The Case of a STOLEN Photo & Facebook’s PUNISHMENT – Of the Victim

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Look to Wind theft combo 600x234 The Case of a STOLEN Photo & Facebooks PUNISHMENT   Of the Victim

OK true story here. Many of us have been here, but this one has a few plot twists.

It all started on a dark night in May.

Well lets skip the prologue. Above is an image I shared recently showing how Matt Black Photography took my photo “Look To The Wind”, edited it badly and posted it on his FB Facebook page as his own image. It’s a page littered with other peoples work and even a Windows desktop wallpaper claimed as theirs. So I posted about it and soon many of you went over and called them out. The page admin proceeded to delete my photo only and all comments from people that had called him out on the theft.

The Crazy Part is that a day layer Facebook removed MY post of the image above from my Seim Studios page and told me what you read below. I was BANNED for 12 hours from Facebook for unnamed violations. It seems nothing is happening to the photo thief. I call this a Facebook Spanking. I had one awhile back and I wrote about it here.

To top this off, the next day when I was allowed back into the land of the social, I posted the screenshot you see below explaining how I got banned – I then got banned AGAIN for posting about being banned for posting about the photo. Say that three times fast! At that point I did what I should have done to start with and started writing this post.

Facebook Removed The Case of a STOLEN Photo & Facebooks PUNISHMENT   Of the Victim

What I saw when I logged in later that day.

 

But Wait, It Gets Better: So The page owner, someone named Sam, messaged me making excuses. Apparently he is actually concerned about the fact that he is a thief and I have the evidence. He claimed he was being slandered and that it’s NOT his fault because his ex-girlfriend was messing up his page while he was in jail – No joke.

I didn’t believe him, but I was not looking or a fight. I offered to let it go if he corrected it and fessed up on the page with a simple apology. He obliged by calling me names and informing me the photo they stole above was mediocre and that he would report me if I continued to slander him.

I don’t know where the whole truth lies, but I do know this all sounds like the makings of a hit song. Maybe a country western reggae. Something like this.

I went to jail in summer
My girl was one my Facebook page
Never should have made her admin
She stole photos all o’er the place

But back to business. What does all this mean to those of us trying to run legitimate business’s

Solving Our Three Fold Problem:

Problem 1 – People stealing our photos – In truth I think the best way to deal with that is to publicly call them out and hold them accountable. If need be, whether on a website or social page, you can even file your own DMCA take down request and the host of the image has to respond. Just search for how to file a DMCA complaint. I have done it many times for stolen content and it usually gets results as it bypasses the thief and goes direct to where he’s putting the stolen content.

Of course you always want to take screenshots of stolen content as I did here because it will likely get taken by the thief down when things start heating up. Finally, you can of course take a legal route. A stern letter from a lawyer, or even the legal team at Professional Photographers of America (if you’re a member) usually gets fast results. If worst comes to worst you could sue, but unless there are actually serious damages that’s probably more than most want to take on. Less lawsuits are better I always say and I prefer to resolve things without the lawyers and judges.

Problem 2 – Finding when and where your work is being taken – This can he tough. In my case a nice follower sent me a tip, but who knows how many people are using mine or your images that don’t own them. One handy resource is tineye.com which allows you to search for a specific images all over the web. For some images it works great, but it is a giant index and not nearly every photo in the world is in it’s archive.

You might want to check his page for your own images. But along that note is a site to watch and report to called Photo Stealers. It’s a blog that posts about people who steal photography and us it as their own. They names names and show the evidence.

We don’t have any one solution, but we can be proactive. Just keep your eyes open and don’t be worried too much. The truth is that when someone steals my image like this I do need to deal with it, but this goofball did not really make any money off me. Do mark your name on your images so it’s clear you own it, but DO NOT freak out and plaster ugly watermarks on your work, ruining the presentation. It’s not worth it. More on that in this article on branding and signatures.

Problem 3 – Is the sheer incompetence of Facebook – And sometimes other sites for that matter. Vague terms and undefined punishments are the norm in the social world. A page that you spent years building could disappear overnight because someone does not like you and some desk jockey in a far way land opts to punish or even banish you entirely from Facebook. Their draconian practices for policing content are beyond shameful. Even as an advertiser who spends thousands on Facebook ads I have no contact, no approach, no recourse.

I am close to calling it quits with Facebook. It does nothing but cost me money anymore and frankly gives me very little return since pages get almost no interaction unless you pay compared to a couple years ago. In fact, the payout is very small even when you do pay. But that’s something we covered in this article. In the end you have to weight the pro’s and cons. I’m moving gradually away from Facebook. trying other spaces like Google+ and more importantly my own newsletters that I control.

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A wallpaper from for Windows. The page owner messaged me claiming he was in prison until January and his girlfriend posted my photo. Funny how this one was posted in April.

The best solution? I don’t have all the answers, but these are a few of my thoughts. But when it comes to Facebook I’m trying to get away. We’ve come to rely on them too much and the lack of care they have for users is quite clear. Even if you’re not vocal and opinionated like me, you could run afoul of Facebook gaining only damage to your business. You may not even know why it happened.

My little secret is this: Many have stopped their newsletters because of sites like Facebook – I’m learning that if you build a solid list and send quality content people enjoy it. In fact, they respond much better they do on social networks where ads and information overload have jaded them to all but the most titillating posts.

You can subscribe to my newsletter here or below – When FB becomes useless, that’s where I plan to be. The content is good there and it comes on our terms. You might considering building such a lit of your own. It takes time and cultivation. But it’s an invaluable connection if you do it well.

Good luck, Gavin

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  • Mark

    Maybe this is why he can’t recall what he did or why
    https://www.facebook.com/MatteBlackPhotography

    “200 days sober from drugs and alcohol”

    seems he has a few others tin eye shows coming from else. Tho he doesn’t claim them he doesn’t say no his.

  • Lori H

    this fauxtographer Matt Black has opened a new page … you might want to check for new infringements there … https://www.facebook.com/CreEightiveImaging/photos

  • Alin

    i’m curious, even if you tell facebook “hey, this is my image, i have it registered with the copyright office, please take it down from other people pages” do they still ban YOU ? i get from this story that the answer is yes, and that seems seriously wrong. Everything that happened here is wrong.

    By the way, gorgeous picture Gavin

    • http://www.prophotoshow.net Gavin Seim

      Thanks.

      You can follow a procedure using the DMCA request that I mentioned. But it’s hassle. Not only that I want people called out openly for doing this. It’s probably that that FB didn’t like, but I don’t really care. I’ll do what I think is right regardless of them, ;)

      Gav

  • http://Notyet Jan Wells

    Gavin, I had no idea how pervasive photo theft is. I know FACEBOOK is very inconsistent. They follow no logical pattern nor enforce “banned” subjects with any logic. This schmuck has got some nerve to steal, claim then deny when caught. I have often been envious of a great shot, wishing I’d shot the photo. That’s as far as it ever gets. I enjoy Facebook, but thanks to your experience, I won’t be starting a business page. It doesn’t sound worth it. Especially legalized theft. Whether its your creative photography or your home this nonsense has to stop. Thank you.

  • Margaret Ooyen Lemke

    Not only is his “work” laughable, his so called web address doesn’t exist. How does this schmuck have over 2k likes?

  • Tony Pardi

    hang in there, don’t let the jerks get away with this

  • http://inthelimelight.net/ Jonathan Timar

    Great post. It leaves me more disgusted with Facebook than i already was, but that’s not really hard to do these days.

    The only part I disagree with is your thoughts on watermarking. I think a semi-transparent watermark the centre of the image is the ONLY way to go when posting photos online, and the only one that is an actual deterrent. As you’ve shown here, thieves often have no taste and don’t mind ruining your photo in the process of claiming it as their own, so watermarking and branding at the corners doesn’t help. they will happily crop it out.

    I think a semi-transparent watermark in the centre of the image, if well designed and if the opacity of adjusted to suit the content of the image, while certainly no ideal is not unprofessional and in fact the best chance you have of keeping control on your images.

  • Stacey Renea

    Unbelievable – very scary!

  • stephanie

    I found a fake Facebook person with a different name but all of the pictures are my personal ones of me! (creepy) and so it looks like me but with a fake name. I told Facebook, but nothing has happened to solve the problem….