Someone stole our VEGA video and uploaded it to Facebook.
Honestly, we’re not mad about this – in fact, we like the fact that someone’s reposted our content. If it’s good enough to steal, that mean’s we must be doing something right.
Nevertheless, copyright is a very real issue in Sri Lanka, where content rights are possibly the least respected thing. Forget software piracy and Microsoft woes; a little closer to home, we have tons of writers and photographers whose photos or text are stolen on a daily basis.
Most of this happens in what we call the “XtreamYouth dimension.” Long story short, sites and pages with huge collections of photos, particularly those of with pretty girls in short skirts, are raided and then uploaded to a seedy sub-network of fapsites all inextricably linked to each other (and mostly run on Blogger, for some insane reason).
This is Type A theft, and it happens to almost every photographer who’s good at his/her job, and unfortunately, there’s not much that can be done here. There’s no name behind the theft, no way of tracking the stolen image. I find it funny that most photographers in Sri Lanka put dire warnings about copyright theft at the bottom of their photos – like it or not, there’s not a thing you can do in this situation, and the only way to be truly safe is to not post something at all.
Type B theft is more serious: a known and traceable entity. This may be as simple as a Facebook page that steals photos and republishes with their own logos, or a friend who’s uploaded something you shot or wrote as his or her own. Then again, there are also things like this:
This, for example, is theft by the Sunday Observer. The photo in question was taken from the collection of Ushan Gunasekara, our staff photographer, without so much as a by-your-leave. (You can even see his watermark down there).
What’s to be done?
Obviously, a lawsuit comes to mind, but suing someone over a photograph can get mighty expensive and unproductive (unless that photo is worth a couple of million dollars).
The easiest way is to send an email to someone involved. It’s also the one way that will probably not work.
If it’s text on a website, there’s little you can do. For example, our CodeGen Vega interview has been posted in its entirety on Elakiri.lk. There’s not much that can be done about it, except on your end.
A simple way to get around the whole mess is to license your content under Creative Commons – which is what we do – which entitles people to redistribute your content, provided they acknowledge you as the author. More power to you – you get to tap into another network and a way of distributing your name / brand for peanuts.
How do you locate a breach?
There are some excellent ways to track content infringement.
Copyscape.com is an excellent plagiarism checker. Throw at it a site or a link and it’ll scan the web for duplicate content, like so. In our case, these are services that publish an excerpt to our RSS feed along with the link – it’s picked up that excerpt paragraph as well.
Google Image Search is an excellent way to manually trawl the web for duplicate images. Upload an image – make sure you resize it, or it’ll take ages on our connections – and Google will happily look up anything that matches.
Or, alternatively, get TinEye for Chrome. This reverse search system incorporates all that image-finding functionality in the right-click menu of your browser. (TinEye is one of the best image reverse search engines available to us; Google is the other). Right-click any image and select the option to look for duplicates.
For Firefox users, it’s the Find Image Copies plugin, which lets you pick between TinEye and Google. For Internet Explorer users, it’s the Chrome homepage. Download Chrome and goto start(). But even with all of this, you might have to end up doing this:
It’s ironic that at the end of the day, abstinence is still the safest policy, perhaps the only safe policy.