Posted at 16:41 on 9 Jul 2009 by Pandora / Blake
The eagle eyes of Roland Hulme recently alerted me to two instances of copyright theft on tumblr. I've never used this site before, and it took me a little while to work out the interface (what do you mean, you can't leave comments on blog posts?!). Still, I eventually managed to trace the images back to their original poster, "bendoverloverboy".
Let's compare this image with the original, shall we? Notice anything different? How about this tumblr pic, compared to this photo hosted on my website?
Not only has he reposted images from my website without credit or attribution, he carefully took the time to trim my watermark off both images, rendering them anonymous before he re-uploaded them. The mirror image is actually © the photographer, Jay Oak, meaning his copyright has also been infringed.
Bend over indeed, lover boy. While I thrash you with the Big Stick of Netiquette. Not only is this damn rude, it's also illegal, and contrary to tumblr's Content Policy.
I've notified tumblr, but haven't been able to contact the thief himself, as he doesn't list his email and the site doesn't allow comments on blogposts. (Since writing this post, tumblr have removed the offending posts: kudos to them for the swift response time.)
The original image Roland pointed me at was 22 "reblogs" down the chain, and while I was puzzling over how to trace it back to its source, I very nearly decided not to bother. After all, I'm not making money off these images. But I persisted; it's a point of principle, especially when I'm not the only person whose copyrighted material is being stolen. By the time I'd written an email to the support team reporting the infringement, I'd worked up a nice head of steam, and felt thoroughly justified.
It made me wonder, though. Realistically, when is it worth pursuing this sort of theft? Is there a difference between images you have to pay for, and content which is released free of charge? If an image is published in the public domain, is it fair game? Or is reposting things only acceptable as long as you don't alter the original image, or post a credit linking the copyright holder? I'd be really interested to know your thoughts.