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Massive copyright infringement by a Russian website

How to sue?

     
12:05 pm on Apr 15, 2004 (gmt 0)

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My site is a huge web photo gallery. I just happened to find a Russian site which has been using dozens of the images on my site without my permission. They didn't even bother to rename the images and must have been using the images for at least a year and a half.

Needless to say, I'd like to sue these people, or at least force them to stop using my images. But they are based in Russia (it's a .ru site). What can I do?

12:10 pm on Apr 15, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Virtually nothing...It's nearly impossible to get them to take down sites with illegal pictures of small kids ..

that said where is it hosted ...just because you see .ru ..doesnt mean thats where it is ...

if it is hosted in Russia or a lot of similar areas you got to wait around another 10 years

12:13 am on Apr 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

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scooter24: assuming the .ru site is hotlinking (you didn't really specify), this solution is a PITA one, but WILL work - at least for a while.

Upload ONE graphic to your site, a plain black or white background with the words "YOU ARE A THIEF!" in the opposite color (get that transliterated into Russian too if you can!). Point all the previous links for the stolen graphics to that one. Move all of your "real" graphics to a different directory for the time being, and make sure your email is visible - anyone who is legit will probably email you to ask where the pics went. You might miss out some traffic for a while, but it shouldn't be long before you can reset back to your original links.

Seems like I've seen somewhere a "real" solution to hotlinking - think it involves apache mod_rewrite. Of course, if they've just downloaded your pics and then set up their own space, the above won't work....

1:26 am on Apr 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Hi Scooter24

is the site in English?

if it is, you might as well send them a cease and desist, you never know they might listen to reason.

otherwise check their host's terms of service, if it is a semi-decent host then they may have the content removed (normally, you will have to prove the infringement).

failing that, as Leosghost said you may have a problem getting your content removed.

hope this helps

Dazz

DISCLAIMER: I am not a lawyer, obviously you should seek proper legal advice.

2:35 am on Apr 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

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The site is hosted in Russia and they downloaded about 40 to 50 of my pictures (no hotlinking) and put them on their server. Content is all in Russian, though the URLs are in English. It's basically a Russian travel operator who uses my images to promote tours to Laos and Cambodia.
4:53 pm on Apr 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

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They might not even know they're violating copyright. I mean, with Google's image search, they could be copying the images directly from the search results pages. I've known many people who thought images online can't be copyrighted; "after all, the Internet is supposed to be free . . . "
10:36 pm on Apr 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

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They might not even know they're violating copyright. I mean, with Google's image search, they could be copying the images directly from the search results pages. I've known many people who thought images online can't be copyrighted; "after all, the Internet is supposed to be free . . . "

Who knows. But I counted again and they grabbed a total of 91 images from my site, so they can't have taken them from a cache. They must have accessed directly my site.

By the way, I've just emailed a Russian lawyer. Let's see what he tells me.

10:54 pm on Apr 18, 2004 (gmt 0)

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you said the site was a travel site that took your images. What were they images of? The reason I ask is because if these were images of tourist destinations or landmarks, public places etc... then you really don't have any copyright to these images.

For example, if I take a picture of the White House in the USA, I can't stop anybody else from also showing a picture of the White House on their site. Even if I suspected that it was my picture that they were using, how would I prove this? They could have been standing in the same location that I was as the picture was taken.

11:39 pm on Apr 18, 2004 (gmt 0)

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I think Scooter24 is not talking about images of public places, but HIS images. Therefore he does have a right to them. If I used YOUR image of the white house then I am a THIEF. Quite simple really.

Good luck Scooter24. Maybe you should contact the company/site before splashing out on lawyer fees. They are expensive.

Tim

11:54 pm on Apr 18, 2004 (gmt 0)

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yes, but how would you prove that a particular photo of a place is yours? If you wanted to bring any legal action you would have to do this. If I take a standard photo of the White House, with no people in it, then how can you differentiate it from another standard photo of the White House with no people in it?
3:00 am on Apr 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

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wackal wrote:
"The reason I ask is because if these were images of tourist destinations or landmarks, public places etc... then you really don't have any copyright to these images."

That's absolute nonsense.

And, as far as proving it the angle, pixel locations, filenames (which he said they didn't bother to change) and so forth make it really easy. Lots of people have pics of the White House, but it's damn unlikely they'll have the same pixel data, even if taken at the same time in about the same location. Based upon the locations in question and the repeated nature of the copying it's undoubtedly damn obvious that copyright violations are the only explanation.

8:29 am on Apr 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

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yes, but how would you prove that a particular photo of a place is yours? If you wanted to bring any legal action you would have to do this. If I take a standard photo of the White House, with no people in it, then how can you differentiate it from another standard photo of the White House with no people in it?

Overlap the images and if there is a pixel-by-pixel correspondence it means the images are the same ones.

I might add that these idiots were dumb enough not to rename the image files!

11:39 am on Apr 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

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I think you're just being picky now. No one is going to sue over a 'standard' picture, of which there are millions already. Scooter24's pictures are probably unique which is why he is hacked off that someone is using them. Besides, they are pictures promoting beautiful lands of Laos and Cambodia, not Bush's palace.
8:19 pm on Apr 20, 2004 (gmt 0)

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well scooter, what kinds of pictures are these? are these standard pictures or are they more unique? You never did answer my question
8:24 pm on Apr 20, 2004 (gmt 0)

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don't forget, even with a pixel by pixel comparison, you still run into the problem of proving that the picture was taken. What if the Russian site says that the pictures are theirs and Scooter is the one that took the pictures? How do you prove they are yours? File names mean nothing, if I take picture of Laos and name it Laos, is it any surprise that other people might have the same picture with the same name.

Also, how's the political/legal environment in Russia right now? Don't expect to find too much justice there.

11:13 pm on Apr 20, 2004 (gmt 0)

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it's actually very hard to win even if they were in the us and you did sue. the problem is that under fair use laws, the net is a free domain, and by posting such images or other copywrited material, you are in essence opening it up to public domain. so bottom line... as long as the images aren't altered and changed to misrepresent the original, then it's actually legal.

sucks, but it's true

11:29 pm on Apr 20, 2004 (gmt 0)

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.... net is a free domain, and by posting such images or other copywrited material, you are in essence opening it up to public domain....

TOTALLY untrue. One owns one's copyrighted works, whether art, writing, programming, etc. no matter if it's on the net or not. Placing something online, while perhaps not "safe" does NOT automatically open it to "public domain".

You need to read up on copyright and public domain, and the actual liablility you are open to if you arbitrarily assume that others' copyrighted material is "free for the taking" because YOU found it on the net. And before you bite back, I DO know whereof I speak: I'm a writer, and I've done a fair amount of research on this subject.

11:52 pm on Apr 20, 2004 (gmt 0)

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A few jokes websites were sued a couple months ago by a group of cartoonists who's cartoons were taken and put on the sites.
12:55 am on Apr 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Facts: [loc.gov...]

Jim

8:42 am on Apr 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

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<<sucks, but it's true>>

Where do you get this crap ..?
Copyright can only be assigned specifically in writing from the copyright holder to another person or corparate entity..this doesn't matter where you are in the world ( there are currently only a handfull of countries who have not ratified the relevant conventions ...the level of ignorance and missinformation on this subject on these fora is frightening ..)....

I am a copyright specialist and have made numerous appearances in court (as "expert witness" )and no doubt will continue to have to do so whilst people like "smoove 3" continue to take their dreams for reality ...

The internet is not "public space " it is "publically accessible" space ....and if you don't understand the distinction ..don't go there ...

Rant over ( until the next stupid missinformed post on this subject ) ..........

8:49 am on Apr 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

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>By the way, I've just emailed a Russian lawyer. Let's see what he tells me.

So, did you get an answer yet?

9:08 am on Apr 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

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>By the way, I've just emailed a Russian lawyer. Let's see what he tells me.
So, did you get an answer yet?

Still no reply.

3:40 pm on Apr 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

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there are laws suchs as DMCA and UTICA that will help in this cause, but the problem is that if the site is in Russian and haven't ratified the agreements they are not held. EC has a lot of different rules then the US. I am in a grad class that deals with this on a high level. You might want to search for Russian copyright law and see what Uncle Sam says about other countries stealing your authored work.

Might want to talk to a US lawyer that knows Russian law in stead of a Russian lawyer.

7:56 pm on Apr 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

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vkaryl,

I think you're missing the point that smoove3 and myself were trying to make. In theory, what you say is correct, but in the real world, you can have all the rights in the world, but if you have no way to enforce them, then you have no rights.

This seems to be the situation Scooter24 is in. There is no way he is going to get the Russian legal system to stop this site from taking his images. That's even if he can prove they are his.

9:08 pm on Apr 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

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in the real world, you can have all the rights in the world, but if you have no way to enforce them, then you have no rights.

So if I have the right to freedom of speech and I am constantly censored, I don't have the right to freedom of speech? What absolute rubbish.

Rights are inalienable. Even when you're prevented from exercising them.

Unfortunately practical measures are still limited in their capacity to prevent copyright violations on the web. chmod rewrite on an Apache server only stops direct linking to images. Anything else is ineffective.

I suppose you could subcontract some bright young hacker to err... change the Russian website?

10:11 pm on Apr 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

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"So if I have the right to freedom of speech and I am constantly censored, I don't have the right to freedom of speech?"

I think you just made my point. Yes, if you are constantly censored then you do not have freedom of speech. How can you say you have freedom of speech if you are censored?

I think you need to re-read my post because you missed some of the logic.

11:42 pm on Apr 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

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I think you're missing the point that smoove3 and myself were trying to make.

wackal: I didn't see anything in your posts or smoove3's post which indicated you were "trying to make a point". You were both "throwing down a gauntlet" - you by sniping at Scooter24 in a rather snide way; and smoove3 by disseminating totally false information about copyright.

Besides, as regards copyright (and as mentioned in other posts on this thread), one DOES have recourse in most of the civilized world today. It's simply a matter of being persistent and ignoring people who would have one believe that one can do nothing....

....but if you have no way to enforce them, then you have no rights....

Of course you do. You ALWAYS retain the rights granted you by your own country's laws - even if you are not prepared to insist upon using them. True, you may NOT be able to recoup millions of dollars or even an apology - but YOU STILL HAVE THOSE RIGHTS. Some people might roll over and play dead when their rights are infringed upon (whether copyright or something else), but I'm not one who would do that, and perhaps Scooter24 isn't either.

The world is a remarkably small place today. If Scooter24 doesn't get some response from the lawyer he contacted, then maybe he will try someone else. He might, for instance, contact a Russian-&-English-speaking attorney in one of the large cities in the States - they DO abound in various parts of this country (Washington DC and LA spring to mind - as well as Toronto - all have many Russian immigrants....) and the easiest way to find the contact info for someone like that would be either online, or a simple long distance phone call to one of the 800 numbers of any one of the Russian embassies in large cities. A request for a list of Russian-&-English-speaking attorneys would not be taken amiss, I believe....

8:08 am on Apr 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Well, see here:

"Combating Copyright Infringement in Russia: A Comprehensive Approach for Western Plaintiffs"

[law.vanderbilt.edu...]

It appears that also in Russia copyright laws exist and that the case isn't hopeless.

8:38 am on Apr 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

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wackal> vkaryl is absolutely right.

if you are constantly censored then you do not have freedom of speech

No, you're right, you don't. But you still have the _right_ to speak freely, even if your opponents are do everything to prevent you from exercising that right.

Having the right to do something and being able to do something are not the same.

A copyright which is violated innumerable times does not void the copyright and does not make the violations acceptable behaviour.

10:28 pm on Apr 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

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first... i am 100% right. as several lawsuits have been thrown out on the subject.

second... i am not saying it was right, but it happens and is true.

third... just out of curiosity... how many that are bashing me actually know how to copyright their work?
[copyright.gov...]

Just because you make something, doesn't make it copyrighted to you. Someone could go and take 1000's of images. Just because you make them, doesn't mean you copyrighted them.

I don't agree with such policies, I'm just saying you can't stop it.

This 36 message thread spans 2 pages: 36