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When I first discovered the rampant theft of my images, I never dreamed the frustrating hours it would take to regain control. There were nights I seriously questioned whether or not I’d actually survive this hit. But with all the support and encouragement I received along the way (thank you!), hope soon replaced the feelings of despair and I gained a strength I didn’t know I had.

“Is there a problem, Occifer?” (Eastern Grey Squirrel) Nikon D300, 290mm, F/5, 1/125s, ISO 640, Nik SIlver Efex Pro ‘Floral’ Filter

Over these past three weeks, I have become well-versed in finding stolen images and how to use WHOIS to locate the proper folks with whom to make a claim.

I have filed countless DMCA forms, have sent numerous takedown notices and have gained invaluable knowledge about image protection and my rights as an artist. I’ve come to realize the only person who can truly protect my images is ME and I have begun taking the necessary steps to do so. Though I still have weeks of work ahead of me, the rose-colored glasses are off, my friends, and I am indeed, wide awake.

At last count (and I find infringements every day), over 85 different images were being used without my knowledge or permission. The actual number of violations, however, lies somewhere in the 250 range since many images were found on multiple sites all across the United States and throughout the world.

While some infractions were minor (e.g., image posted on a blog or used as an avatar), others were much more serious (images displayed on commercial sites, images used to sell products, images used in YouTube videos, images used as backgrounds, images used in online news articles, images posted on a photography tutorial site, images altered and so on). And, yes, there still remains the issue of the playground image used on an EP cover by a UK artist (the toughest pill of all).

I estimate that I’ve been able to get 95% of the images removed. Some, I may never get removed. New motto: learn, accept, protect, move on.

A hearty THANK YOU! goes out to the following sites: Google, Tumblr, YouTube, Polyvore, Instagram, Wikispaces, Facebook, WordPress and GoDaddy (as well as other countless hosting sites here and abroad) who take copyright violation seriously and acted promptly on my behalf.

There is one particular infraction, however, that I feel compelled to single out since the response by the thief is one that I think you all should hear. It started out innocently enough (as things always do).

~ Here’s the tale ~

While performing my arduous image search, I came across this photo of mine on a so-called “educational” wild life site:

“Snowy Mourning” (Mourning Doves) Nikon D300, 400mm, F/7.1, 1/200s, +0.3EV

No link back to my blog and no credit except for my copyright stamp in the lower right-hand corner (at the time, the center visible watermark was not present). Okay, nothing really new… or so I thought. As I looked more closely at the site to locate the contact information, I read the site’s very lengthy and explicit copyright statement:

Hmmm… how… very… interesting. Ladywildlife had taken it upon herself to offer MY copyrighted Mourning Dove image to others to download/print and use for FREE without MY permission or knowledge and yet, at the same time, appeared to have gone to great length to protect “her” site’s content.

You can imagine my reaction. 

I clicked on “CONTACT ME” and filled in the form requesting my image be removed, pointing out the irony of the site’s copyright statement. When I encountered difficulty in submitting said form (couldn’t confirm it was filed), I performed a WHOIS search the following day and located an e-mail address for the site’s webmaster. I then sent a DMCA notice to the webmaster claiming ownership of the image and requesting its immediate removal. 

After weeks of no response, I received the following e-mail this past Saturday (please click to view larger):

Ladywildlife E-mail

Seriously? You take my image and when I ask for it to be removed, THIS is the response I get?

Allow me to clear a few things up:

First, I did not, by any means, attack ladywildlife. I used the contact form contained on her site and requested my copyrighted image to be removed. When I feared the request wasn’t going through via that form, I followed up with a DMCA notice to the webmaster which is in my rights to do so (and has proven to be very effective). As an aside, I do not feel it necessary to be nice to those who take my creative work without my consent. 

Second, I found no link (or links page) or credit back to me or my blog. No idea what ladywildlife is referring to here.

Third, what on earth gives ladywildlife the right to declare my site as not safe for children? (Can you say, libel?) This couldn’t be further from the truth. However, I am glad viewers of ladywildlife will not be visiting my site since the only reason they would be doing so would be to grab wildlife images for their use without my knowledge. No thank you.

Fourth, ladywildlife, you most certainly did take my image. For someone who claims to be well-versed in copyright law, you have it all wrong. Finding images via a Google image search does not make them free to use nor absolve you from copyright infringement. Furthermore, when you click on an image in Google, the following statement appears in the side-bar: “Images may be subject to copyright.” So, if my visible copyright stamp wasn’t enough of an indication the image was protected, Google was attempting to inform you to do your homework before downloading and using said image.

Fifth, with regards to the copyright statement on my site, what you call ‘sloppy wording’ is the standard verbiage from the US Copyright Office and is actually, not even necessary to protect my site’s content. (All that is required is “© 2009-2012 Tracy Milkay/Milkay Photography  All rights reserved”). However, you will notice that I have since expanded my statement to be crystal clear so there is no room for confusion.

Sixth, thank you for the reminder about contacting the various search engines to get the older, un-watermarked versions of my images removed from searches and cache. This was initially lower down on my ‘to-do’ list but now I understand the importance of sending such requests at the same time I implement my image changes. A win-win for me. 

“Nope, I haven’t seen your missing peanut” (Eastern Grey Squirrel) Nikon D300, 400mm, F/5, 1/160s, ISO 640, Nik Silver Efex Pro ‘Center Focus’ filter w/Selective Toning

So there it is, folks. The above example is by far the most extreme case I have encountered to date. Fortunately, the majority of responses I’ve received have fallen to the other end of the spectrum, from honorable folks who’ve apologized for using an image of mine and have either removed it per my request or provided the proper credit/link.

I understand image theft is a widespread problem, experienced by artists all over the internet and my situation is nothing new. The internet is indeed, a complicated place (it is not called a “web” for nothing).

On the one hand, it provides a global platform for self-promotion of creative work and that is an amazing thing! However, on the other hand, it also exposes one’s work to theft, which is a tragedy. My goal here is to educate those in the creative arts field as well as those who are not. (I also hope to soon return back to the art of taking photos and look forward to the day where this is all behind me.)

My message is this:

To artists, do everything you can to protect your work!

To the rest of the communityplease respect and support the work of writers, photographers, graphic designers, painters, etc., and think before you download/use content you find on the internet. There are working artists behind those creative works who are trying to make a living and when their work is taken, without their permission or knowledge and with no compensation back to them, how can they continue to do so?

As always, your comments and ideas are welcome. I do not profess to know how to resolve this problem but hopefully, by simply opening up this dialog, together we can raise awareness. Spread the word.

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I don’t typically post a yearly wrap-up but, Scott Thomas’ latest photo assignment, “Best Photos of 2011” had me looking back today. Hmmmm, was a pretty lean year for posting… I must do better in 2012! 🙂

To make it easier, I approached this task with the desire to select the best photo for each month starting with November 2010 through October 2011. Three months proved more difficult and I allowed myself to select more than one image.

Here we go! 😀

Back in November 2010, fresh from a trip to Disney, I had posted a series of photos from Hollywood Studios. The giant scrabble board complete with green army man was my favorite:

“You’ve Got a Friend in Me” (Oversized Scrabble Board with Green Army Man, Pixar Place, Disney’s Hollywood Studios) Nikon D300, 34mm, F/5.6, 1/125s, ISO 200, ‘Poster Edges’ CS3 Photo Filter

In late December, we were hit with the first of many Nor’easters. Even so, the abundance of heavy, wet snow couldn’t put a damper on our holiday spirit!

Frosty

“Frosty” (Snow-covered Holiday Wreath) Nikon D300, 82mm, F/5, 1/60s, +0.7EV, IS0 200

I couldn’t pick a favorite from January. Both images hail from our October Disney trip since by then, I simply had HAD it with winter! (Molten Mickey post is here).

“Coquettish” (Lesser Flamingo, Disney’s Animal Kingdom) Nikon D300, 200mm, F/7.1, 1/200s, -0.3EV, ISO 400, Nik Color Efex Pro Bi-color Filter

“Molten Mickey” (Turn-style Gates at Disney’s Hollywood Studios) Nikon D300, 52mm, F/7.1, 1/200s, ISO 250, Nik Color Efex Pro Detail Stylizer & Bi-Color Filters

February brought some fun with my 105mm macro lens and 3-ring extension tube set. I wanted to see just how ‘up close and personal’ I could really get!

“Missing You” (Dianthus Stamen & Petals) Nikon D300, 105mm F/2.8G Macro w/3-ring Extension Tube Set, F/11, 1/30s, -1.0EV, ISO 640

The macro fun continued well into March

“C is for Carousel” (Stargazer Lily Stamens, Lilium Oriental Stargazer) Nikon D30, VR 105mm F/2.8G Macro, F/4.5, 1/8s, ISO 1000

After a visit to the doctor in February got me back into a fitness routine, I was in serious need of motivation to ‘stick with it’. I found exactly that in April! 🙂

“Motivation” (Marc Jacobs Swimsuit) Nikon D300, 36mm, F/4.2, 1/20s, ISO 640

Critters are often featured in my photos and this adorable little chipmunk stole my heart in May:

“Home is Where you Make it” (Eastern Chipmunk in Birdhouse) Nikon D300, 200mm, F/5.6, 1/200s, ISO 640, Built-in Front Curtain i-TTL Fill Flash, -1.0 EV

June turned out to be all about flowers. I couldn’t decide between these three beauties:

“Yamaboushi” (White Kousa Dogwood, Cornus kousa) Nikon D300, VR 105mm F/2.8G Macro, F/4.5, 1/200s, ISO 320, Built-in i-TTL Fill Flash w/Gary Fong ‘Puffer’ Diffuser, +1.0 EV

“Love” (Dicentra spectabilis, Pink Bleeding Heart) Nikon D300, 260mm, F/5, 1/640s, -1.0EV, ISO 200

“Hope” (Pink Herbaceous Peony) Nikon D300, VR 105mm F/2.8G, F/4.5, 1/320s, -0.3EV, Built-in Front Curtain i-TTL Fill Flash w/Gary Fong ‘Puffer’ Diffuser

As a die-hard foodie, I love to cook and sometimes, I actually remember to take a photograph of my creations! We chomped on these delights all throughout July:

“Summer Cubed” (Watermelon, Mozzerella & Procuitto Bites) Nikon D300, VR 105mm F/2.8G Macro, F/4.5, 1/30s, ISO 1000, Built-in i-TTL Flash w/Gary Fong ‘Puffer’ Diffuser

Feeling very proud of myself for not only sticking to my fitness committment but also exceeding my expectations despite breaking my left foot, I decided to show off the results of my hard work in August!

“Good Form’ (Female Fitness Portrait) Nikon D300, 28mm, F/4.5, 1/10s, ISO 640, Built-in i-TTL Fill Flash w/Gary Fong ‘Puffer’ Diffuser, -1.3EV, Nik Silver Efex Pro ‘Silhouette II’ Filter

Another entry for August… when I wasn’t sweating on the elliptical, I made sure to enjoy the summer sunshine and was rewarded with a unique photo of a bee in flight:

“Flight of the Bee” (Carpenter Bee in Flight) Nikon D300, 280mm (VR 200-400mm F/4G w/1.4x teleconverter), F/5.6, 1/640s, ISO 640

I got all ‘artsy’ in September with a series of cucumber tendrills…

“Undulation” (Abstract Cucumber Tendrils) Nikon D300, VR 105mm F/2.8G, F/4, 1/320s, -1.0EV, Built-in i-TTL Flash w/Gary Fong ‘Puffer’ Diffuser, -1.3EV

…and finally was able to say a proper Au voir to summer in October.

“And the Sun Sets on Summer” (Rudbeckia ‘Gloriosa’ aka Black-eyed Susan) Nikon D300, VR 105mm F/2.8G, F/7.1, 1/125s, ISO 400, Nik Color Efex Pro ‘Photo Stylizer’ Filter

So, that’s it folks…a small photographic slice of 2010.

Yes, it was a VERY good year! 😀

Anyone living along the east coast who thought the weather forecasters were kidding about the Nor’easter woke up to find the joke was on us! My city faired better than many with only a few inches, BUT it was the heavy, wet kind of snow that downed many branches including a large one off of my (already damaged) Coral Bark Maple. 😦 I must admit, Mother Nature got me since I didn’t see that one coming or else I would have strapped the branches together (as I intended to do before ‘winter’ arrived) when we were scurrying around yesterday covering furniture and moving in fragile perennials that I had yet to get planted into the ground. Sigh.

Not wanting to dwell on what was damaged, I decided instead, to look for the beauty of the day. It isn’t often we get the combination of gorgeous fall foliage, crisp blue skies, brilliant sunshine AND a bed of the white stuff. As the winds whipped, I walked the landscape, shooting until my hands were frozen.

Folks who don’t experience snowstorms often ask how we ‘deal’ with it.

Well, I think the last photo pretty much sums it up. 🙂

"S(no!)w Welcome" (Welcome Flag with Urn) Canon PowerShot SX40 HS, 11mm, F/4.0, 1/100s, IS0 125, Built-in Flash, -1.3EV

 

"Duck, Duck, Snow!" (Resin Ducks in Snow) Canon PowerShot SX40 HS, 13.5mm, F/4, 1/250s, ISO 100

 

"When Seasons Collide" (Backyard Shed in Snowy October) Canon PowerShot SX40 HS, 6.8mm, F/4.0, -0.3EV, 1/320s, IS0 100

 

"S(no)w Swimming" (October Pool) Canon PowerShot SX40 HS, 4.3mm, F/8.0, 1/125s, IS0 320

 

"Snow Birds" (Copper Swans with 'Cardinal Red' Hydrangea) Canon PowerShot SX40 HS, 21.8mm, F/4.5, 1/80s, IS0 125

 

"Seasonal Confusion" (October Backyard, Far View) Canon PowerShot SX40 HS, 4.3mm, F/8.0, 1/60s, IS0 160

 

"How to Weather Snow in October" (Backyard Vignette) Canon PowerShot SX40 HS, 7mm, F/4.0, 1/00s, IS0 100

It has snowed here the last two days, and looking out my window now, I see the flakes are flying once again. Sigh.   

Much different from this morning when we actually had some blue skies and sun! I chose to head out early in search of snow-covered landscapes and found myself near the site of the old Johnson Christmas Tree Farm.   

Each year in early December we used to cut down our own christmas tree at the farm, which is conveniently located only 2 1/2 miles from our house. It was always a thrill trudging through the field, hacksaw in hand, looking for the ‘one.’ 

Alas, it was very sad for us then, when a few years back the farm was sold. 😦

“Winter Farmhouse” (Red Farmhouse at Johnson Christmas Tree Farm) Nikon D300, 60mm, F/22, 1/160s, ISO 640

Fortunately, the new owners did not sub-divide the beautiful acreage (which isn’t the norm around here as land is incredibly valuable), but instead, chose to build a gorgeous farmhouse on the site of the old barn and, are currently in the process of restoring the farm! Rumor has it they have already planted over 10,000 christmas trees on the site!   

Does this mean the farm will once again offer cut-your-own-christmas-trees in the not to distant future? 

One can only hope! 🙂

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