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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 think you're overreacting a little. It's obviously just a piece of shit website that happened to like your photos enough to want to share them with others. I think the fact that they have banners to help pay for their site is neglible and since nowhere on your site (or elsewhere) do you have any copyright details, there's probably very little you can do other than send them a threatening email.

As far as I see it though, legally speaking, they were within their rights to do whatever they wanted to with your pictures. If this is a concern then I'd recommend putting a copyright stamp on your photos or an explicit legal tag somewhere, but imho this usually makes people look a little foolish and petty, especially if you're only posting things on something as inconsequential (sorry, but that's the only word I can think of right now)as livejournal.

I think if it was me, I'd probably just be flattered that someone else found the pictures interesting enough to submit to a site like that and leave it there. Sure, it'd be nice to get credited, but c'mon.. it's not like this is Reuters or something. It's just small potatoes stuff and regardless of not getting paid or linked up, I'd probably just let it go and assume no ill-intent was ever meant.

Once the thing is out there, there really isn't a lot to keep someone else from eventually claiming copyright and though today it is on LiveJournal, tomorrow it could be in a coffee table book or in a Nike ad. Also and I don't think this has ever been tested, but if I'm not mistaken, hot-linking may actually qualify as a true crime.

A lot of semi-pro photographers who seem to share the same sensibilities as soop and who also post pics to LJ, often note the "Creative Commons" license on their userinfo. By invoking such a license, it certainly wouldn't prevent our host from self-publishing a coffee table book, notecards or those photocube things they have in Hallmark stores, but in theory, it could make it harder to recoup any money, if they were incorporated in an ad.

My experience has been that as long as you stay toward the bottom of the barrel, it only costs about a $100-$200 to get a lawyer to write a letter and make a couple of phone calls. Personally and though it may not come to that, I wouldn't think it unreasonable.

Well put... and you may be right that I am over reacting a bit. I think what irks me the most is that complete lack of credit.

Copyright, however, does not have to be explcit in the form of a notice. The moment anyone creates anything, copyright is implied. It may only be explicitly given away.

I don't think any ill intent was necessarily meant by anyone, although in what little I've convered so far about halfthedeck.com and Ms. Dunne, I'm beginning to wonder. I've uncovered at least one other infringement complaint on a patent in which those two entities were named.

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