Monday, April 09, 2007

[copyright issues, photos] asking, after the fact

I spent a good chunk of my weekend filing AdWords complaints against splogs and sending certified letters to the hosts of a number of photo-pirates, and I realize that I am so angry that I am not thinking straight. I would love some objective advice.

Someone who hijacked one of my more-popular images -- which I have since removed from our site, to counteract the thousands of views a day this image was getting -- has written to me and asked me if he can continue to use the photo if he links to our site. I get the feeling he's not a true splogger, but he does have a TON of AdWords placements on his site, and I am annoyed that he is profiting from my work. (He's at supersizedmeals-dot-com, and he does seem to have taken down my photo, which is nice to see.)

The irony is that if he'd asked first, I might have said yes. But in my anger, I don't feel like an apology and a link are sufficient. Thoughts?

(And yes, I'm already including copyright info in both my image titles and ALT tags, and I am going to start watermarking as soon as I get my hands on a copy of Photoshop.)

This post was written by Anita from Married...with Dinner


Cybele said...

Are you saying that he was hotlinking to your image or that he took the image from your site and reposted it?

If it is hotlinked, I urge you to create an .htaccess file to prohibit hotlinking. (It saves bandwidth and hassles.)

It's completely up to you if you want to deny permission. It's your site and your photos. Yes, I feel mean and capricious when I deny people, but that whole "ask when they find out" thing is annoying. (How many other people does they do this to?) If someone wants to use it in a way to support my work, I say yes (like they want to illustrate a list of links and include a little snapshot with it), I usually don't demand that they ask first. It's when it's used in a completely different context that you have every right to have them remove it.

Anita said...

He actually was doing both. He also downloaded the photo and re-posted it on his site (cropped to serve his purposes) on one page, and hotlinked to us on the jump, which is how I found him.

Cameron says our server is configured to prevent hotlinking, but it does still allow some uses -- he's investigating to make sure he doesn't turn off Feedburner images by locking things down too tightly.

Google Images (both .com and a number of international flavors of the site) has started sending an enormous amount of traffic to our blog in the last couple of weeks, and I am torn. On the one hand, I figure some of it is legitimate; but so much of it is coming from suspicious places.

I'm considering discontinuing the use of descriptive image titles and tags, but I do hate to turn off the flow entirely -- especially because I want to be mindful of access for visually impaired readers and legitimate searches.

Cybele said...

I just disallowed Google Images to my site (you can place this in your robots.txt file).

Yes, it has reduced my site traffic by 20% (but Easter increased it by 25% so I didn't really notice).

I figure the people doing image searches are not interested in me or my site, just my photos, so I'm not that worried about the loss. I doubt the conversion rate to readers was very high.(My photos show up a lot on eBay and in discussion forums and of course the MySpacers love to use them as their backgrounds.)

As for the hotlinking, I've done my best to keep the photos for people who are reading via feed on Bloglines and the like. But I had to turn it off for LiveJournal because there was just too much abuse over there.

SusanV said...

Cybele, I disallowed Google images in my robots.txt file sometime last week, but I've yet to see it make any difference. How soon did it take effect for you?

Anita said...

Thanks, Cybele. I'm going to add that to the file ASAP.

Cybele said...

SusanV - I waited about 2 weeks and didn't see it picking up the new stuff (which was all easter related) though I still saw HUGE traffic on all my older Easter images. (I have about 1400 images and 800 posts on my site.)

So I used their "Automatic URL Removal System" where you have to submit through their website:

The process was kind of a pain, but then it took effect overnight (I don't know how long exactly).

Anita said...

In case anyone is waiting with bated breath for my decision, I told the theif-turned-requester no. Here's an excerpt from my reply to him:

>>I appreciate your polite request, and especially that you acted so quickly to remove it from your site. But I'd prefer that you didn't use my photos. It's not just that you took the image without permission (although that's definitely a factor), but also that there's very little content that you're creating compared with the quantities of images and copy you're harvesting from other sites.

I'm sure you put a lot of effort into finding appropriate content and commeting on it, but -- coming from someone who spends hours a day on my blog and photography -- it feels like your site is simply making AdWords revenue off of republishing other people's creative works.<<

Meeta said...

I am going to ask a very basic question here so I hope no slaps their forehead. I know what a robots.txt is ans what it is supposed to do. My question is how do I upload/access it for my blog? I am using Blogger.

nika said...

meeta: if you are using the free blogger service, you do not have ftp access and thus you can not upload files (like robot or .htaccess files)

Cybele said...

Meeta - there are other options for blogspot bloggers.

If you are unable to add a robots.txt file you can use meta tags (added to your template):

I'm not sure if it allows you to specify that photos are not indexed.