Monday, January 23, 2012

My most "stolen" photo?

For a more up to date version of this blog, have a look at my web site.
I'm in the process of trying to get yet another copy of one of my photos deleted and thought it might deserve a blog of some sort.
It's all about copyright infringements.
As a photographer who spends a lot of time around horses, I get to see lots of interesting horse behaviour and arguably, one of the most visually interesting behaviours is the Flehmen response, in which a horse will curl back its lips to get better access to an interesting scent. I've photographed this response on a number of occasions and in April 2009 I managed to get this shot.

Clearly spectacular.

It didn't take too long before it started going around the web and was not too long before someone added text : -

copyright infringement
After that, it went viral.

I did a Google image search for the image with text.

The results were alarming : -

The Horror
I'm still trying to get these people to take down my photo.
The site doesn't answer emails or tweets sent to @Hollywood_com and I tried the writer of the page, @ericsundy, but to no avail.

The page has been removed after being highlighted on Sites that steal -
If you are ever tempted to "lift" a photo, please don't.
I found a few versions of my shot on Flickr and asked the people involved to remove them. In one case I had a short email exchange with the person showing the image, who very nicely agreed to remove the image but replaced it with the one shown here
It now seems that people trying to protect their copyright in the wrong.
However, the comment made below is from that person and is a well reasoned response, and worth reading. It's the other side of the copyright argument.


  1. You asked me to remove a copy of the “HURR IM A HOERS” meme I had up on my flickr account. Of course, I’m happy to cooperate - though since my flickr page has only 3 views (including you and me), it doesn’t do much to slow the meme’s viral proliferation.

    I remember laughing when I saw your photo (including the silly text) a year ago, on who-knows-which website. The meme probably reached its peak popularity around that time. I’m one of thousands (millions?) of unintended beneficiaries whose lives were made slightly better by encountering your work as it bounced around the internet. There’s never been a better time to be an _appreciator_ of visual media. (I have even more reason than the rest to be grateful to you, since today I also enjoyed reading your blog post about the origin of this photo and ‘Flehmen response’ in horses.)

    I participate in this data-propagating culture by curating my favorite pictures, notes, comics, etc. and rebroadcasting them to my friends. Hence, I put a copy of your meme on my flickr page - though apparently you’re the only person to visit. Welcome! (I’m marginally more effective with twitter...) I also contribute my own original photos, writing, and open source software.

    Perhaps this is easier for the generation that grew up using the internet. Information has a “can’t-put-the-genie-back-in-the-bottle” quality to it that we’ve learned to recognize and accept as an incontrovertible fact of nature. We struggle upstream against obscurity, mediocrity, and shortness of attention spans. Social phenomena like sharing, remixing, and ‘viral’ popularity are the winds we try to catch in our sails.

    So, my hope in writing this is to encourage you to enjoy and appreciate the unexpected (and regrettably, unattributed) fame. Look at some of these variations that your photo inspired!
    - Album of variations
    - More can be found here:

    Finally, here are a few (pedantic) comments about copyright:

    1. “It’s all about copyright infringement.” Don’t forget there are numerous ‘fair use’ exceptions to copyright restrictions. Arguably, the addition of silly text counts as a ‘transformative’ derivation of your work. It may seem insubstantial - and I’m sure you prefer the original - but notice that it’s only the ‘meme’ version with text that caught the gust of attention.

    2. “Most stolen photo” “If you are ever tempted to “lift” a photo, please don’t.”
    Words like “steal” and “lift” are inaccurate to use. “Infringe” is precise and relevant, but still inapplicable in this situation because of fair use.

    3. Keep in mind that ‘public benefit’ is the primary justification for copyright laws. Artists should be protected from commercial exploitation, but _more_ sharing, rather than _less_, is what’s best for society. In fact, the most unfortunate part is that the countless people who enjoyed the HOERS meme never got to read your blog post and browse through the rest of your work. Search tools like TinEye are making headway towards making it as easy to propagate attribution credit as it is to propagate an image.

  2. Why would you want this to get deleted? If it went viral, which it still is, you would get more people to be on your site, thus getting you more followers, you should be happy this got what it did... That is how I got to your site, with this picture....