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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.

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

When Karma posted an invitation to participate in a Photography Scavenger Hunt I immediately thought ‘How fun!’ fully intending to give it a go despite the short time frame. But then, life got away from me (as it tends to do) and before I knew it, the deadline was looming and I had little accomplished. 😦

Turns out, I wasn’t the only one having difficulty so Karma extended the submission deadline to March 6th – hooray! 🙂

Right from the get go I planned on posting the images in a collage and when I went to assemble the structure itself, I realized I needed a few more images than the 12 in the hunt to make it visually appealing. (Birgitte, my dear, you do make it look so easy! 🙂 )

Scavenger Hunt Collage

All but TWO images were taken specifically for the scavenger hunt. The two in question are previously un-posted images that just fit the bill (details follow).

So here it goes:

“Bad News” (9/11 Headline, NY Times) Nikon D300, 80mm, F/5, 1/100s, ISO 640, Nik Color Efex Pro ‘Bi-color’ Filter

 
 
 
 
(1). Newspaper Headline  – For my generation, the attack on September 11, 2001 has to be themost horrific event to occur on U.S. soil.

A day I will never forget…
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

“Tick Tock” (Clock Face) Nikon D300, 170mm, F/5.6, 1/15s, ISO 400, Nik Color Efex Pro ‘Old Photo’ Filter

 
 
(2). Big Round Clockface-Didn’t have to travel far for this one! Here is one of three large clock faces painted in a row on a decorative board in my living room. One clock is set to PST, one to EST and one to GMT (since hubby travels often to the UK).

“25 W 893” (Fruit Truck, Disney’s Hollywood Studios) Nikon D300, 46mm, F/8, 1/250s, ISO 200, Nik Color Efex Pro ‘Bi-color’ Filter

 
(3). A Big Lorry/Truck – On our October 2010 trip I spied this large, old-time Chevy truck parked along Sunset Boulevard in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Now, knowing Disney’s reputation for details, I imagine the license plate must have some significance… anyone know? Anyone??

“You Take the High Road” (Veterans Memorial Bridge) Nikon D300, 36mm, F/16, 1/100s, ISO 200

 
 
 
(4). Bridge – Not one bridge but TWO!🙂

Constructed in 1997, the Veterans Memorial Bridge connects Beverly to Salem and rises high enough over the Danvers River to allow boats to easily pass underneath without the need for a drawbridge (huge improvement over the old bridge).

The lower bridge seen in the background is used by the MBTA commuter trains.

“Open Seating” (Park Benches at Percy F. Lyons Park, Beverly) Nikon D300, 75mm, F/18, 1/250s, ISO 200, Nik Color Efex Pro ‘Color Stylizer’ Filter

(5).Park Bench – Here’s the first 2-for-1!

(I really couldn’t decide which image I liked better and, with the collage requiring additional images to be balanced, I didn’t have to! 🙂 )

The first shot is definitely more indicative of my photographic style but, I was actually proud of

“Smoke Break” (Smoker on Bench, Percy F. Lyons Park) Nikon D300, 105mm, F/10, 1/400s, ISO 200, Nik Color Efex Pro ‘Color Stylizer’ Filter

   
myself for the second shot since I am not all that comfortable photographing strangers. 

Turns out, the guy on the bench with the headphones and cigarette was completely oblivious of my presence… 🙂

“Directional Snow” (Snow-covered Fences) Nikon D300, 55mm, F/7.1, 1/100s, +0.7EV, ISO 100

(6). Stripes – This image is from February of 2010. While standing on the other side of our chain-link fence I thought the layering of textures and directional lines would make for an interesting photograph. Back then, I never did anything with it. I guess it was simply waiting for the right moment. 🙂

“Button Pusher” (Heart-shaped Button Sampler) Nikon D300, 130mm, F/5.6, 1/40s, ISO 640

 
 
(7). Something Heartshaped – I posted a close-up of this sweet button sampler for Valentine’s Day.

Serving as more than just a decoration in my livingroom, it reminds me that we are all stitched together with the common thread of LOVE.

Awwwwww

“Eyes for You” (Sewing Needles) Nikon D300, 105mm F/2.8G Macro with 3-ring Extension Tube Set and 1.7x Teleconverter yielding 180mm, F/9, 1/3s, ISO 640, Nik Silver Efex Pro B&W Filter

 
 
 
 
(8). Eyes – Yeah, I took creative liberty with this one… you gotta problem with that? 😀

“Sneaks” (Jack Purcell Converse Sneakers) Nikon D300, 56mm, F/4.8, 1/25s, ISO 640, Nik Color Efex Pro ‘Color Stylizer’ Filter w/Selective Toning

 
 
 
(9). Your Shoes – NO closet should be without a pair of Converse sneakers.

These are my broken-in, well-worn, limited-edition, no-lace, slip-on, olive-green Jack Purcell’s.

Love ’em! 🙂

“Play It Again” (Wooden Toy Piano) Nikon D300, 40mm, F/5.6, 1/100s, ISO 100

 
 
 
 

(10). Musical Instrument – This wooden toy piano from my childhood will always have a special place in my heart.

They just don’t make ’em like this anymore!

“POST” (Stylized Mailbox Letters) Nikon D300, 70mm, F/5, 1/15s, -0.7EV, ISO 640, Nik Color Efex Pro ‘Solarization’ Filter

 (11). Post Box – Another 2-for-1! 🙂

I happened to have my neighbor’s mailbox in my possession as it required refurbishment from all the winter abuse. (I built it for her as a birthday gift oh-so-many years ago). So, while  it underwent repairs, I snapped a few stylized images of the front.  Can’t get more literal than this, huh? 😉

“What Can Blue Do For You?” (Post Boxes in Front of Beverly Post Office) Nikon D300, 18mm, F/16, 1/125s, ISO 200

  
To make up for it, I went out looking for some real post boxes to photograph. At one time, you’d find post boxes on every corner but these days, they are becoming quite rare.

I risked getting run down by a car to take this shot outside the main branch of the local P.O.

Okay, it was worth it. 🙂

“Short and Stout” (Red Teapot on Stovetop) Nikon D300, 90mm, F/5.3, 1/10s, ISO 640

   
(12). Something Red – I struggled for days on this one since the prompt was beyond simple and so very wide open. You see, I have many red items in my home yet, none seemed all that interesting.

Then one morning, there it was, like a slap to the forehead as if to say, ‘Hey! What took you so long?’ 😉

So, there ya have it, folks, and just in under the extended deadline. Phew! 🙂

I’m sure this little gal will give our mailperson a chuckle (or two) when she walks up our front steps today! 🙂

"Welcome Home" (Snowman on Steps) Nikon D300, 105mm, F/5.3, 1/640s, ISO 200

Now, I would have loved to have constructed an entire army of these (ala Calvin and Hobbes style) but the temps were bitter cold and the snow wasn’t quite the right constency to easily hold together. Some day…

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