Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Stolen Photos, Stolen Lives

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What better time than election day to write about stealing and illegal activitiy:  more specifically, stealing photos from websites.

I’ve been noticing on my stats that there is a tremendous amount of hotlinking of "celebrity" photos that are on my server — most notably the popular-for-some-unknown-reason Nicole Richie.  I don’t really care that "ana" sites use these photos  — after all, I stole them myself from other places.   But when I steal, I outrightly steal.  I right-click and press SAVE.  I don’t steal the person’s bandwidth.  Those who don’t steal the photos outright are just plain wimps.

To be honest, I’m not proud of my stealing.  I do try to give credit to the photographer, but sometimes I forget in my race to get the post over to Sophia for checking.  I guess I’m such a small fry that nobody really cares yet about my stealing, but I have a feeling it will bite me in the ass at some point.  

In real life, I’m a very law-abiding citizen — a real goody-two-shoes.  Why do you think it is called "Citizen of the Month?"  I do not litter.  I have never shoplifted anything — even a piece of bubble gum.  So, my stealing of photos is very special to me.   It is probably one of the most "wild and dangerous" acts of my life.   It makes me feel like I’m on a Harley zooming down Route 66, sneering at the domesticated locals.   

Talk about being a rebel with a photographic cause!

Today, I happened to read David Simmer’s blog, Blogography.  He had a post about some "web thieves" that blew me away — and made me feel like an amateur:

Back in February, I got an email from my friend Dave++ telling me how somebody had taken photos and content from his web site and created a new fictional person based on his life (you can read the fascinating story here). Something similar had happened to me the previous summer, so I could relate… a reader had sent me an email telling me that somebody had stolen most of my travel photos (like these) and then blogged about the trips as if they were the one who had taken them. I was curious more than upset, and fired off an email telling them that they should either give me credit for my photos or remove them. Instead, they removed the entire blog, which was okay too.

But that was not the end of it. I still get emails from Blogography readers pointing me to other sites that have stolen my stuff. Sometimes it’s just a photo or two, which is no big deal (though I do wish they would give me credit, as specified by my Creative Commons license)… but other times it’s much worse. They steal entire entries. They steal cartoons and erase the copyright. The steal photos and claim to have taken them. They steal my site layout. They steal my web feed. They steal EVERYTHING.

What really burns my ass is that many times these thieves have money-generating ads on their blogs, meaning that they are PROFITING off of my work. Do you see any ads on MY site? No? That’s because THERE AREN’T ANY! If I am not making any money off of Blogography, why should anybody else get to??

I felt conflicting emotions after reading one.  First. I felt anger at those who were stealing from a fellow blogger, especially such a talented one.  But more importantly, I felt my image as the rebel photo-stealer quickly crumbling.  My Harley turned into a Schwinn bicycle and the locals on Route 66 were yelling at me to get off the road. 

These web thieves were way more devious than I was.  They didn’t just steal the photos.  They actually stole someone else’s travel experiences.  They stole other people’s lives!  How many times have I had nothing to blog about?  Think how easy it would be — I could steal some photos of the Eiffel Tower from someone else’s blog and write about "my trip" to Paris! 

Why didn’t I think of that first?

It’s an eye-opening experience to realize that there are those who are more committed to blog-stealing than yourself.  But I don’t give up easily.  I depend on my "bad-boy" image to keep many of my female readers returning. 

I had an idea.

Last week, I was jealous of many of you as you displayed your Halloween photos.  Some of you went trick or treating with your families, your cute costumed kids in tow.  Others went to wild Halloween parties. 

I sat home and did nothing.  I bought a package of "Hershey’s Assorted," but not one kid even rang my bell.  It was tedious and frankly, embarrassing. 

But do I really have to tell you the truth about my boring Halloween?  Not anymore!   Why — it’s just as easy to go onto Ashbloem’s site and steal her Halloween photos — and say that they are mine!  Who would ever find out?

So, here is my latest post on:

My Rockin’ Halloween

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I got to the private Halloween party in Hollywood around 10PM.  It was wild.  Mucho celebrity action.  Drinking.  Drugs.  You name it. 

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Here I am in my "Fidel Castro" costume with my pals Diego and Sara Lee.

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The fun really began when the "Sushi Sisters" showed up.  They were totally wasted.  I flirted with them and asked them if they were "dunked" in soy sauce.  One of them said that I would need to "taste" them to find out.  All five of us went into the "private" back room for a little "private" sushi feast.

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Tensions rose when Sophia showed up, without a costume, still wearing the business suit she wears as a Russian dialect coach.  She wanted to know if I was there.   My friends tried to cover for me, but Sophia heard the laughter in the "private" room.

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All hell broke out at the party after Sophia entered the room.  The cops had to come to break it up. 

What a night!

(all photos stolen from Ashbloem, except the last one, which I don’t remember where I stole it from)

49 Comments

  1. You know, the bloggers you should pity are those whose lives aren’t worth stealing. No one has stolen sh1t from my site. You think I feel good about that?

    I steal photos from Ashbloem all the time though and adorn my office walls with them. Grr.

  2. I don’t know, Brando. I hear the ladies are very attracted to your profile photo. You may soon see the same photo adorning my blog. Do you mind?

  3. It’s quite a rare ability to tackle a serious but boring subject and make me think about it seriously while laughing my ass of.

    Oh and Neil, While unlike you I’m not a blog celebrity, I’m simply a celeb (since yesterday)

  4. Sara Lee??? If you are going to steal a picture of me I want a better name!

  5. Neil, I thought that was you, but it was hard to tell with all the fake facial hair floating around that night. I think that may have been me with the “taste me” comment.

    And Sophia, even when you tried to tell me you were “in costume as Alexis Carrington”, I knew it was you. You can’t fool me.

  6. Carrie — I thought you looked so sweet, all I could think of was Sara Lee or Betty Crocker.

  7. I think you might have better results if you use Viggo.

  8. Your post reminds me why I don’t post pics of myself, family, friends etc.. This has always been something that concerned me…

  9. It’s a wave. I was just reading a post by one of the Russian LJ-users how she was informed one of her short stories, “The wedding”, was published in Russian-American newspaper Panorama* – without alerting the author, w/o pay, w/o credit to the author, but [assuming] much editing and torture to the text.
    Discussion followed, concluding that it is violation of the copyright law, but with patent lawyers’ rates skyrocketed, it’s not economically plausible to sue the bastards…

    *Panorama (Russian Language)
    7060 Hollywood Blvd., #919, Los Angeles, CA 90028
    (323) 463-7007; http://www.kmnb.com

  10. Damn I wish I was as talented as you. I can’t even come up with a damn name for my blog. This was very funny
    Good laugh for me. Hmmm

  11. I’m gonna go out on a limb and ask a stupid question (because, despite what we teachers say, there are in fact stupid questions): how does one steal bandwidth? If I link to you on my blog, am I stealing something from you? I’d feel badly if I did that to you. I have a feeling I just don’t know what bandwidth is.

  12. Megan —

    No, linking is very very good. Everyone wants to be linked to. I’m mostly talking about strangers who want to put a photo on their site and link to your photo (without any credit).

    Make believe you wanted to take that grainy photo on top of the guy shoplifting and put it on your own site.

    You could just right click it and say save to desktop. Then it it is “yours.” I do this semi-illegal thing EVERY DAY. Out of proper etiquette and copyright laws (which are vague online), you should say where you got it when you put it on your site. Supposedly, it would be nice if you asked first, but I rarely do.

    But I would never use a professional photograph without giving credit.

    Hotlinking means just linking to the photograph that sits on MY server on MY host. For instance, if you right click the photograph again and look at the properties, you can tell that it is sitting at:

    http://www.citizenofthemonth.com/wp-content/images/shoplift2.jpg

    If you put that link on your site, when someone comes to you, it will drag that photo from my server and onto your site. No one will know that it comes from my site, but it is stealing my “bandwidth” — the amount of “space” that the server gives you for your monthly fee. The more bandwidth you use, they usually want to charge you more. So, I don’t really get any benefits from this photo going on your site. I don’t get any new readers because they don’t know it is from me. I just get my bandwidth used.

    I read up on this issue and there is some code to prevent others from hotlinking. It’s a bit too complicated for me right now. An easier solution is for me to change the names of my photos to something else. So if I change nicole_richie.jpg to hey_sucker.jpg, all of a sudden, when someone goes on your website, the link is pointing to something that doesn’t exist anymore and there will be no image. That is until you figure it out and change the name to the new name.

    But most of us are pretty small fry, so a little stealing here and there isn’t that much of a big issue. Usually, these hosts give us plenty of bandwidth and we don’t use much of it. So, I wouldn’t worry about it. Most people don’t want your photos, unless of course, you are naked in them.

    Get it now?

  13. Genius! I’m assuming the person who stole the travel photos actually started to believe they had visited those places. So, do you think if I steal a rich person’s identity that I can become rich? That would be sweet!

  14. Actually, I think there is some real potential for an “accidental tourist” website — a travel site where the author never goes ANYWHERE other than the websites of places, photos sites, and blogs of residents — and writes about the city based on information on the internet.

  15. It’s okay Megan, I asked the same question and I still don’t get it.
    I always wonder if my photos are being used. You can live through my photos if you want, Neil 🙂 Of course it’s no London or New York. Not yet anyway.

  16. i once posted a really well written and witty craigs list ad for dating. i got a lot of responses from it. then a few days after it had been up, a kindly gentleman alerted me to the fact that someone had stolen my fabulous personals ad, almost every word being mine! i was livid. i felt so violated. how were the masses to know that I was the real one and she was the fake??

    i can only imagine how crappy it would feel to find out someone had stolen, essentially, my life as i tell it on my blog, and make it their own. talk about creepy single white female shit!

    😉 sizzle

  17. Did somebody mention Viggo?

  18. Yeah, Brooke. All I saw was “Viggo.” Where is he?
    ~HDJ

  19. LMAO! You took a problem that usually would piss me off, and made it entertaining.

    It is a violated feeling having somthing you have written taken and put word for word on another blog.

    The only thing mildly interesting on my blog, is the tiny little paragraph “about me.” Which was taken word for word and put on another gals blog. I was so furious I wrote her and said she had one hour to remove it, or I would expose her for the theif she was on my blog. (A little harsh??)

    She stated a friend wrote it for her and said it fit her. (But it was removed in 10 minutes.)

    We may be “small fry” (I don’t think that includes you any longer Neil) but that is the exact reason why it would piss you off. A “Hey I wrote somthing good enough to copy?! Give it back damn it!” mentality.

    3T

  20. First, I am a total moron. I still don’t understand the whole bandwidth stealing thing. Don’t worry, I’m not asking you to explain again. I’m never going to get it.

    Second, I suspect I am stealing bandwidh. To any bloggers I’m stealing from, I’m sorry! I’d say I’d stop but I don’t know how.

    Third, I fail to see what the point of blogging is if you’re going to steal other people’s lives. The only reason I do this is to satisfy my massively large ego by telling people how great my boring life is. Stealing other people’s blogs/lives defeats the whole purpose.

  21. Nu, Neil, thieving?! Oy Vey and a half! What will your mother say at Hadassah meetings when the copyright police come and take you away? Oh, I’m so proud of my son, the klainer goniff? This is terrible, a disaster already! Stop it!

  22. I wouldn’t mind if someone stole my travel photos. Maybe they could have more fun on my trip than I did. It wouldn’t be that hard.

  23. that hat looked good on you

  24. Of course, if I had the opportunity to take photos of hot girl-on-girl pillow fight action… I would probably be so happy that I wouldn’t care if people stole them.

  25. Neil, I think I’m kind of jealous that you just didn’t want to pretend you were me for your Halloween fantasy instead of pretending you went to some party.

  26. Neil, I think you might be the first person on the planet to explain something internet related to me and have it make sense! Just one more question: if I were going to steal a picture from you, would I need to put that link (like the one of that photo that you used as the example) on my site and have people click on it? Would that make the picture show up on my site? Am I asking a lot of stupid questions? I’m finding this very interesting.

  27. If you stole it like I do, you do not need to link to it on my server. You now own a physical copy of that photo. You would put it on your server and link to it there, just as if you took the photo from your own camera and downloaded it. You might include a link to my site as a courtesy: (photo “stolen” from Citizen of the Month — or something like that).

    When people hotlink, they just put the link to my photo on their Blog, and the photo shows up when it is published (but no one ever sees the link name which mentions my site unless they right click it and look at the “Properties” information). So, even though in the second case, there is no overt stealing going on of actual “property,” it is actually much worse — the person is stealing my more valuable bandwidth and I don’t get any credit at all.

    Remember, Megan, both of these things are “stealing” so I wouldn’t advocate it for you to do — being a teacher and all. Just remember to give credit (or ask permission) and most people are happy. There might be a case where someone would prefer to be hotlinked — so then they can know where there photo is being taken, but usually not — unless someone knows more about this than I do.

  28. Wow, Diego looks an awful lot like Thomas Gonzales the former dot-com diva.

  29. I totally get it now. Wow, I feel so smert. No worries, I won’t steal from you, Neily. I don’t want you to be mad at me. I mean, who else would look at my naked pictures? Besides, I don’t do illegal things…anymore.

  30. Hmmm, Brando’s profile photo is indeed hot. Oh, yes… I google search for images all the time without looking at the source. Will try to do something about it.

  31. It’s slightly unsettling that people would steal from bloggers to make themselves look good in a virtual world.

  32. you really paint quite the picture!

  33. “Halevai” (if only!) you’d “steal” something from my blog…

  34. Yeah, Brando is hot. But he’s gay! Ok, he’s married. But he should be gay.

  35. I guess that people aren’t really reading my blog–they come to steal the Mr. and Mrs. Roper pictures that I’ve taken. Ah. Thanks for the lesson.

  36. You. Are. A. Riot.

    What’s next? Civil disobedience?

  37. So, if I now steal these pictures from you, should you get mad, or should Ashbloem get mad?

  38. Hey, how about stolen links? I just found out somebody changed one of the links I had in a blog entry! I just posted about it — in fact, I think the link is written in Russian! Maybe Sophia could translate? — It’s a crazy mystery to me!

  39. Plagiarism has been around for almost as long as the written word itself. But, in true blogger fashion, I’m glad someone has finally made it about the blog experience!

  40. Blog identity theft. What will they think of next?

    I didn’t do anything fun on Halloween, either.

  41. I wouldn’t even have a blog if I didn’t liberally steal photos from all over the Internet. I go a step further and combine copyrighted photos in new and offensive ways such as placing Dorothy Gale from “The Wizard of Oz” at the front gates of Auschwitz. Oy, when will the lawyers be calling?

    But I’ve been on the other side of it, too, when I posted pictures that I took of my brother-in-law and also my nephews making a Quaker Oats commercial and started seeing those very photos popping up all over the Internet. I didn’t mind but some of the other people on those sites were appalled at the “invastion of privacy.” For all my Internet thievery, I don’t think I’ve ever used someone’s personal photos. However I’d like to do an annotated photo commentary of your wedding to Sophia, would you PLEASE post more of those great photos? (Actually, my wife and I are still debating whether those were real or stolen from someone else’s life.)

  42. That last one is a pic of me at a work meeting. Thanks a lot, Neil. I thought we were friends.

  43. How lame is that to steal other people’s lives like that? Blech.

    What is entertaining about this is the fact that I couldn’t think of anything to post today, so there is a picture of me pouting. I’m at least honest with the few readers that I have!

    Hilarious post as usual, Neil…
    Thanks for the giggle.

  44. That last picture is from my Halloween party, I believe.

  45. Thanks Neil, you totally talked me out of putting Stephanie Klein’s picture up as my profile shot. I feel so much better now.

  46. I, too, try to take the high road of stealing and at least only SAVE them, then print them. I think the pictures themselves should be clear enough that I didn’t take them, but you never know. And when I’ve taken it from another site, who’s to say that my crediting them is correct? They may have snagged it from somewhere else as well.

    Argh.

    I used to blog in MySpace, but the only way to use pictures is to hotlink them. So I told MySpace to screw itself.

    I’m sure it cared.

  47. You could, of course, simply call your habitual larceny research, or a homage to the people whose sites you are pillaging so mercilessly. You could always get the guys from the Capitol One commercials to help you; they look like they could stand a good bout of plundering before they settle down to a two story ranch house in the suburbs with the 2.7 kids, the wife, and the dog; the white picket fence is optional.

  48. Is this like All about Eve, except in cyberspace?

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