Several years ago, when Myspace was still the “it” place to hang out on the Internet, I received a private message from a “friend” who was concerned because she had seen someone who was clearly not me post pictures that she recognized from my site on a popular networking forum.
I visited her link and experienced the nauseous feeling of discovering that someone had stolen my pictures and was now passing them off as her own.
The poster left no question about it. She had clearly taken two photos from my site and posted them on a professional networking forum claiming that they were pictures of nails she’d just done earlier in the day. I specifically remember the words “not my best work” included in her post. Not your best work! *#&! How about not your work at all!
That was the day I began the excruciatingly tedious task of removing every photo I had ever posted to the Internet, figuring out the best way to watermark them, and then re-uploading them all.
There’s no way I can ever get back all the photos that were reposted, saved to personal files, e-mailed, or printed out before the watermarking, so every so often I still come across one of my photos from the old days being used in someone’s advertising or as someone’s avatar.
I’ve had to lay the smack down a few times — I even reported the unauthorized use of one photo to FB and had them remove it.
The thing is, I do try to contact the user directly first. Especially if it’s being used as an avatar pic. I want to know if the user is trying to pass it off as their own work (not OK) or if they simply like the nails in the pic (totally cool).
But I find my photos all over the Internet when I really get to looking. They get used on blogs, they’re in Flickr albums, and on Tumblr and Pinterest — social networking is all the rage right now and it’s all about “sharing” content.
So get to work and watermark your work! Make sure it’s legible, use something that allows folks to look you up — like the URL for your website or Facebook page or Instagram or whereever people can find more about you if they stumble on your photo on Pinterest.
But as long as no one’s taking credit for your work, don’t get bent about finding your photos on Pinterest, or in someone’s “work that inspires me” album.
If you post photos on the Internet, they will travel. Take the compliment, use your watermark as a marketing tool, and don’t get all snarky when someone does you the favor of plastering YOUR name on YOUR work all over cyberspace.