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somebody stole my shoe tree
Location: Salt Lake City, UT

When I posted the essay about the Nevada Shoe Tree in found_objects last January, I wasn't prepared for the interest the accompanying photos would generate. In fact, the bandwidth necessary to keep that entry intact was the sole justification for acquiring more spacious web hosting services. Over the course of the year, that entry has continued to generate several hundred hits per month as the link traversed the web's nook and crannies. I've never minded it being hotlinked in blogs or appearing in some questionable places, for at least it traced back to me and weren't used for any overt commericial purposes. Additionally, I gave Roadside America permission to publish them on their website and they kindly gave me credit as well as a link to my LiveJournal in their article.

A few days ago, I noticed a huge jump in the bandwidth on my photo subdomain, to the tune of 33,000 hits and 3+ GB. Upon checking out the referrer report, I quickly deduced that the found_objects entry was the culprit and upon further inspection (and some sleuth work from welfy) that it had most likely been linked on at least two Brazilian message boards (fodum.com and lkmtheblog.com). Without access to the forums, I can't be positive, but since the found_objects entry generated a smidge over 32,000 of those hits, I'm guessing that the Brazilians simply linked to the original article with an accompanying photograph hotlinked.

Again, this sort of thing doesn't bother me. They are beautiful and unique photographs and I have no problem sharing them if people find them interesting or pleasureable to view.

Photo Gallery album

I hadn't Googled "Nevada Shoe Tree" in a while, so I thought I'd give it a quick look-over and see if they were being linked anywhere new and interesting other than these Brazilian forums. Imagine my dismay when I discovered this on the first page of links. Of the 8 photos being used for this "Funny Picture", SIX OF THEM ARE MINE. According to the voting page it's on, it was posted to the site on December 8, 2005. In 5 days, it has generated this atrocious, ad-plastered website 38,000 page views. As final insult to injury, the photos are being hosted by the website rather than hotlinked. In short, there is no way that these photos are linked to me, personally, in any way.

While chatting with justamy she went the next step and figured out that blogs were now linking to this website.

I screen-capped the website for good measure then began checking the place out. Site content is submitted by the website's users. Realistically, the website just gathers whatever is submitted to it and makes a broad assumption that the submitter either has rights to the content or that it is within the realm of public domain. I can't really fault the website, however, I do have a right to credit/compensation or to have the photos removed. My next step was to find contact information. Naturally, the Contact link on the website doesn't work. This is typical of websites with somewhat shady practices, so I proceeded to do a Whois lookup and acquired all sorts of phone numbers, email and snail mail addresses.

welfy (1:28:26 AM): ooh!
welfy (1:28:31 AM): *kills Mary Dunne*

welfy (1:29:03 AM): KILL KILL
welfy (1:29:17 AM): IT'S HER
welfy (1:30:11 AM): don't let her sweet apple pie face fool you, Lin!

So I'm going to call some of those phone numbers tomorrow and raise a bit of a stink. My plan is to propose that they purchase rights to the photographs or cease and desist the use of them by the end of the week. If not, they'll hear from a lawyer by the first of next week.

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I have mixed feelings about copyright. When someone is duplicating it for their own beneift and sharing it with people, I have no problem with it. I also have no problem with things being re-constituted into new art, like with sampling. What does bother me is when people duplicate and re-sell them for profit, such as bootleg DVD/CD's. I have not had any problem with the duplication of these photos in other places so long as credit was given. What irks me most about this at that zero credit is given. The fact that this website is generating profit from it just makes it more heinous.

The photos have been used on other blogs and webpages that have advertising and it's never bothered me, but credit was always given, usually via a link. This is what bothers me the most.

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