October 27, 2004

Curious George: Put on your tinfoil hat before reading this. My brother runs a website about local cell phone antennas, which includes all kinds of photos of these antennas "in the wild", e.g. disguised as trees, or hidden inside shop signs etc. Someone has decided to steal them for their own site. What now? [more inside]
  • Not just for a similar site of another enthusiast, mind you, but to illustrate his online campaign against these antennas because, as the author claims, they would cause cancer. And not just one picture, but twelve of them on one single page. The textual content would (in its wording and its anti-cell phone paranoia) be deemed 'tinfoil hat' by most people I know, but that is not the point here, as we would like to stick to the judicial aspects. Relevant details: -The author writes on his page, "see the photos that were sent to us by anonymous [cell phone antenna] spotters" - however, all the photos on his site are my brother's, and they never sent them to the author of the page. -The author links to my brother's page with the text "click here for the site of an amateur [cell phone antenna] spotter, who is unaware of the enormous dangers of radiation." Why he would want to link to someone else who not only supplied the photos for his own site (albeit without knowledge or consent), but also enables any visitor to view the obvious sources for his pictures, is beyond me. -Most pictures were cropped or otherwise altered, but all are still clearly recognisable when compared to my brother's originals. -Astonishingly, the author explicitly claims copyright for all of the pictures on the page as his own. All of them are my brother's. -My brother has repeatedly tried to contact the infringing site's host about the matter, but they plainly state that they do not wish to do anything about it. As one can expect, my brother is not amused by seeing his photograps published by a third party without his permission, let alone for this questiaonable cause. What judicial leg(s) does he have to stand on? Full disclosure: we are located within the Netherlands. Aforementioned quotes were translated by me from Dutch. IANA(C)L - the C stands for Copyright, of course :) - but maybe some of you might be able to shed some light. All help will be greatly appreciated.
  • Has your brother asked him to take down the photos?
  • Assuming that the Netherlands are a signatory to the Berne Convention he has these rights I quote from Article 9 Authors of literary and artistic works protected by this Convention shall have the exclusive right of authorizing the reproduction of these works, in any manner or form.
  • The most effective thing to do is just raise hell with the guy untill he takes them down. While there may be some legal things that can be done, it generally isn't worth the time. Put a disclaimer on your brother's site, and just pester the guy on the other site untill her takes them down. You could post the website address to a community weblog and allow them to harass them or something... Someone plagiarized one of my papers online once, and I contacted the guy and he claimed it was an accident and took it down the same day. There is another site in Germany that has taken one of my papers that is on my site in html and converted it to a pdf and posted it on his site (but still kept my name on it), which just baffles me as to why the guy would bother to change the formats!
  • I'd post a well placed comment on your brothers site about what is happening and take advantage of some html code/javascript to prevent the downloading of images off of you brothers site. While it's not the perfect solution, since there are ways around it, might be enough to deter the thief from doing it again. Otherwise I feel a googlebomb coming on ;)
  • 'What's the URL for this guy's site?' she asked innocently.
  • I have a vague feeling your brother's site has been linked to here before...
  • Disguised antennae have definitely showed up here a while back.
  • The hosting company will not want to do anything about it. Your brother should contact the author directly. The guy should be claiming copyright for the images that aren't his so that should be stopped. After that, it's at your brother's discretion to dictate what portions of his site the guy can copy and properly credit. You shouldn't need a tin foil hat for this. Just tell your brother to email the guy and let him know how he feels.
  • Hmmmm. I understand that your brother is pissed off, but isn't this utterly harmless nonsense? I don't have the ability to create a website, but if I did and I put up a bunch of pictures of cheese I'd had in my refrigerator over the past year, I'd find it amusing if some wacko downloaded all the pictures and used them to warn the world of the Great Cheese Conspiracy!!! Sometimes we become irritated only because we allow ourselves to, despite minimum provocation. I don't like rude behaviour at all, but this just seems like the littlest battle ever over something completely inconsequential. Maybe there's more you're not telling us about the situation, but if there isn't, I think your brother might benefit from some ten deep breath therapy.
  • Is your brother still the one hosting these pictures? There's a local blog (the pretty good Seat of the Revolution) that regularly runs photo and video of local bands, and he gets people freeloading all the time. Usually just takes one Goatse redirect before people get the picture that they can't have the picture, if you dig. That's something your brother might want to look into...
  • I thought about that, but he says that some of the pictures have been cropped, so it doesn't sound like that would work.
  • If you really care about the infringement th only thing you can do is have a laywer fire off a C&D. The laywer part is important 'cause the letterhead has a big impact on these kinds of losers. If that doesn't work your only option is to follow thru and sue. Philip Greenspun has a most enlightened take on what to do with infringers way down at the bottom of this page philip.greenspun.com/panda/images