Help! Someone Stole My Website Images.

It’s happened a few times over the years. Not exactly commonplace, but super annoying just the same. A client calls and tells us that someone is using their content without permission. In this instance the content was copyrighted photography, but it also happened in the past with text and even website design and structure.

What Happened.

The situation came to my attention this past weekend. I got an email from my favorite racetrack website client (okay, it’s the only racetrack which we designed a site for, and continue to host and support – but Hallett Motor Racing Circuit is still my favorite). Well, Connie, the owner of the track, was quite disturbed that someone had ‘borrowed’ two custom photographed images from the Hallett home page and placed them on their own racetrack homepage. See below.

Stolen homepage image example 1

Stolen homepage image example 2

How I Handled It.

I told Connie it would probably be best to contact the owner of the racetrack. She asked if it would be better to contact the web developer listed at the bottom of the website. I advised against that plan because there’s no way to tell who placed that image – could be the web developer – could be a PR firm – we don’t know. The owner of the website is the best place to start. Also, it’s quite possible that the image was pinched by a racetrack staff member with some CMS or semi-advanced web skills. In any event, the owner of the website was the place to start.

Connie asked if the photos were protected. I told her yes, that her website has a copyright in the footer. That’s not what she meant – she wanted to know if I could somehow put a lock on those images to prevent thieves from stealing her content. I told her we could make it more difficult, but generally, if it’s on the web, there’s a good chance people can find a way to grab it. The pinched photos were embedded in a background of the homepage coding. This was not simple right-click and copy theft. This took a little detective work.

After doing a little research, I located the person for Connie to contact. I made a few suggestions on what to include in her email and let her take care of the actual contacting.

The Results.

So Monday rolls around and no change of the website in question. But Tuesday arrives and what do you know, the offending website has new images replacing the Hallett’s used-without-permission images. Later in the week, Connie filled me in on the exchange with the offending party. Just as I figured, we were told the web developer utilized the images without permission.

So to review… if someone steals your website images or content.

  1. Pause
  2. Contact the site owner with a friendly explanation and ask that the images be removed
  3. Wait and watch

This is where my experience ends. Those 3 steps usually gets things cleared up. I suppose step 4 might be a certified “cease and desist” letter. Step 5 might be time to talk to your attorney.

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