Image theft

Recently I noticed some traffic into a flickr image from an unusual source – a web site from Vietnam called It’s really worth to check sources of clicks from time to time (this feature is only available to flickr pro accounts, but you can also so this by checking web logs if you have your own site). By clicking on that particular referral link, I found myself at this Vietnamese site that featured a bunch of architectural images. I found it rather annoying that the site’s owner put his own watermark in the corner of each image, including mine! This could suggest to a site visitor that the images are his. Check out the following (a photo from Ian Trower) – even the presence of the original photographer’s watermark was no deterrent or disincentive.

Here’s my pic that was on that site:

No permission was sought in advance by the owner/operator of that Vietnamese site – pretty bad behaviour in my opinion.

It’s a timely reminder to be vigilant about image theft. If you’re a firefox user like me you can install a useful extension called ‘Who stole my pictures‘ that will give you a one-click solution to easily searching for instances of your image of other sites. Not surprisingly, I’ve found that Google Images provides the most comprehensive results. It’s possible to simply go to Google Images and click on the camera icon on the right, and specify a URL or upload an images to start searching. It’s worth to do this occasionally to see if your pics are turning up anywhere else. For instance, I found some of my Q1 pics (with no links or attributions) on a Russian travel site. Fortunately, an email to that site quickly resolved the issue.

I also recommend using a EXIF editor like PhotoMe or ExifTool (a command-line tool on Windows) to add image owner info. For example, using the following (insert your name as indicated) will insert that info into the copyright field in your image file.

exiftool(-copyright=’your name’).exe

At times, I put a visible watermark in my most of my pics, but sometimes I dislike how it impacts the image. I also like the concept of invisible watermarking and used to use SignMyImage but it’s ineffective with flickr images since flickr applies some processing to the image rendering the watermark useless.. I think I’ll have to reconsider the visible watermarking unfortunately..

Anyway, be vigilant with your pics..


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