on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

Unwanted Sales Opportunities?

A warning about image theft...

Tim Parkin

Amateur Photographer who plays with big cameras and film when in between digital photographs.

Flickr, Facebook, Twitter



Whilst I was working on the content for this issue, I received a disturbing phone call from a colleague, Jason Theaker. He was calling from Whitby where he was about to lead a photographic workshop and, whilst scouting for said workshop, had found a website called ‘whitby art’ (whitby-art.co.uk - I won’t link to them as that would give them undeserved ‘google juice’).

The disturbing part of this website was that they were selling one of Jason Theaker’s pictures which was badly printed. The badly printed thing was something we must assume as the photograph had been stolen from Jason’s Flickr account and posted on their website as ‘for sale in canvas sizes up to 60”’ - well, from the 1200px wide original that makes a 20dpi print!! (or less than one pixel per millimeter).

Lest anybody proclaim that having pictures at this size on the internet is asking for it, I have also spoken to people who have had their commercial prints purchased and then scanned for illegal art repro purposes.

Whilst browsing the website, Jason also found another print by one of our featured photographers, Antony Spencer - amazingly including a 'certificate of authenticity'. Well, as you can imagine both parties were all ready for a frontal advance into Whitby to snatch their property off the walls of said gallery - apart from the fact that they couldn’t find it! Perhaps it doesn’t exist and is merely a figment of said pirates imagination?

I was asked what the best approach was and despite having no legal experience, I have had a fair bit of business experience and was fairly certain that going through the legal system wouldn’t result in anything except expense and stopping the guy using the pictures. I suggested that a bill be presented for ‘unrestricted royalty free usage’ of said picture. Well, the end result was that the images were removed from the website quite quickly.

Fortunately, stories like this where commercial operations try to profit from image theft are fairly rare and, as mentioned previously, the only way to guarantee it won’t happen to you is by not putting your pictures on the internet and also not selling your pictures (or comprehensively vetting everyone who purchases them). There are websites that can help you track image use such as the ‘Tin Eye’ reverse image search engine. Sadly, the way that this particular website has (badly) presented the image in some form of box canvas means that the image search engine couldn’t find it (it does work with colour changes, small clones and crops though).

Here is a Google cache of the offending page on the website that was selling Jason’s picture and here is the google cache of Antony’s.

Jason has written a little about the experience here.

The website has since been removed and an apology uploaded

"Whitby Art is now permanently closed and would like to apologise if we mistakenly represented anybody's pictures which were sent into a Facebook competition in December."

Make of this what you will, the lack of a link to said competition makes me a little suspicious. And the fact that he is still using stolen images on his personal website makes me even more suspicious. Here's a Google link to Whitby Art's proprietor - Page on blog - and here is a link to the original photo on flickr flickr page for photo



On Landscape is part of Landscape Media Limited , a company registered in England and Wales . Registered Number: 07120795. Registered Office: 1, Clarke Hall Farm, Aberford Road, WF1 4AL