Stolen Images, Pixel Ownership + Unfortunate Mentalities (What Now?)

I’m blogging on a Friday night and I feel a little ill at internet-humanity. Normally I’m an apathetic person regarding ~issues~ and I base this entirely on my difficulty to form educated opinions on certain matters. I’m not a particularly worldly girl, or wordy for that matter. In saying that when I fire up about a particular matter I’ll do so with gusto. When my friend Nikki tagged me in the above Instagram image the other day, a stolen image from this post, I couldn’t help but try to do or say something. My qualifications surround everything pixelated; I’m a few weeks away from holding a B. Digital Media so online content and digital, intellectual property make me excited to be alive. Pixels are amazing but far too easily abused these days. This post extends beyond food-blogging to photographers and producers of online content.

Enter user @creativefoods, an account with over 350,000 followers with a chronically thefty ‘author’. All photos on his/her account contain stolen images and content from well known blogs. I was amused, and a little flattered upon the discovery of my Apple Caramel Cupcakes so very kindly asked the user to credit me when the images was already sitting at around 20,000 likes. No response, I then asked them again and then once more to remove it, no response. Surprising considering her bio declared “let me know if this is your image and I will credit you”.

However it seems he/she happily allowed her hoards of fans to do the talking on their behalf.

For the sake of this post it’s a shame I didn’t capture a few other quotes, and funnily enough most comments directed towards me were swiftly deleted once shut down by yours truly. My personal favourite included “shut up and get over it any one can make your crap”. Hahahah, yes, true, cupcakes aren’t rocket science. But that’s not the point! I mostly responded for the lulz as I’m used to seeing this sort of thing (hello, Tumblr) but the responses I received from these mindless teens is what inspired further action. These people really could not fathom this is a form of theft and that’s what kept me coming back. I’m not one to troll but I felt they were entitled to an education via my instagram facade @bananasoiree (I did in fact convert a few people with my logic and tough love). Most users however fought back in droves at my initial polite request of the image removal so here was my last post before taking more decisive action.

I spent a week attempting to contact instragram. I sent an email to support@instagram.com only to receive this unfortunately automated response seconds later:

It was only until I found this very sneaky email form on seemingly official but barely used Twitter account @InstagramHelp I managed to report the image (their Copyright help section contains no contact details). After my email was sent I was greeted with an automated yet helpful response asking for the exact details; my username, the offender’s username, the offending image and a link to the original source. I woke up in the middle of the night to an email saying the matter was being investigated. In the morning I noticed all comments in my feed relating to the image were gone; the entire account had been deleted.

HOWEVER. The ‘author’ of the original page is now rallying fans via @creativefoodsbackup, attempting to find the catalyst to their deleted account. The monster had resurfaced. They’re trying to find me. And now this user is re-uploading all the photos that were deleted by my unauthorised content report as I type this.

Image since deleted on Instagram

To think I had actually succeeded in being “that guy” for a few hours was a little foolish. I am but one lady in this big, bad world of image-rippers.  Anybody who entered the above conversation with a sense of logic about them was greeted with comments like “go pick on somebody else who steals images”, or, “you’re just jealous you don’t have as many followers”. Should Instagram take more responsibility over moderating its service? But how would that even be possible? And besides, since when was image theft celebrated on such a large scale? Why are all these people consoling ex-Instagram user @creativefoods? Why are they bent on the notion that Google image search is a free-for-all? Why are ‘likes’ all of a sudden a spectacular commodity? Can’t anybody see that if an entire Instagram account was removed then clearly they weren’t abiding by the law? What kind of mentality is this? All you need to do is visit the page to see what I mean.

So, where does this leave those of us who wish to publish online? Before this occurred I was teetering over the blogosphere edge. As suggested by a plethora of random instagram users maybe I really should watermark my images. You know, either ruin the photos with a huge “PROPERTY OF ALANA DIMOU” piece of text or keep it in the corner for anyone to easily crop out as they please. Why not slap a little comic sans on there as well? Clearly the internet is made for sharing but witnessing people’s horrendously blurred line between ideas and content has my mind absolutely blown. I’m not angry, nor am I a hater like many Instagram tweens have suggested over the past few days. I’m just really, really, really surprised.

As I speak about almost constantly these days I’m working on a book; the .PDF is complete and is with the printers so I’m almost ready to shed a tear upon touching my photos of pancakes on 170gsm satin coat. Like cool dudes who enjoy vinyl over mp3s I think I’m becoming a H-word (read: hipster) who may just require everything in print henceforth. But we can’t drop $15 per A4 photo we wish to “own”. We can’t spend hundreds of dollars for a nicely bound collection of images, either.

I don’t know.

In my eyes we have no hope.

Unless analogue blogging becomes the future, again.

EDIT: @creativefoods backup has since been removed thanks to Instagram admin, however, @creativefoodz is now up, resurrected for the third time with a fashionable ‘z’ suffix, asking for “POPULAR PAGE” from her fans. Why haven’t you learnt the from the first two account deletions you’re doing something seriously wrong, huh?

Oh, right. Ok. (LOL).

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  1. Angie@Angie's Recipes’s avatar

    What a shame! I am speechless reading those comments….what happened to people?

    Reply

  2. Ai-Ling@blueapocalypse’s avatar

    It’s really annoying when people use other people’s work without permission to build a popular site and draw in users. People need to understand copyright law. You own the copyright to your images and get to decide how and if it can be used. You are entitled to be credited and ask for your images to be removed.

    Thanks for sharing your story and taking action. I would have done the same thing.

    Ai-Ling

    Reply

  3. Sophie - thestickyandsweet.com’s avatar

    This makes me so annoyed for you that I actually just yelled at the computer!

    Reply

  4. Detective Chow’s avatar

    I can understand youth making those kinds of comments when big corps come out with demands, but not when it’s an individual saying “hey, this is mine.” Web comic authors have their tshirt designs ripped
    off all the time by bigger companies and it just sucks to see people being such jerks. I guess ignorance is bliss for some.
    Shame you had to go through this, but at least Instagram followed through.

    Reply

  5. Winston’s avatar

    Wow… Just. WOW. I am so outraged from this post and seriously cannot believe the audacity of these people. After you’ve confronted them time and time again, they still wouldn’t learn. Like you said, it’s tricky because it seems like there’s so much you can do. But, still. GRRRRRR!!! Well, at least you are fully onto their asses and they can only do so much now that you know what they’re up to and can report them. It’s annoying, but justice will be served, I’m sure!

    Reply

  6. JasmyneTea’s avatar

    I just yelled out “WHAT ARSEHOLES!!!”. I have been asked what happened. I have told your story with vehemence and anger. I am being looked at like I’m crazy :|

    But seriously, there’s something wrong with people when they’ve been told multiple times that they’re stealing from you, and yet they act like the injured party. It makes me kinda glad that my images are so crappy – no one wants to steal them!

    Reply

  7. Laura’s avatar

    I spent years managing online communities and it’s amazing what people will do when they can hide behind their computers. So sorry this happened to you but also glad you had the fortitude to pursue corrective action (or at least as corrective as you could). Keep up the great work!

    Reply

  8. Tina @ bitemeshowme’s avatar

    My blood just boiled after reading your post. Shame on them! I’m sorry for your anger Alana. Glad you did something about it and not let them have it. You showed them! and LOL to your last image – i suppose you must do that with all your iamges now :P

    Reply

  9. Vivian - vxdollface’s avatar

    Oh that makes me so mad but you go girl! Take it up with the authorities!

    Reply

  10. Jessica’s avatar

    i can’t believe how difficult it was for you to contact instagram in the first place to properly report the account, that’s bizarre because you’d think they would get a lot of similar complaints and they’re obviously not dealing with most of them properly because i’m sure a lot of other people would have just given up. congrats on getting them shut down though, even if they’ve popped back up several times since (and been shut down again) at least instagram seems to be paying attention now.

    it’s just so stupid because the whole thing could really have been avoided if they had just credited you when you’d first asked. the reason you ended up asking for them to take it down is cause they ignored you. i mean, what they’re doing still wouldn’t be right but it would be easier if they’d just done what they’d said they’d do in their bio.

    Reply

  11. Nic@diningwithastud’s avatar

    I cant believe those comments! Thats insane

    Reply

  12. The Nutrition Guru and The Chef’s avatar

    What a wonderful article. You are well within your writes to be offended and upset at such a blatent infingement of your work.

    I feel sorry for this person who uses stolen photographs on instagram, to feel good about herself and feel ‘loved’. It does make me wonder what else she gets up to. Do you know if she has a blog? Maybe she is doing the same thing on there. Might be worth checking out!

    Reply

  13. Hester @ Alchemy in the Kitchen’s avatar

    This is one of the most entertaining posts on this topic that I’ve read. There seems to be the idea that if it’s on the web, it is free. As the rights owner, you don’t have to mark your images. Copyright is inherent and it is up to the potential user to find out if they can reproduce the image – whether for free or for fee. As the owner, it is not up to you to prove it is yours.

    I’ve had a couple of images reproduced without permission but as they are from the early days and not great, I’m kinda glad they didn’t give me any credit for them :)

    Reply

  14. Sofia’s avatar

    wow i seriously love this! you are awesome for speaking up and protecting your work. i think about that all the time, some people on the internet seem to only care about popularity, as if likes and fans mean everything, maybe they do it to console their lack of selfesteem, i wonder how do they manage to live in the real word. analogue blogging, i like that idea, i wish we could go back to that, but then again how would i have ever known this if it wasnt for the internet. thanks for sharing : )

    Reply

  15. carey’s avatar

    Oh yes, reading and raging! Sometimes I’m really glad that my social media savvy doesn’t extend to things like Tumblr and Instagram, because I’d be so afraid of how I’d react to something like this. (And good for you for finding that sneaky secret email. I’ve seen a few other bloggers complain about stolen images on Instagram, and no response or help at all after emailing the support address.)

    I will never understand what makes these people think images on the Internet are theirs for the taking. It sort of reminds me of something that happened in Burlington a couple years ago. There was this guy around town whose thing was candid photography of people in public, but he seemed especially interested in female subjects. It got to the point where a few of my friends who worked at a cafe downtown got sick of him snapping pictures of them while they were outside on smoke breaks, and two of them actually went up to him on separate occasions and told him they did not want their pictures taken, and asked him to delete the photos off his camera. He flat out refused, declaring that it was a public space and he had every right to take their picture. In response, the cafe submitted a No Trespass request against him, and he was banned from the entire Church St. downtown district. To which he responded by totally freaking out and having his friends bombard the cafe’s facebook page with harassing comments and insults. It got so crazy that they actually did a call-in show about it on Vermont Public Radio. It’s one of those situations where people exploit a lack of laws or clearly defined rules to do whatever the F the want, and it’s ridiculous. I guess we could just try to work towards living in a police state where no one has to worry about having respect or using common sense to make decisions in their daily lives. (Sorry, this comment is getting lengthy and starting to spiral out of control. It’s the rage!) (:

    Reply

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