Photo Stolen Again – Famous Faces Still?

JUNE 28, 2011 UPDATE: Last night, I managed to get a hold of the man listed by GoDaddy as the owner of – you know the site with our family picture on it?

Well not anymore.

A) This very nice gentleman says it is acutally his SON who is the owner

B) Apparently they hired a web designer to do the website and it is the DESIGNER who decided to use our picture – I’m waiting on the dsigner’s info

C) He also suggested the web designer may have used a pre-set template that INCLUDED our picture (the HORROR) GO Daddy experts feel free to weigh in on this as I cannot get anyone to confirm that this is even an option – and I can’t find anything that tells me this is the case.

D) Either way – our picture is DOWN.

E) I am grateful

Welcome to the new Family endorsing LowerMyPowerBill as of today!


For the record, when this link was first sent to me by one of my dear friends, I thought it was a virus and I ignored it.  Sorry about that, Pablo.

But, let’s be honest…  The title of the article is “Six People Who Had No Clue their Faces Were World Famous”….  and it was sent on my Facebook wall.  So, I didn’t click on it.  Because really?  Famous faces?  Clearly not me.

But then it came again via Twitter DM from my friend, Andrew.  So I messaged him to ask if it was a virus…. nope.  An actual article.  With my face. *cough* *snort* Mine and my family’s famous faces. From two years ago.

Maybe you know the story.  Maybe not.

So, here’s the Cliff Note version:  A family photo of mine was taken from one of my websites -NOT FACEBOOK – and used by a store in Prague. I found out VIA FACEBOOK, when a friend from college, who lives in Prague, was driving down the street and saw the picture – life sized – in a store window.  He messaged me – through FACEBOOK to tell me about it and then emailed me pictures – the ones you see in this story – the ones I originally posted on this site when I first wrote about it.

Because I often see the details of the story a) misinterpreted or b) flat out wrong AND because ‘stolen photo’ is still one of the top phrases bringing people here, I figure it is worth revisiting how this happened and how to limit the possibility of it happening to you.

Do note I didn’t say prevent it from happening.

If you would like it to be impossible for someone to steal your photos:

A) Don’t post any online

B) Purchase software that disables right clicking

Moving on…. I will break our Stolen Photo situation down in terms of ‘what not to do’…..

In my situation…. for that particular picture… in addition to it being posted on this site, I posted it on another social networking site – a Ning site (a site that allows a group of like minded people to gather, connect, and exchange ideas).

What I didn’t realize was that the site was not secure.  I should have known.  it was in the fine print. We will call that Mistake  #1.

Mistake #2 comes in the form of posting the picture in its original resolution.

The picture was taken by a professional photographer, Gina Kelly.  Gina is a friend of mine… she DID give me permission to post the pictures.  She DID NOT sell the pictures to anyone.  (There is another photographer by the name of Gina Kelly who does, in fact, sell some of her professional work, but MY friend doesn’t) When she gave the pictures to me, she did so in a high resolution format.  Me being a true non-professional-photographer, simply posted the picture.  This made blowing the picture up into a life-sized ad possible.

Mistake #3 – I labeled the picture, ‘This is my happy family’.

Sounds benign, yes? Because normally, labeling pictures is IDEAL for SEO,  but this is how the shop in Prague found me.  They googled ‘happy family’ and guess who popped up…. right from that non-secure Ning site?  You got it. Us.

Now… in theory – Googling ‘happy family’ images should get you some stock photos – (just look at your current options) but each picture takes you to the site where the picture is housed AND lets you know the image may be subject to copyright. (JUST LIKE OURS IS)

The truth is, the store KNEW the picture was a true family simply by following the link, despite claiming to the Associated Press they had ‘no idea we were a real family’ when the story made international news.

Now, when I first learned about the picture, I posted the story for two reasons – 1) I know A LOT of people who post pictures online and figured we could all stand to be a bit smarter about the WAY we are doing it (watermarking pictures is also an option – and you can do it for free through sites like Picnik) and 2) WHAT A SMALL WORLD!  What are the chances that a picture of my family would be taken offline, used half a world away in a store window and I would just so happen to have a friend who LIVES THERE to report back to me?

The amazing world of social media makes this possible.  While I imagine the company who made the decision to use the picture – counting on the premise of ‘they’ll never know’ TRULY believed we would never, ever find out, now understands the likes of twitter and facebook make the world a mighty small place.

In a matter of two weeks, the story caught the attention of first social media and then the traditional media – becoming international news and prompting friends of mine to send me joking messages asking WHY we were on their Yahoo homepage when they logged in.

And, you would think, after ALL the attention surround THIS picture that it would be off limits, but unfortunately, that isn’t the case…  you do still have to be vigilant. It was a full year AFTER this situation in Prague that ANOTHER friend stumbled upon this site.

The person who answered the phone at this company initially told me husband they were fully authorized to use this picture as they have a legal team who checks ahead of time, however, after being pointed to one of the many articles ABOUT this story, said she would have the CEO return our call.  As you can imagine that didn’t happen, but the picture was taken down that day.

And now TODAY, June 17th, there is THIS:

How did I find this, you ask?

They are a reverse photo search website and periodically I hop on to take a look – checking to see if anyone is using our pictures – SPECIFICALLY this one.  And JUST NOW, as I searched while I was writing this story…. lo and behold….

All of the other ‘finds’ on TinEye were related to the original story – news articles and blog posts.

So…. I guess it is safe to say you know who I’ll be calling as soon as I hit ‘post’ on this, yes?

The Battle over Copyright & Online Photos and Content

Dear Can of Worms……  prepare to be opened.

I have a lot of opinions when it comes to pictures of mine being used without my permission.  When your family photo suddenly shows up in a store front in Prague, that can happen.  We all know a business snatching a picture offline to use for commercial purposes is copyright infringement.

When I first wrote about our story – I received comment after comment reminding me that I had put my pictures ‘ON THE WORLD WIDE WEB, DANIELLE‘ – and that, apparently means they are public domain. You may remember that Cook’s Source Editor, Judith Griggs used the same phrasing after choosing, without permission, to publish an article written by food blogger, Monica Gaudio.

The truth is my content and Monica’s and everyone else’s is not free for the taking.  We are lucky that there are laws that protect our work and our content. Unfortunately, as was the case for both Monica and I, the people who ‘broke’ the laws – didn’t believe they were doing anything wrong.

About 9 months after the photo appeared in Prague – and the company took it down, claiming they had no idea we ‘were a real family’….  we got a call about the website you see here to the right.  Recognize the photo? Yep. EXACT SAME PICTURE USED IN PRAGUE. Naturally, I took a screen shot right away.  This company is right here in the U.S.  Since our story was fairly well publicized, (oh and since it is against copyright) I was a touch surprised.  Before I could write about it, my husband called the company.  The woman he spoke with assured him that he was WRONG….  that they (the company), in fact, have a VERY experienced legal team who’s job it is to vet pictures like this and they WERE authorized to use it.


My husband then listed a few of the media outlets that had covered the story.  *pause*  She apologized and promised the president of the company would call him back that afternoon.

We didn’t get a call.

But the picture was down within the hour.

Here’s the thing….

Last night, I found out another one of my pictures was being used on another website.

But this situation is different – though they didn’t ask permission, this website linked to me.  So, it got me thinking…. (and asking)

Are you ok with people using photos from your sites as long as they link back to you? (and I don’t mean through Creative Commons on Flickr when you authorize use for links)

I asked on Facebook and the greatest percentage said “YES, AS LONG AS THERE IS A LINK BACK.”

Now, it could be that I’m a little sensitive – not just because of the whole Prague thing, but also about this particular picture.  It is intensely personal.  This photo is from a post I did about the origin of this site.  This picture, my totaled car, represents a shift in my life – a moment that a) I could have died and b) one that put me on my current life path. So seeing it used in a generic post makes me uncomfortable.

So, you are wondering….  ‘Why, Danielle, are you writing about this and NOT emailing the blog owner to take it down?”

Because -I’m not mad, I’m not stomping my feet.  I don’t like to be a poor sport. And because so many people I respect (YOU) say you are ok with unauthorized use as long as there is a link back. So, I’m truly introspective about the whole thing…. Here is what I would really like to know from you:

1) Are you ok with people using your content as long as they link back to you  (without permission)?

2) And if you are….  (since copyright laws do protect against the use of content without permission) are we setting a precedent that allows people to skirt the laws in the name of traffic to our sites?

I intentionally did not link to this latest website as I am NOT, in any way, trying to slam them specifically, but rather to start a conversation.

Thank you

Thank you for expressing your opinions so freely about our family’s stolen picture.

I am grateful you have been comfortable enough to tell me you are furious, you are outraged, you are amazed by the ‘small world’ aspect of the story, you think it is crazy/funny/cool – or even that it has reinforced your desire to keep pictures of you and your family offline.

Many of you have contacted lawyers and ‘friends in the know’ on my behalf and offered suggestions on how I might handle this. I am grateful for your thoughts.

This has been an interesting week to say the VERY least. 

I will tell you this – I had no idea something like this could happen, I am floored by the ‘what-are-the-chances’ scenario – I mean, really – a picture is stolen, ends up half way around the world on a store window – and I JUST SO HAPPEN to have a college friend who lives there (and it is someone I’m just recently back in touch with – thanks to Facebook).

I will, of course, keep you updated as this plays itself out. 

This isn’t going away – I know that.

Stolen Picture

So, this is the price we pay for indulging in social media, I guess.

I am thrilled to have reconnected with so many friends on Facebook.  One of them sent me this message yesterday:

Alright, so how’s this for random: I’m in the car, taking my wife for a check up, pass by a new grocery store and notice that they have a picture of you, your husband and two kids on the store front window. Life size. I kid you not. Will take a photo of it later today and send….

What you don’t know from this message: this college friend lives in the CZECH REPUBLIC.

Clearly, my family did NOT take a picture for any advertisements – either here or abroad. And, clearly, whoever hijacked the picture assumed no one would recognize us so far away. Hmmmm…wrong. :)

I’ll admit, there is an element of flattery (I think) to the whole thing.  But still, there is something creepy about knowing our family picture was stolen from one of my sites. This picture has been on my blog, used as a Christmas card and put on a few Ning Networking sites. It is also on my Facebook page (which is one of the reasons Justin recognized us) but my FB page is open only to friends.


Here is the real picture:


And here is our modeling debut in Prague.



According to my friend, Justin, the translation reads:  “We will prepare and deliver your requests in two business days.”

Thanks, Justin for letting me know!

Interesting.  Bizarre. Flattering, I suppose.  But quite creepy.

This picture was taken by a friend of mine, Gina Kelly.  She does give me the rights to the pictures she has taken – and has authorized me to use them on my site, etc.

Your thoughts?

Updated, Saturday, June 6th.  Based on the comments I’m seeing, I feel compelled to clarify a few things. 1) I am the author of this site – Danielle.  Not my husband.  Quite a few comments have been directed to him. 2) I take FULL responsibillity for posting this picture with the incorrect resolution (read: too high).  Clearly, I am not a professional photographer and should have made the resolution smaller and/or watermarked the picture. 3) I used the incorrect term in one of my comments – the photographer did sign a release for me to use the pictures, and certainly, this does not mean I ‘own’ them. 4) While the photographer certainly may sell some of her pictures as stock, she ALWAYS has the subjects sign a model release.  I didn’t sign one for this picture, but would have if she had asked. 5) I posted this story because I think it is INTERESTING – what are the chances a friend who see this ad thousands of miles away? AND because I was SURPRISED it happend. Like many of you commenting, I wasn’t aware pictures could be taken.  If this makes me naive, so be it.  Now I know. And, for the record, I will not stop using pictures of my family on my site – I will however, change the format. 6) I am grateful to the greatest percentage of people who have commented with very interesting thoughts.  However, if you are part of the smaller percentage who are commenting only to say that a member of my family (or all of us) are ugly, I won’t be approving the comment.  I won’t allow it on my site.  I imagine you understand.  Thanks for stopping by!