Sunday, September 19, 2010

Copying images and content without permission

After all of these years of selling online, I am still surprised by hearing about people stealing images and copying writing from other websites. I can't understand why people do it. Are they not creative enough to do photos and creative writing and research themselves? Are they just lazy? They are obviously very foolish if they think that no one will see the stolen content. As a vintage seller, I look at other vintage websites and I shop on Etsy and ebay for vintage clothing for myself and to see how the market is doing. If I see a familiar image or writing - if it's mine I'm going to be pissed, if it belongs to someone else - I'm going to tell them. If regular customers of mine and other vintage sellers see our images or content copied, they are going to let us know too.

Do you understand that stealing images and writing content from other people without permission is copyright infringement? Pictures and writing are intellectual properties and just because they are online does not make them public domain for anyone to use. Your website, ebay and etsy listings or blog could be shut down if we report the copyright infringements. And I really hate those blog that steal feeds from popular blogs and represent the posts as their own so that they can make money off of Google ads. Stealing feed is a reportable offence too, and it will get your Adwords account shut down. (This post will probably show up on one of those feed stealing blogs.)

Within the past month I've heard of several instances of stolen images and writing.
One longtime vintage seller found another website using many images from her website. The thief was making and selling copies of vintage dresses. That's fine to make your own items to sell, but don't use someone else's photos to sell your stuff. The item in the stolen photo is not what you will actually be sending to your customer, so that is false advertising. The accused thief claimed that she owned all of the dresses that were copied onto her website. The seller of the original items verified that the thief did not buy the items from her and that she still had some of those vintage pieces in her shop. Even if the thief had owned all of the dresses, she would still have had no right to use the images.

I discovered that a customer of mine, who I know buys from me to resell and I have no problem with that, was using the photos of the items that she bought from me to resell the items. Of course I spotted the photos on her website after she posted a link to her shop on Facebook. This week I also found someone on Etsy reselling what they buy from me with the photos that I've taken. These aren't people who are reselling something that didn't fit, these are people who bought with the intention of reselling - again, I have no problem with them reselling. But they tried to use my photos to resell the items and I have a big problem with that.
In the past I've found the writing from my FAQ page and my 'I Buy Vintage' page copied by other vintage websites, copied right down to silly jokes and references that I included in my original writing. Regular customers of mine spotted those and let me know. Again, very foolish of the offenders to think that no one would notice.

A post was recently done on this blog that turned out to be copied in part from another website that had the information online for several years. The original author, who is also a frequent poster here, recognized the similarities between her writing and the blog post immediately. She contacted me and the post was pulled.
The Vintage Fashion Guild has alot of great information on their website about vintage clothing, especially their Label Resource and designer biographies. But that information is not there for people to just copy to make it look like they did the research work themselves (copying and pasting word for word from another website is not doing research, it is COPYING) If you are going to use information from the VFG or any other website GIVE CREDIT and a link to the reference.

My photos, and other vintage seller's photos, are a part of our image and branding for our websites, not to mention part of our hard work and time. The photos are not there for you to steal  to falsely represent what you are selling and the photos are not included with the purchase of the items to be used elsewhere without permission. And how ridiculous will your website or ebay/etsy stores look with a bunch of obviously different styles of photos in them?
The creative and informational writing on our websites and blogs are our work and our research and they are not to be copied either. I'm not here to do your work. I've been busting my ass selling vintage for 13 years and I'm not here to make your 'job' easier. And, I will still be here a long time after you've given up on vintage.
Do your own work, create your own selling image. If you can't do it, find something else to sell that you can handle doing the work yourself.


Lizzie said...

Bravo, Carol - Well said.

This is a major problem for anyone who works hard to maintain a website or a blog and who is generating their own content. I find my writing and photos on other sites on a regular basis.

Not too long ago, I was reading one of my favorite blogs, one that takes an academic approach to fashion history. I was reading a post, and noticed that one of the images was identical to an old fashion plate I have. My first thought was that it was ironic that we would have the same plate, then a closer look revealed that this was actually my scan of my plate.

Then I realized that the wording seemed to be familiar. This blog post consisted of a workshop I had written for VFG several years ago, with a little extra thrown in. Seriously, about 75% of it was my workshop, word for word. I emailed the admin of the site, and she had the poster get in touch. She apologized and had an excuse, but it forever changed my opinion of this blog and poster. After about 4 days, I was finally credited, and the article was greatly rewritten.

So the next time I found my images on a blog, I simply posted to the blog, asking them to credit me and to link back to The Vintage Traveler. Within hours the change was made. I figure that if they are nervy enough to just go through the internet willy-nilly collecting images for their blog, I have to be nervy right back and publicly stand up for my rights.

What really bothered me in both cases is that I really like both blogs, and it saddened me to think they had no regard for me and my work.

And why would someone take from sites that are on the same topic as theirs? Do they not realize that there is a good chance that person is one of their readers?

Tart Deco™ said...

Here, here! I am recently going through a request frenzy to get a picture of mine off of someone's website. No credit was given at all, except a link to the original site I posted on. I know they must troll for info on the web because the link wasn't even represented correctly. I had to delete the original post and repost it, hoping that the info wasn't found again. What a waste of time!

andapanda said...

I couldn't agree more. Right on!

thespectrum said...

I agree with every word you have posted!

I guess people figure that the internet is so huge no one will discover their thefts, or they are ignorant enough to believe that just because it's posted "out there" it is free for the taking.

April Ainsworth said...

Hi Carol,

Ditto re your post! I recently found a Czech website using our images without having purchased any items. Their intent was to sell items to their customers first, then purchase from us and re-ship at a mark-up. I have no problem being a middle man either, but not via this route!

I let the shop know and they removed our images, but I believe there may be another shop being exploited in the same way. They've even shown this shop's watermark (looks like a cursive SJ in the bottom right corner of the photos). Any idea who this would be?