Theft and unscrupulous online marketing

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If you put a lot of stuff on the Web, as I do, sometimes people will use it in questionable ways. Even though I make it easy and authorized to make use of my blog posts, photos, music, and other things with my Creative Commons licensing schemes, often enough some splog will, for instance, republish my posts without attribution, or someone will claim a photo of mine as their own, or whatever.

Most of the time that's no big deal. Yes, it's theft, but I also think a bit of shady reuse is part of the price I pay for being as out there online as I am. But yesterday something small happened that I couldn't let pass, because not only did it include unauthorized use of one of my photos, it simultaneously made it look like I'd written and endorsed something that I certainly do not.

I won't link to the web page in question, since it doesn't deserve the publicity, but I found it using one of the ego search feeds I maintain (most of which rarely turn up anything interesting, but which occasionally alert me to something worth noting, like this). In this case it was a search at IceRocket, which pointed out an article about "alternative cancer treatment" that included the byline "by Derek K. Miller." And it wasn't by me.

I clicked over to the page, and it turned out that the article—a generic piece about alternative cancer treatments, including some pretty questionable assertions, obviously designed to generate search-ad revenue and to link to an alternative-treatment centre in the U.S.—featured a photo of my face, purloined from my Cancer Treatment set on flickr.com. The picture was "attributed" to me with the line "by Derek K. Miller" underneath, with a link back to Flickr.

That would have been fine in some circumstances, but it violated the terms of my license because the splog was obviously a commercially promotional site (my photos are only for sharing non-commercially unless you get my permission otherwise). More importantly, the attribution appeared in such a way that, while it theoretically credited me for the photo, because of the layout and because it was also a picture of me, it appeared that I was being credited for the article, and that the picture was some sort of author's image.

I don't like people using my stuff improperly, but even worse is making it look like I've written an article that I didn't write, which is endorsing claims and a company that I don't endorse, or have any affiliation with at all.

I left a comment to that effect on the site, and while it never got published, whoever made the page got the point: within an hour my photo and byline were gone—which was far quicker and easier than I expected. The article is still there, and it's still crap, but it no longer seems to be crap that I had anything to do with. And that's all I wanted.

5 Comments

I'm glad they were so quick to take the offending materials down.

I've had a couple of requests to use my photos, and I am ok with that, generally speaking. However, one of my Flickr contacts had a rude awakening when she saw one of her (uncredited) photos in a glossy Tory pamphlet that was put through her mailbox in the last UK election.

She emailed them about it and was treated very rudely by a junior lackey. It really soured her on the whole idea of sharing photos. The whole episode was depressing.

I think she sent them an invoice for their use of the photo.I hope, for her sake, that they manned up and paid her, at least.

Wow - that's quite horrible. Glad they removed it so quickly. I guess vigilance helps.

Hi Derek, timely information, thanks.

My blog is new as of June-ish and while doing a quick (ego) search on it today, hello, IceRocket had found a few articles. Quick scan showed they attributed right stuff to right me, but I immediately went into settings on my blog to protect articles & pics by disabling "right click"...

I've blogged for real estate industry in the past, and my articles were lifted right & left... which surprised me as my writing is a little offbeat...never thought cancer articles would be lifted. Make 'em go under the drip for the lift!

Enough about me. I could get lost in your blog (in a good way). Setting aside time to take the tour. And while I do, hoping you're feeling as good as possible. Husband finished cancer treatment late spring, so it's oh too easy to relate to just about everything you say.

Here's the deal. I'll go on a search for something in your bloggage that I can't relate to and will report back on that item. Just because.

My best,
Allie D. in Austin

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