lip plumping gloss.”
Or, in this case, “Not-Particularly-Plumping-Gloss”:
Yeah, those are my lips. Hai, lips! Do you see how the “before” and “after” photos are ALMOST EXACTLY THE SAME here, readers? That’s because… they are. As I noted in my review of this product, “Sexy Motherpucker” made no discernable difference to my lips at all. STOLEN PHOTO FAIL.
This time, rather than politely ask the seller to remove the photo, I simply asked which address I should send my invoice to for use of the copyrighted images. I get more vindictive with every body part of mine that appears on eBay. The next person to use my face without permission wakes up to a horse’s head in their bed, I swear to God.*
Oh, I’m also now a member of Turkish eBay. Yes.
And here was I thinking the Friday (Stolen) Photo would be a one-off! Oh, if only!
[Thanks to Lucy for letting me know about this one!]
* That was a joke, by the way. I mostly just think, “Wow, AGAIN?” when I see these, not, “OK, horse’s head.” Mostly.
In a change to our published schedule, rather than showing you a totally random photo every Friday some Fridays, I’m now going to use this slot to show you the new places my face has turned up on the Internet without my permission. It’ll be something to show the grandkids, I guess. Assuming Rubin has any.
I’m also going to refrain from rehashing the same old post about the CHEEK of people who use MY FACE for their own personal gain, and just allow you to imagine what I would have written if I wasn’t so lazy. Please refer to this post, this post and let’s not forget this post if you’re not sure.
This week’s Stolen Photo, then, sees me once again advertising false eyelashes on eBay:
There were actually three auctions featuring yours truly, but two of them used the same image, so I’m sure you don’t need the illustration. Oh, and when I contacted the seller she told me she’d removed the images, but it turns out she only removed one. The others are still there. Presumably she thought I wouldn’t bother to check.
Anyway, thanks to Ola for letting me know about this latest appearance. Remember, folks, there are fake Ambers all around you, so if you spot one, please let me know! Meanwhile, if anyone needs me, I’ll be spending my weekend watermarking all of my images. The fun just never starts, does it?
Oh for crying out loud…
Last night I was at my desk, busily working away, when a message popped in from my friend Lindsay. Lindsay had been browsing eBay looking at false eyelashes, and you’ll never guess who happened to be modelling the ones she found?
Or, actually, you probably will guess:
Yes, that’s me! The picture is a small one, but that’s my face you can see there, being used to sell someone’s Kimberley Wash false eyelashes: and to advertise them falsely, too, because I’m not actually wearing Kimberley Walsh false eyelashes in those photos, I’m wearing the Cheryl Cole ones.
I have to be honest – I was more amused than anything else by this one, because hey, at least the person wasn’t pretending to BE me. You know, like they normally do? I’m not going to allow people to use my face for commercial purposes, though (Well, not unless they want to pay me for it, obviously.), especially when they’re misleading people into the bargain, so I emailed the seller and asked her to remove it. She did, but said in her response to me that she’d found the photo on Google images, and that the photos there are ”for public use with no copyrite [sic] on them” so she hadn’t thought she was doing anything wrong.
I guess if people genuinely think Google images is essentially a free image bank, and that you’re allowed to use the images you find there in any way you like, we have at least one explanation of why my face keeps popping up in unexpected places. I think next time it happens, though, I might just send the person an invoice…
EDITED TO ADD:
If anyone’s particularly interested in the law relating to copyright of images on the internet, there’s a good article here which may be of interest.
Remember the time someone stole one of my photos and pretended it was a photo of them?
Yeah, it happened again:
Wow, I have a twin called Susan! Living in Stoughton, MA! And not just a twin: a totally IDENTICAL twin! Only… no, not really. It’s just another idiot, stealing my photo and pretending it’s theirs. I would be flattered by this, but seriously. Seriously. It’s like I have some kind of invisible sign on my head saying, “Oh, hai, if you’re totally duplicitous and like pretending to be someone you’re not, feel free to use MY photo!”
As with the last time this happened, I only found out about the impostor because someone emailed me saying, “By the way, did you know someone is impersonating you on the internet?” The site in question is called She Writes, and is a social network for writers. My “twin” had been chatting away to people there, asking them for help with her writing endeavors, and, from what I can gather, trying to get them to exchange email and phone numbers with “her”. All pretty innocuous, you might think, but the person who contacted me about it tells me that “Susan Veltri” is actually a man, and to be honest with you, “man posing as a woman in order to get women to speak to him, and perhaps email/phone him” is just a little creepy to me. And sad. Very, very sad.
This is a network which requires you to register before you can do ANYTHING. I couldn’t even contact whoever owns/runs this site without being a registered member, so I was forced to set up an account (it took around 24 hours to be approved, during which time “Susan” was merrily pretending to be me), after which I posted a message asking “Susan” if this is the only site s/he’s impersonating me on, or if s/he is pretending to be me anywhere else on the internet. Then I went out for the day, and funnily enough, when I got back “Susan’s” page had been deleted, although whether by “Susan” or by the site administrators, I have no idea.
So, all of this has got me thinking. This is the second time in a couple of months someone has stolen my photo and claimed it was them - that I know of. The only reason I found out about these Impostor Ambers was because someone realised what was happening and emailed me to tell me about it. Needless to say, I’m now starting to wonder how many other people are passing themselves off as me that I don’t know about. And, you know, you could argue that the two cases I DO know about weren’t that serious in the great scheme of things. One was an insecure teenager trying to impress boys on a Sonic Youth forum, the other was a man talking about crime writing on a women’s network. (OK, that actually IS a little creepy to me, but whatever.)
But what if the NEXT person using my photo is posting on, say, a forum for neo-Nazis. Or for paedophiles. Or for people who… gulp… wear Crocs for non-gardening-related purposes? THAT would be a little more serious, no? What if I’m walking around town one day and someone comes up to me and smacks me in the face because “I” have been making highly offensive statements on a forum for white supremacists or some such thing? And yeah, it’s unlikely. But that’s what I thought the FIRST time this happened. I thought, “Well, that was pretty trippy, but bound to be a one off. Because what are the chances of THAT happening again?” And yet, here we are, just a few weeks later. Of all the photos, on all the websites, in all the world, the idiots HAVE to choose mine, don’t they?
So, now I’m starting to wonder: what do I do about this?
The thing is, there’s really no way to stop people stealing your images if they really want to. You can right-click disable them, but that’s so easy to get round that it’s barely even worth doing. You can watermark them, although, as I’ve seen with the images I use on The Fashion Police, that doesn’t actually stop people stealing them. (And I sincerely hope that the people who steal images that are licenced for my use only get a nice fat bill from the image agencies who own the copyright, once they find out about the unauthorised use. And trust me, they WILL find out…). Also, putting a whopping great watermark over my own face kinda defeats the purpose of posting the image in the first place. And if it’s NOT over my face, they can just crop it out.
In the end, the only real solution to this is to stop posting photos, and delete my Flickr account/Twitter avatar etc. And, I don’t know… I could do that. But I resent it, to be honest. And not just because I have LOTs of photos I was planning to post this week. I think my blog would be a lot less personal if I was some totally anonymous chick, who could be a guy called “Susan Veltri” for all anyone knew. It’s well known that people don’t like to interact with Twitter accounts that have a generic avatar rather than a personal photo. And I’m a big believer in transparency on the Internet. I’ve always used my own name, and I’ve always used my own photos. I think that if everyone did that, the Internet would be a much nicer place.
But, of course, the Internet ISN’T a nice place. I knew that, obviously: I’m not totally stupid. But until this year, it didn’t really occur to me to worry about these things. No, seriously. I’ve never been particularly paranoid about things like posting photos, for instance. I don’t really know why. I know lots of people who are absolutely horrified by the idea of posting their photo online. Some of my real life friends have asked if I worry about it. And my response has always been, “Worry about what? That people will know what I look like? So what? When I go to the supermarket, people can see what I look like. Every time I step outside my house, people can see what I look like. What does it really matter if a handful of people who read my blog ALSO know what I look like?”
And the fact is, it doesn’t matter that the people who read my blog can see my photos. (Well, other than when they write to tell me how ugly I am, obviously.) But it DOES matter that people steal those photos and try to pass them off as their own. I find that creepy and disturbing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not lying awake at night worrying about it or anything. I will be very surprised if this ever happens again. But I do wonder who the next person will be to decide to pose as me, and this latest experience has got me thinking a bit more carefully about issues of privacy etc. I’m not saying I’m going to stop posting photos or anything, but… it has given me pause for thought, put it that way.
I think my next tagline will be “The REAL Forever Amber: accept no impostors”. All those other Slim Shady’s are just imitating, after all…