All posts tagged infringement

A proverb, I’m sure everyone has heard of. And I’m sure it comes in any translation.

The pot calling the kettle black.

Wikipedia explains it as follows: The phrase “The pot calling the kettle black” is an idiom used to claim that a person is guilty of the very thing of which they accuse another.

By coincidence I ran into one of my images this morning on a website called Stockvault. They claim to be a website for free stock photography. I think most of you know my sentiments about “free” and “my work”.
The image referred to is one of my most recent underwater photography, so I was quite surprised to find it already “out there”. Upon closer investigation my image being on this website IS illegal: they downloaded it from 500px, saved it to their own server under a different name. But… they at least had the decency to credit the picture with my name and link back to 500px.
I’m still not happy with it being on their website, though, because I do not fancy my images being associated with free stock photography.

Anyway… While on the Stockvault website, I did a Google search on that particular image, and found it on another website still, a website called Smashingreaders. This is a website that basically copies content straight from other websites. So they don’t save it to their own servers, but “hotlink”.
Google shows a neat little thumbnail of my image in the search, but the ironic thing struck me when I went to check out the page. All of the page were images from Stockvault, replacing the hotlinked images with one image reading “The page you are browsing is stealing images from us!” with the Stockvault logo under it.

I couldn’t help but grinning about that.
Here’s a website, offering free stockphotography, stealing images from photography portfolio websites like 500px, then accusing other websites that do the same, of stealing THEIR images?
Yep… That’s a clear “pot”… “kettle” thing.

See below the screenshots:

Screenshot of the Stockvault and Smashingreader websites.

Left Stockvault, with my stolen image. Right Smashingreaders with Stockvault’s “stolen” images.

A couple of months ago I wrote a piece on one of my pictures being used without a license on the website of the Berkeley Daily Planet. It was a very sour thing, because I really wanted to pursue this due to Ms O’Malley’s outrageous attitude, but the outcome would simply not outweigh the costs I’d have to make in order to do what needed to be done for this.
I shared the link to this blog post in several groups on LinkedIn I’m a member of and got many comments on how crazy this really was. One of the members advised me to write a complaint to the State Bar of California, where all the lawyers are registered. They would be able to reprimand Ms O’Malley for her idiotic behavior in this case, IF she really was a lawyer as she claimed to be.

I took the advise, and wrote the State Bar a letter. The official complaint form on the website was only for lawyer-client situations, and didn’t offer any options for different situations, which kind of made me think that my letter would disappear in a trash bin, because it was not according to the prescribed format. But anyway… I sent off my open letter, including a screenshot of the website with my image on it and every single piece of correspondence I had with the Berkeley Daily Planet and Ms O’Malley, and I referred also to the contact I had with my attorney Mr Kinne from Kinne IP Group.
Here are the main lines of what I wrote:

I would like to file an official complaint against a lady by the name of Becky O’Malley, who claims to have been, and I quote “an intellectual property attorney and a member of the State Bar of California, a status which I could easily activate if needed”.

The issue is about a copyright infringement case. This lady is, together with a gentleman named Tom Butt, working for the Berkeley Daily Planet, an online news paper.

Just recently I discovered that they had been using since early 2010 one of my images, without my consent, without the proper licenses, and even with Mr Tom Butt’s name as accreditation with the image (screenshot of the web page attached).
At first I tried to settle the matter with them directly (correspondence attached), but things soon got so bold that I asked my attorney if there was any way to pursue this matter officially.
He gave me an outline of the possibilities, and I decided not to pursue the matter, because in the end it would cost me more money and grievance than I was willing to put into it.
The fact that I am residing in Finland and that I only have a raw file, i.e. the file is not registered at the US copyright office, to prove I’m the creator of the piece was part of the decision.
However, when Ms O’Malley so blatantly and shamelessly threw in my face that I should let go of the matter and that I would get nothing out of it, this turned more into a principle matter for me.
The fact that she is, or claims to be, a former Intellectual Property Attorney and a member of the State Bar of California makes this case all the more outrageous. Tom Butt, the journalist in question, has purposefully and knowlingly used one of my images and accredited it to himself, but when I confronted the paper, and Ms O’Malley, with all her knowledge of Intellectual Property and copyright infringement, about it she had absolutely no right to justify it like she did and slam the door in my face.
With the way she behaved, knowingly and purposefully defending, acknowledging, and approving copyright infringement, she has no business being a (former) Intellectual Property Attorney and member of the State Bar of California.

I sent it, and pretty much forgot about it. A month went by, then another month in which I was abroad.
But then, when I came home from my trip, I actually found an envelope from the State Bar of California.

Response letter from the State Bar of California

Response letter from the State Bar of California

I’ll pick out the piece that matters:

Based on our evaluation of the information provided, we are closing your file. Before the imposition of attorney discipline can be obtained the State Bar must present clear and convincing evidence of willful misconduct. We have concluded that there is insufficient evidence of willful misconduct that would warrant disciplinary action. Ms O’Malley was not your attorney and owed no fiduciary duty to you. In fact, she was not acting as an attorney in said matter, but could activate her membership status if she needed to. Moreover, the circumstances you described are civil in nature. As such, the more appropriate forum in which to address your claim would be through appropriate civil action.

Ok, so I agree that the circumstances I described are civil in nature. But they have concluded that there is insufficient evidence of willful misconduct?
She may have not owed fiduciary duty to me, but with her supposed background in Intellectual Property it was her civil AND professional duty to properly pay for an image that they were using. And also her conduct in the correspondence afterward was in my eyes a very willful misconduct.

So what is wrong with the juridical system of today?
The system seems to be protecting the wrong people…

If you put it in the search box over on the upper right, you’ll find a number of posts on copyright infringement and stealing images on this blog.
The other day I did another quick search, and I ran into one of my images being all over the place.

Satellite dish on an overcast day

D200, ISO200, 1/320 sec @ f/9, Sigma 28-200mm

I checked with Google Chrome reverse image search, and it came up with about 10 pages of results with this image. A lot of corporate websites, but also a few royalty free stock sites. I went to check the stock sites and was stunned to find the image used in a medium large resolution uploaded and offered as royalty free by to different individuals. WTF???
A few of the websites were based in China. I contacted them, but -surprise, surprise- no sign of life. Those f***ing, annoying, thieving little bastards!!! (you’ll have to pardon my grossly and bluntly overgeneralization here, it’s the frustration talking).
The other one was Back in the day when I was still naive and thought I wanted to hook up with the microstock sites I actually considered uploading my stuff with them. I never actually ended up doing it, but I was familiar with them. So I log onto live chat, spoke with a very agreeable Liz, who directed me to send an email to support, so they had everything in official writing. I did that. Almost a week went by, and I didn’t even get a (automated) response.
I check back on the website and go through the portfolio of this person, “appropriately” named painkiller009. I do a reverse search on a good number of images in the portfolio, thinking that if he stole one image, he probably stole a good number more. And lo and behold: about 90% of the images that returned with concrete information had a different name with it. Or two. Or three.

It’s getting elaborate. There were a few images that I checked which had a different name on each website that they were posted on. Of course there is the possibility that someone’s using a different username on every single website, but from a marketing perspective that would be a terribly foolish thing to do when you want to market yourself as a photographer.

I have no idea how this person came into possession of my image in a larger resolution, because I always plaster my images with a big fat watermark dead center. I do remember having this image up on a microstock website (before I came to my senses and deleted my account there), but there was no sale or download recorded for this image. What I otherwise think is going on is that people download an image for a few credits and then upload it somewhere else under their own name and try to make some profit out of it.

With all the corporate websites I found this image of mine on I estimate I lost about 3.000-4.000€ worth of licenses. If I could nail the bastard who’s responsible for this, I maybe able to sue for say 10.000-12.000€. But will I ever see any of that money? Of course not. Unless of course someone can point me to a Chinese copyright lawyer who knows how to deal with these cases. I think I’d be willing to spend some money on this if I knew I’d come out good on the other side. But I guess this is another case of someone who gets away with theft…

Awhile ago I wrote a little piece about how you can find your pictures in the weirdest places. A few of my self portraits were used on other people’s Facebook profiles and a few of the portraits I did of other people were also used as Facebook and Twitter profile pictures. After getting no response from the people in question I contacted Facebook and Twitter and those images have been removed. Other pictures I found have been traced back and were sold by one of my agents’ sublicensors. Not fully according to the rules they were bound by, but in any case I’m getting paid for those images.

In that same search I also found another of my images used, and that was a bit of a nasty surprise. It wasn’t the best image, and even if paid for, it wouldn’t have been the golden goose. Or turkey in this case

Traffic sign which warns for crossing turkeys

The image in question

I found the image on the website of the Berkeley Daily Planet. An online news paper. It was used in an article written by Tom Butt on April Fool’s Day in 2010, so it had been online for about 2,5 years when I found it.

Screenshot of the article on the Berkeley Daily Planet website

Screenshot of the article on the Berkeley Daily Planet website. All copyright lies with the respective authors / copyright holders (source: Except for the Turkey image. That’s mine!

See… I’m a guy of principles. I get it if a company uses your image and tries to get away with the excuse that they thought everything on the internet is public domain and free to use for everyone. It’s a shit excuse, and they try to pull it every time when I contact a company which has used one of my images, but I pretend that they don’t know any better and I explain to them how it works, even if I know that in most cases they know exactly how it works. It’s kind of a game. They try. I patiently laugh about the joke, and in most cases we come to an agreement.
And in most cases I’m very reasonable (I think). I don’t charge them tenfold (even if -according to copyright infringement cases the penalty for each case could be 10x the original value of the image- I’d be legally entitled to do so). I may up the price slightly from its original level, just as a slap on the wrist, but we’re not talking thousands of euros/dollars.
But in this case it was different. This is a news paper. This is an institute that deals with copyrighted material on a structural basis and they know EXACTLY how things work. They can’t hide behind the “I thought everything on the internet belonged to the public and was free”, and if I’d rip an article from their website, they’d come at me faster than I can say news paper. So…

I wrote a mail to an email address I found on their website: And guess what? No reply.
A week went by and I sent a copy of the email again to and to another address I found on the website:

Dear Sir, Madam,

I recently came across an image of mine on your website.
The image I’m referring to is the image of the turkey sign in this article–By-Tom-Butt-Special-to-the-Planet by Tom Butt.
The image is credited to Tom Butt.

Now I realize there are probably tons of images out there with a sign of a turkey crossing on it, but I would say it’s extremely unlikely that Tom Butt and I would’ve been on exactly the same spot at exactly the same time to see that car coming out of the street from the right behind the sign.
My image is here:
I’m not sure where Mr Butt has obtained this image, but seeing the low resolution quality of the image, and that I haven’t got a license for the use of this image archived to either Mr Butt or the Berkeley Daily Planet I believe we may have a slight problem here.

The fact that you, the Berkeley Daily Planet, are a news source which handles copyright protected material on a daily basis, makes this all the more a very awkward situation. I realize you are not a national paper, although with the coming of the internet everything’s gone worldwide, and I do believe a compensation for the use of this image from April 1st 2010 until now seems very reasonable to me.

I would gladly hear your opinion on this.

Kind regards,

Arno Enzerink

So Mr Tom Butt wrote the article, snatched a thumbnail of my image (the quality of the image was so bad that it was clearly not a hi-res image) from my website or from one of my agent’s websites, blew it up, added his name to it as credit and uploaded the article to the Berkeley Daily Planet.
There would’ve still been a slight hint of my understanding if he at least put MY name under the picture instead of his own. But that was too much to ask…

Honestly, I didn’t expect a reply. But I did get one. A few days later the following message waited for me in my inbox:

It was given to me by Mr. Butt– he says he got if from somewhere on the internet but can’t remember where.  I’d be glad to change the attribution if you wish, or to pull the photo if you prefer.

[Mr. Butt, Tom Butt, was the writer of the article and his name was put as a credit under the image]

No “Hi”, no “Bye”, nothing. Just these three lines.

So I write her back (and sign with my name 😉 ):

Dear Ms O’Malley,

I don’t mean to sound blunt and impolite, but both you and Mr Butt are in the publishing industry and you are (or at least SHOULD be) very well aware of the copyright rules on used images. You don’t just “pull an image off the internet” (and “not remember from where”), and then attribute it to someone you know for a fact is not the creator of the work. It has been online for 2,5 years. You make money with your job, Mr Butt makes money with his job, and I’m a professional photographer, which is supposed to pay my bills. Just changing the attribute or pulling the image off the site after it’s been used for 2,5 years is not going to make this go away.

I’m still very much willing to settle this nicely (but properly), but I am asking you a financial compensation for the used image, next to changing the attribute to the used image.

If I would just let everyone “change the attribute” or “pull it off the site” without further consequences I would be a naive and bankrupt professional photographer.

I sincerely hope you understand my point of view and that we can come to an agreement which is satisfying to both of us.

Kind regards,

That went unnoticed. No reply whatsoever, not a sign of life. So after a week (the week I spent in the US shooting pictures in the Rocky Mountains) I figured I could start poking a bit and write Ms O’Malley the following:

Dear Ms O’Mally,

A week has passed since I sent you my last correspondence (10/13/2012). I haven’t heard back from you since then.
I take that silence as a sign of unwillingness to solve this with me directly.
If I haven’t heard from you in a week from now I will contact my attorney and let him settle this with your attorney.

Usually when you start bringing in the attorneys they will get back to you pretty quick. But nothing happens. I go back to check on the website and I noticed they’ve actually taken down the image. I’ll be damned.

I shoot another email to Ms O’Malley:

Dear Ms O’Malley,

I see you have taken down the image. Let me stress again that that is not going to solve the issue.

Aside from the fact that your website is stored online in many edited versions, I have a screenshot of the website with tie image on it, and the correspondence between you and me in which you admit to the use of the image.

I’m still hoping we can settle this in an agreeable way, but if you continue to ignore me I will contact my attorney.

And yes… There we go. Promptly a reply follows:

The Berkeley Daily Planet is no longer published in print. The commercial corporation Berkeley Daily Planet LLC has been abandoned because the tax preparer stole the money he was supposed to give to the government and the government is pursuing a criminal case against him–its funds are totally depleted except what the Internal Revenue Service has a claim on.  The current website is completely non-commercial, created by volunteers working for free.  We neither spend nor collect any money of any kind.You can certainly be paid the same as everyone else for your contribution: nothing.

Please do consult your lawyer,  who will tell you that there’s no point in pursuing this matter, because you and he or she will not make a penny from it, except perhaps what you will pay the attorney to tell you this.  I will not have to pay legal fees myself because for most of my career I was an intellectual property attorney and a member of the State Bar of California, a status which I could easily activate if needed.  Don’t waste your time and money on this pointless quest.

Wow… just wow… All kinds of excuses for why they can’t properly license an image.

Two things that stung me the most and that made me ACTUALLY contact my attorney: “you can certainly be paid the same as everyone else for your contribution: nothing.” and “Don’t waste your time and money on this pointless quest.”

So I kindly write Ms O’Malley a mail back (I fail to write a “Hi” and a “Bye” myself this time):

So that makes it all ok for you to steal images?

As an intellectual property attorney and member of the State Bar of California you do show the right moral attitude…

I will cross-reference this with my attorney and I would be very sorry if you are right and he confirms what you’re saying.

Only once before in my professional career as a photographer did I have to fall back on the help of an attorney. He did so very successfully (and I can warmly recommend him to anyone who needs help in copyright infringement cases based in the US) and I contacted him again on this matter and asked him for advise on what to do. He generously offered his time to look into the matter and see if there was any use to pursue it and he did so without any costs for me.
In the end he laid out all the possibilities, the extremes when it would go ok, but also the extremes if things would get really ugly, and I’m sorry to say that the initial amount of money involved (the license for an image in that particular use would be around 120$, slap a bit of penalty fee on it and it would be maybe 200$) was not worth the head ache and the risk to me.
So I’m  -again- sorry to say that I backed out of this one.

I guess sometimes it does pay off to steal an image. But I hope this post (and I usually don’t wish people bad things, but I sometimes am willing to make an exception) will be spread all over the internet and that it would give the Berkeley Daily Planet, with volunteers Becky O’Malley and Tom Butt, such a bad name that they will have to find another volunteer job to fill up their time. Or maybe Ms O’Malley can pick up her Intellectual Property job again at the State Bar of California.

So a couple of days ago I wrote about someone using my picture as their profile picture on Facebook. I dropped the person a few messages, to no avail (of course).
But that wasn’t the end of it. I wasn’t done with my reverse search, and lo and behold, I ran into another profile on Facebook that was using another picture of me as their profile picture.
I put a status update about it on Facebook, after which a whole number of my dear friends reported the particular person and the profile. As did I myself (since I didn’t get any reply to my messages from this guy either).

Facebook profile

The Facebook profile which is using my picture

I thought that Facebook had already removed the other account (the one I wrote about in the previous blog post) and I praised Facebook for its effectiveness. However, after today’s mail from Facebook I started doubting if it was really Facebook who removed the other profile, or if it was the person himself who deleted it or took it offline after my message(s).

Here’s the mail I got from Facebook. It’s called “Follow-up about your recent report to Facebook”:


Recently you reported a profile on Facebook. We did not take action on the profile you reported because it did not violate Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.

If, after reviewing the Facebook Community Standards (, you think we’ve made a mistake, you can request that we review the profile again here:….

Please note: If the profile does not violate our policies, your ability to report may be limited in the future.

The Facebook Team

Give us feedback to let us know how we are doing:

I sent a few reports yesterday, not only about these two profiles, but also about something else (which I’ll tell a bit further on) so I wasn’t quite sure which report this was. So I clicked the appeal link and came to this:

Facebook's appeal page for denied reports

Facebook’s appeal page for denied reports

So there you go. They wouldn’t take any action on my report (or any of the reports my friends did?), because it didn’t violate Facebook’s Statements of Rights and Responsibilities.
I mean… WTF???
Of course it doesn’t violate FACEBOOK’s Rights and Responsibilities. It’s not f***king Mark Zuckerberg in the picture. It’s ME in the picture, so it violates MY rights!
And since when is it allowed to
1) use someone’s picture without that person’s consent?
2) use a picture of which you don’t own the copyright without the consent of the rightful copyright owner?
So how does this not violate Rights and Responsibilities?

So I will appeal with exactly the text above and see what Facebook says to that. They may limit my ability to report if they still think it’s no violation.

And then the other thing…
When I did the RMSP photography course in the US in 2008, we had a great class (RMSP2008 forever!!! 🙂 ). We had so much fun together!
One of the courses we did was studio lighting and we stood model for each other when we did portraits.
One of the guys modeling for me at that time is probably one of the most hearty, friendliest, radiant and goodlooking guys I’ve ever met and he’s got a smile like no other. I swear, if I hadn’t been heterosexual, I would’ve jumped him *LOL*
Anyway… The portraits I took of him came out really nicely, and he was nice enough to sign a model release for me, so I could use the images. One of the images is in my portfolio:

Portrait of a handsome young man

The portrait

When I found another one of my pictures used as a profile picture on Facebook, I decided to check all the people I shot images from and which are in my portfolio. And guess what (can’t really blame them, in the end, but still), this image came up on two different Facebook profiles and on one corresponding Twitter page.

The Facebook profile of Jacob Mems with the portrait I shot as a profile picture

The Facebook profile of Jacob with the portrait I shot as a profile picture

The Facebook profile of Matt with the portrait I shot as a profile picture

The Facebook profile of Matt with the portrait I shot as a profile picture

Coincidence wants that my friend is also called Matt, but unless he has changed his last name and went from the most peaceful guy in the world to a streetfighter, these two Matts are not the same (if they are, then I sincerely apologize). And I know Jacob isn’t Matt, because according to Jacob’s profile, he’s studied in the UK and Matt hasn’t.
I sent both of these guys a message asking them to take down the profile picture, because it’s not them and they have no right to use the image without my consent and I left a tweet with the latter. I haven’t received any reaction, any sign of life from either.
I filed a report on both profiles with Facebook, but the problem with that is, that Matt isn’t on Facebook to my knowledge, and the only way to report an impersonation is if you can refer to the person on Facebook. So I had to go through the process of reporting abuse of intellectual property. That came up empty-handed sofar, but if the idiots at Facebook won’t even acknowledge a report by me and by a bunch of my friends of an impersonation of me than I don’t think they will go for the intellectual property thing.

So what I want to do now is make this go viral. And prove once again that Facebook only SAYS that they have privacy as priority number one, but really they don’t give a shit.

Read this, share this and put it out there.

Once a month (or so) I sit down at the computer and go through my portfolio with Tineye and Google image search to back track my images on the net. It doesn’t always come up with something, but sometimes it actually does.
Yesterday and today I did my routine and at this point the counter is on 20+ non-commercial blogs and 3 commercial pages. Typically I don’t mind if people use my images on their blogs, as long as it is -indeed- non-commercial. I do require a credit line and/or a link back to my page, and if a blog doesn’t have it, I write the blog owner a mail to kindly add the credit line / link or remove the image. Usually they add the credit line. Sometimes they don’t. If they get wise on me I’ll write the host / provider a mail and then the image will be taken down in most cases by the host, but usually I don’t let it go that far, nor does the blog owner. Usually it is -still, can you believe it??- the blog owner thinking that “whatever’s on the internet I can use for free, since it’s public property”. A little bit of kindness and education goes a long way.

With the commercial ones I’m less forgiving.
Before I do anything I make screenshots of the websites / pages I find my images on, and, depending on the kind of commercial website, I check the Internet Archive to see if I can find out how long the image has been on the website. If you fail to do the first, which I did in my first few times, there’s always still the option to go through the Internet Archives, but it’s better to have a fresh screenshot of the website BEFORE they take down the pictures and start denying things.
Then I write them a mail, very friendly, very informal, to start with, asking them to kindly send me copy of the license they have on file for the image used, since I can’t find it in my archives. There’s always the possibility that they actually purchased the image through one of the agencies I’m with and that -for whatever reason- the sale never came through to me. In that case it’s not the fault of the company, but of my agent and I know I have to pull someone else’s hair.
Usually there’s a bit of tugging back and forth; denial (we didn’t do it, our web designer did, etc. etc.), ignorance (we didn’t know, we thought that [insert one of 10,000 excuses I’ve heard]), or just plain brutality (it’s in Google image search, so I can use it for free). In the end I mostly manage to settle. Until now (knock on wood!) I’ve only once had to step up with a lawyer, and of course, me having the raw file and all, it was a no-brainer. Can’t go into details, since they made me sign a gag-contract, but I got better off it. A lot better. And it would’ve been settled for a lot less had they not gone so idiotically Homer Simpson on me.
Anyway… After having done this for a couple of years now I thought I saw pretty much all the surprises.
But then again… Facebook hasn’t been around for THAT long.
So today I was at it again, and you can picture my surprise when one of my images, watermarked and all by one of my agencies, came up as a profile picture on a Facebook profile:

Facebook profile

Screenshot from the Facebook profile that has my picture

So this is an image that was ripped straight from Photographer’s Direct. The image here:
Man in a dark tunnel

This is a self-portrait I did a couple of years ago, so you can imagine that -even if I’m not recognizable in the picture- I don’t like it at all that someone’s using this particular image as a profile picture on Facebook. Sure, the image is for sale, but this wasn’t a sale, and the guy in question didn’t ask for permission to use this image.

So that’s the story of today…
Now I’m pondering whether I should contact the guy myself or should I ask Facebook to do the work for me…?
What say you, crowd?

I subscribed to the magazine in the past, and since a year or so I’ve been subscribing again. I really like the magazine, it’s got great articles and it’s got magnificent images. And they even allow you to submit your images for possible inclusion in the magazine. They have this “Picture of the Month” going on every month and if you get to be it (or your image, that is), you can win amazing prizes and you get to be published in the magazine. It would be a great thing for your portfolio to be featured in the magazine. I would like to, in any case.

So off I went, to the website of National Geographic, where I’m instantly prompted to subscribe. That is, sign up, give all my information (which, if you read the terms and conditions, you swear to be up to date and correct). And, paranoid as I am (and I’m probably one of the very few who actually reads these terms and conditions), I quickly scroll through the text and come to a full stop at point five. I blink. It must be lack of sleep. I blink again. The text is still there.
Actually, to be honest, this happened already quite awhile ago, and I’m not quite sure why I write about this only now, but anyway… I wrote them a mail several times in which I ask to clarify the terms set out on their website, but I didn’t get any reply. Any sign of life. Not even an automated response with “thanks for your mail, we will ignore you like the plague”.

I re-read the text, just to make sure I read what I read. I quote point five to you below (courtesy of the Terms and Conditions on

For clarity, you retain all of your ownership rights in material you upload, comments you post, or other content you provide to the Site (“User Content”). By uploading User Content, you grant National Geographic (which includes its subsidiaries, affiliates, joint venturers, and licensees) the following rights: a royalty-free, worldwide, perpetual license to display, distribute, reproduce, and create derivatives of the User Content, in whole or in part, without further review or participation from you, in any medium now existing or subsequently developed, in editorial, commercial, promotional, and trade uses in connection with NG Products. National Geographic may license or sublicense, in whole or in part, to third parties rights in User Content as appropriate to distribute, market, or promote such NG Products. An NG Product is defined as “a product of National Geographic, a subsidiary, affiliate, joint venturer, or licensee of National Geographic, in any language, over which National Geographic has “Editorial Control.” For the purposes of this Agreement, “Editorial Control” means the right to review, consult regarding, formulate standards for, or to exercise a veto over the appearance, text, use, or promotion of the NG Product. You also agree that National Geographic may make User Content available to users of the Site who may display and redistribute it in the same way that National Geographic makes all other Content available.

So… In any case I retain all of my ownership rights in material that I upload. But…
And it’s a big But (big bones, can’t help it!):
Upon accepting the Terms and Conditions I grant National Geographic (which includes its subsidiaries, affiliates, joint venturers, and licensees) the following rights: a royalty-free, worldwide, perpetual license to display, distribute, reproduce, and create derivatives of the User Content, in whole or in part, without further review or participation from you, in any medium now existing or subsequently developed, in editorial, commercial, promotional, and trade uses in connection with NG Products.

And the following sentence, equally disturbing:
Upon accepting the Terms and Conditions I allow National Geographic to license or sublicense, in whole or in part, to third parties rights in User Content as appropriate to distribute, market, or promote such NG Products.

And the one that’s screaming injustice in my face:
Upon accepting the Terms and Conditions I also agree that National Geographic may make User Content available to users of the Site who may display and redistribute it in the same way that National Geographic makes all other Content available.

So summarized: I’m fucked if I agree to the Terms and Conditions, because regardless of the fact that they let me retain all my ownership to what I upload, National Geographic can do whatever the hell they please with my stuff, but National Geographic makes me agree that they allow Users of the Site to do whatever the hell they please with my stuff. That’s in any case how I read the “may make User Content available to users of the site who may display and redistribute it in the same way that National Geographic makes all other Content available”.
So National Geographic may sell User Content as prints or stock (of which profits the User in question doesn’t see a penny of commission), but since National Geographic makes Content available in this way users of the Site may also sell that same Content according to the rules stated by National Geographic.

So how does that sound fair to you? It kinda means that I now co-own my images with National Geographic and every other user of the National Geographic website.
I invite everyone, National Geographic employees included, to explain to me how and where -if I am- I am misunderstanding these rules.

So I got this new phone. Another smart-phone. It actually looks quite smart. And I can even call with it! 😀
And it’s got all these fancy widgets that you can install. First I thought I’d install the Facebook app, so I checked it out, downloaded it, and got to reading to what I have to agree to when installing the app. I knew already that Zuckerberg was a sneaky little weasel, so I read carefully and quickly canceled. It read this:

This application has access to the following:
System tools: Prevent phone from sleeping, write sync settings
Network communications: Full Internet access
Your personal information: Read contact data, write contact data
Your accounts: Manage the accounts list, act as an account authenticator
Your location: fine (GPS) location

So… I don’t think so. I mean… Read contact data? Write contact data? Manage the accounts list and act as an account authenticator? WTF? No way!

There’s been already a whole lot of discussion going on about applications on today’s smart-phones that access private information, with or without the phone’s owner knowing about it, and I’m sure there’s something going on in my phone, too, with pre-installed things, that I don’t know of. But when installing third-party applications, you just have to be really careful.

So I checked on, found a couple of nice widgets that could give interesting info. AccuWeather Clock was one. So again, I downloaded it and got to reading what I have to agree to when installing. Did you think that Zuckerberg was a sneaky little weasel? From him I sort of get it still, since he has this whole social networking thing going on. But from the AccuWeather Clock? That app has no business sticking its nose in my private information! And it wants to access even more information than the Facebook app. WTF????

Accuweather Clock smart-phone application

D700, ISO200, 1 sec @ f/6.7, Tamron 90mm macro

The above is a real-time photograph of the AccuWeather Clock application, just before  installation. I don’t know who of you has actually installed this, but have you read what you’ve allowed this thing to access?
Allow this application to directly call phone numbers (services that cost you money).
Allow this application to act as an account authenticator, contacts data in Google accounts, Google mail, manage the accounts list, use the authentication credentials of an account.
Allow this application to modify or delete SD card contents.
Allow this application to modify global system settings, prevent phone from sleeping, retrieve running applications, write subscribed feeds, write sync settings.

Seriously, why the hell would you put the authentication credentials there in the first place, if you allow these kind of applications to freely use them? And why would this application need to have access your Google account, calendar and be able to add stuff to your calendar and to send people in your contact list mails? That’s just SO screwed up.
Have you read the terms and conditions on everything you’ve agreed to? Do you realize what implications these things have on your privacy?
I suggest you start checking what you’ve got installed on your phone and what it’s accessing. You might be surprised. Not pleasantly…

This has been standing in my draft queue for quite some time now. It wasn’t quite done yet, and there were a couple of things I needed to check first, but here we go then (a couple of days mentioned below isn’t quite accurate anymore, that’s a month and a half or so ago by now 😉 )

Wow… I’m getting the feeling I’m being watched 😉

A couple of days ago I revisited my Digimarc experience and I wrote how I was contacted by Ms Gina Giachetti, representing Digimarc, and asked if I wanted to blog about the new Digimarc.
I wasn’t too keen at first to write about it, since my first experience with Digimarc wasn’t all that spectacular, but Ms Giachetti promised to put me in touch with a product manager to “talk things over”. For some reason that went all south because of a miscommunication, as it now appears: holidays from both sides (I had no idea Digimarc was located in Oregon, otherwise I could’ve stopped by the office in March when I was in Oregon!), busy time schedules, etc. etc.

Anyway… I posted the revisited the 28th in the morning, and that same day in the evening there’s a mail from Ms Giachetti waiting in my inbox. Yep, things had gone all south, and that wasn’t how it was supposed to be. So we gave it a second try and last Wednesday she set me up in a telephone conversation with Digimarc’s product manager Ben Bounketh. Very agreeable guy, I must say (I’m also not getting paid to say this, dang! 😀 ). We had a really interesting conversation in which he told me a bit more about Digimarc in general and more specifically about the watermarking process and product. I’m not going to repeat that all here, so you’ll have to head on to the Digimarc website. And -I already mentioned in my first post about Digimarc that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with their customer service- he set me up with a free Pro account for a year for me to test the new product. Wow! 🙂

Mr Bounketh presented me with a little video on how the new Digimarc Watermarking would be really imperceptible. And no matter how nice he sounded, my first reaction was “Sure, that’s a generic picture, the OLD watermarking would even work on that. You’re not getting off that easily with me!” So… You all probably remember the jellyfish picture I put my test on? That was the OLD method. Ghastly… Autch!

Digimarc watermark examples: left without watermark, right with watermark

Digimarc watermark examples: left without watermark, right with watermark

So I thought, let’s see how Mr Bounketh’s statement will hold up in this image.

Digimarc watermark examples: left without watermark, right with watermark

Digimarc watermark examples: left without watermark, right with watermark

And well… Kudos, Mr Bounketh. Kudos to you and Digimarc. Compared to the old version this is a world of difference. Where you could see the obvious difference in the first example, even without the need to view full, in the second example I had to enlarge the areas to show the difference, and even then you can’t see it without looking at the full view.
When looking at a 4000+ pixels image at 100% you can see some slight noise in these even areas, but the quality of the images with watermark has improved so much that you can’t even really make a decent comparison anymore.
I’d still be a bit reluctant uploading images with an even background like this in full resolution to for example a stock agency, but for the “normal” images, with a more diverse and detailed background it will be no problem whatsoever, and for web images it will be perfect.

The watermark itself is pretty solid in terms of durability. I put the watermark in a 4000+ pixels image, downscaled in stages and in one go to 300pixels and only at that point was the watermark not found anymore. Upscaling and cropping the same story.
However… as with all editing with images you ARE supposed to do it in the hi-res version, and when I tested adding the watermark to a lower res version it came out with the same ghastly result. So added in a 4000 pixel image and then scaled down to 800 pixels is perfectly acceptable, but adding the watermark straight to the 800 pixels picture is a big no-no (still). When presenting this issue to Mr Bounketh, he did give a plausible explanation. In short and super-simplified something along the lines of the watermark having to be hidden in less available pixels).

Jellyfish comparison

Left the image in which the watermark was added at 800 pixels, right the image where it was added at 4000 pixels and then downscaled to 800 pixels (click to enlarge).

I can’t say anything on the reporting and scouting/tracking of images, yet. That will take some time, but I’m going to upload a batch of generic images with Digimarc watermark to my website and see if they are picked up and where they end up. Mr Bounketh did explain a little on how the searching and “tracking” works. He also noted that, because of the time and costs involved, at this point only larger sites with a lot of traffic will be scanned/indexed on a regular basis.  I’m not really sure if it will be super useful for (starting) artists who don’t have much traffic to their website, since those websites would be scanned/indexed only like once per 3-6 months. But since the price has gone down and the scouting/tracking is included in that price, there’s little to do about it anyway.
I’m happily testing away now, and I’ll probably do a re-re-revisited in a year or so, or if/when I get some data in on the scouting/tracking.

A year and a half or so ago I wrote a piece about Digimarc Digital Watermarking. Back then I had tried the service and wasn’t all that happy with the results, especially not with the price tag that came with it. I never looked back, and I still think that the best way to protect your images is with a big fat watermark dead center.
Occasionally I look at the stats for of my blog and on structural basis I see people having searched for Digimarc ending up here.

The surprise was when in mid February of this year I received a mail from a lady called Gina Giachetti, sent from a gmail address, who apparently is responsible for the pr stuff at Digimarc. In the mail she addresses me with my first name. I don’t find that a real problem in itself, and I don’t require anyone to call me Sir, but for courtesy’s sake she could’ve at least introduced herself and not pretend like she’s known me for 10 years already (and save me the trouble of Googling her to find out who on earth SHE was).
Anyway… She writes me that Digimarc has released 3 new editions of their products and that the prices have gone down. Furthermore she hopes that, as a blogger that reaches the photography and digital imaging community, I will share this information with my readers.

So my blog has been getting an daily average of a whopping 20-30 unique visitors, with some rare peeks if I write something really funny or stupid, so I had my doubts if the reason of her contacting me was truly just her hope of me sharing that new information about Digimarc. What I actually believe is that she found out that if you search for “Digimarc watermarking” in Google the fifth search result on the first page is my blog post, and that’s not really the best marketing / sales post you could imagine.

So I wrote her back that I’ve had previous experience with Digimarc Watermarking and that I wasn’t really all that happy with the service and it’s quite against my principles to promote and support products that I don’t support myself. But that of course I’m happy to talk to an executive or representative and if they can prove to me that the service indeed has approved I would gladly share the information.
I promptly receive a reply from Ms Giachetti in which she writes, among others, the following:

If you like, I’d be happy to arrange for you to speak with a Digimarc executive, and provide you with a way to try out the new technology for yourself. Let me know if that interests you and I’ll see what I can do.

So, wow, try the new technology out for myself, eh? That sounds cool! 🙂 So I tell her sure, I wouldn’t mind testing the new technology and see if it got any better. It takes a week for her to reply this time, after which she apologizes for the delay because of busy schedules. But we’re still on for a talk with an executive, she has someone and we only have to arrange a time to talk.

I inform her with my schedule, we compare and come to the conclusion that around this day, around this time, would be the best for both parties. After that I haven’t heard anything anymore, nor seen any sign of life. I wonder…

So at this point I’m not sure what the service really does. I haven’t used the new version, nor seen it in action, so for all I care you still get a non-working service, only they made it $400 cheaper. To which I say: a $99 product which isn’t working, still is too expensive.