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Product Image Theft

What to do?



3:35 pm on Feb 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I've found another ecommerce site that has heisted most of the product images (box shots, more or less) from *my* ecommerce site. These are all images that I created, and it irritates the heck out of me that someone else is making a buck using my property.

I do have the advantage of having embedded a Digimarc digital watermark in most of the images, and the ones on the offending website still bear that watermark.

What recourse do I have against these bozos? I can send a cease-and-desist letter to them, but since they're half way across the country, it seems likely they might just ignore it.

Can someone point me to the specifics of the DMCA that apply in this case? Is this something I'd need to contact a local copyright attorney on?


4:06 pm on Feb 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

In the first instance you should send a cease-and-desist letter to the most senior person you can find (Phone and ask)

If that doesn't work then contact their ISP to inform them they are hosting unlicenced (illegal) material.

If that doesn't work (it should) then spend money on lawyers etc.

The only other consideration is to be polite, it may be a genuine mistake. I suggest this from experience.

Good luck.



4:43 pm on Feb 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

> heisted most of the product images

Are they hotlinked to your site, or on their own URL?


4:48 pm on Feb 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Iv had the very same problem this morning, I sent a polite email asking him to remove a piece of artwork that we use in our logo and on our no product image found.


Although he is using some images, i.e. product photography that I photographed myself, but im not going to chase after him. My aim is to beat him fair and square in SEO, Customer Service and Product Range....

[edited by: lorax at 5:34 pm (utc) on Feb. 10, 2005]
[edit reason] removed email quote [/edit]


5:05 pm on Feb 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

No, they're not hotlinking to my images - they copied them locally, cropped a couple and renamed all of them to fit into their ecommerce platform (apple cart?).

And I don't think it was "inadvertant" copying either - they went to at least 7 different product pages and took at total of just about 100 images.

I've got a clear warning at the bottom of every page that expresses my copyright and prohibits copying the images -- plus I advise that all images have a digital watermark and can be traced. Some folks is just plain sleazy, I guess..

The funny thing is, their cart software has disabled right-clicking on images -- instead, a message box comes up with a "Copyright 2004" message in it.

I've tracked down there hosting provider and will be forwarding my complaint to them as well as to the site owner shortly.

I expect this will get taken care of soon, but I'm still amazed at the brass some people show. On a non-commercial web site, this would just be annoying. But when it comes to someone else using *my* work to compete against me and make money, I won't stand for it.


5:18 pm on Feb 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Have you considered putting a visible watermark on your images? I do on every product shot I do. From the storeowners I've spoken to, that's SOP.


5:15 am on Feb 11, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

> watermark

Is the watermark still present if the original image is cropped or modified?



SOP Standard Operating Procedure (chiefly military)
SOP Safe Operating Practice


3:09 pm on Feb 11, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

> Is the watermark still present if the original image is cropped or modified?

If you're referring to the digital watermark, yeah, it's surprisingly resilient. The watermark is embedded throughout the image as "noise" that's almost imperceptible when viewing the image. Essentially, the watermark is just an ID number that can be tied back to the service provider's database (digimarc.com) and will identify the owner associated with that ID. They provide an IE plugin that scans images on a web page and indicates whether they have a watermark present or not. So it was pretty easy to identify the stolen images as being mine.

You can do quite a bit of whacking on the image without destroying the watermark - crop, resize, rotate, all kinds of stuff. When the watermark is embedded, you choose a relative "strength" -- stronger watermark means more likelihood that the watermark will appear as visibile noise but it's also harder to destroy it.

I like the idea of a visible watermark on the images and have done that to some of my best product shots - the problem is that some of my images are very small color samples of the widgets I sell, so it'd be hard to put anything in the image without seriously detracting from the intent as a color sample. Coincidentally, it's also difficult to embed a digital watermark in very small images - there just aren't enough pixels available to make it very strong without being overly visible.


3:42 pm on Feb 14, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Well, it took a few days but the site owner eventually removed all of the stolen images from his site.

I think he was hastened along in that process by his hosting provider who I also contacted by e-mail (and several followup phone calls). I never did get any kind of apology or acknowledgement from the web site owner or hosting provider, which I think is pretty weak. But I guess if they were really concerned with doing the right thing, they wouldn't have blatantly stolen the images in the first place.

For future reference, I found a web site with some helpful information including steps for identifying the hosting provider, notification letter "templates" for both the web site owner and hosting provider and some other tips. There's some specific language that needs to be included in the letters in order for the protection of the DMCA to kick in, so the templates were valuable.

The web site is aimed more at artists than e-commerce folks like us, but the laws apply equally. Here's the URL: [artpromote.com...]


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