Photographers Beware – Another Way Our Images are Being Stolen

/, Centennial Valley, Copyright Infringement, Copyright Issues, Montana/Photographers Beware – Another Way Our Images are Being Stolen

Stolen American Badger imageStolen American Badger image

Some of you might remember that I posted a landscape version of this American Badger image a while back, I have cropped it again to show how sneaky image thieves have gotten. I have had a rash of images used without my permission and that has gotten MUCH worse since Google made some pretty crappy changes to their Image Search in January. People can download your images now from within the Google Image Search and not even come to your site to do it. This nasty stuff Google has done by passes most protections you may have placed on your site. That stinks bad enough but it is getting worse.

I found this neat little bookmarklet though that helps me locate my images that have been infringed (read stolen) by image scrapers (thieves) and it has helped me a lot lately to find out where my images are without my permission. This is the bookmarklet: you just go to that page, grab the link and put it on your Favorites Bar. Then navigate to a page with your images on it, click the bookmarklet and when the black square shows up in the middle of the image you click it and a new page opens in Google Search with the locations your image has been found in the search.

Well, I did that with my American badger image and was surprised at what I found (besides the obvious scumbag thieveries by  w a l l p a p e r  sites) when I saw “Google Play” in the search results. Now since I had not given Google Play or any of these w a l l p a p e r app “developers” permission to use my American Badger image I clicked the link.

My Badger image was stolen and used in three Badger Wallpaper Apps on Google PlayMy Badger image was stolen and used in three Badger Wallpaper Apps on Google Play

And this is what I saw. The center image is my American Badger photo, stolen and used by Android App Developer THIEF : Arata Kuroki and when I scrolled through the apps on the Google Play page using the search term “Badger W a l l p a p e rs” I found two more apps that used the same exact screen shot that this thief showed for “his” app.

I downloaded the free app to my phone (a mistake and I will explain why later) and opened it up. The app had 48 images of Badgers in it that people can save as their phone as  w a l l p a p e r and it had exactly one American badger image in it, mine.  Some of the other Badger images I have seen before on the net and they are likely stolen too. This guy jerk has all kinds of w a l l p a p e r apps on Google Play and I have to wonder if all the images contained in them are stolen.

I was furious. Livid in fact. My copyright watermark was cropped out. No licensing, nor credit. Stolen.

I filed a DMCA Takedown Notification through Google expecting that they would take the apps down immediately. I sent that DMCA Takedown on September 20th and just yesterday saw that all three Badger w a l l p a p e r  apps were gone. Eleven days of people downloading my stolen image after the DMCA was sent.

The thing is that these app developers only post a few screen shots of the images contained in them so every one of these stinking apps could have our images in them and we won’t know unless we download the images and install them on our phones.

I think that Google Play should have to have signed image releases/licenses for every image contained in the apps from the developers and if they don’t they should not allow the apps on Google Play. Ever. And when a developer is found to have infringed on ONE single image they need to ban them for life. Better yet, ban all w a l l p a p e r  apps. People can take their own images and put them as w a l l p a p e r  on their phones.

So the skanky image thieves have found yet another way to use our images without our permission or knowledge.

Oh yeah, this Badger w a l l p a p e r  app was free but there are other w a l l p a p e r  apps that are not and these thieves are making money with our images. The fruits of our labors, the work we create. That sucks.

It is a violation of copyright laws, it is image theft and it is wrong. I am glad those Badger apps are not on Google Play any more but they might be on iTunes and I wouldn’t know because I have an Android phone.

Back to why downloading that stupid app to my phone was a mistake: I deleted the app right after viewing the Badger images contained in it but this scumbag developer thief had put some other stuff in the app and the next day I realized that that nasty app maker had stuck another little present piece of crap in it that wasn’t deleted with the app and that my default home page/search browser had been hijacked and a search window came up that had ads for gambling and stupid games on it.

To get rid of the code that high jacked my browser home page I had to clear my cache and delete my data for Internet Explorer on my phone. That meant having to redo all of my bookmarks and use all of my passwords on sites I have to log onto so they would be stored on my phone.

These developers thieves are scum and Google needs to step up to the plate and make sure the apps have legitimate licenses for the images in the apps or disallow the thieves from ever putting them on Google Play.

Do I sound ticked off? I am. We need a class action law suit to prevent these types of apps.



P.S. The image search bookmarklet works in IE and Safari, I don’t know if it works in any other browsers.


  1. Les Peters October 9, 2013 at 3:19 pm

    Hello Mia,

    In March last year I spent two weeks setting up a website containing mostly bird images. Before I had finished putting up the basics, I found that nearly all its contents had already been stolen by three different people – one each in Pakistan, South Africa and Russia. “Free Bird Wall Paper” was the common theme.

    Well, that stopped me cold. I haven’t touched the site since, which is a great shame, because you make these things and take pictures to get people to support and care for birds. And to share the fun too.

    I’m still at a loss what to do about it. Water marks don’t seem to deter people, and would be easy to remove anyway; though to my surprise you have obviously found that these people are brazen enough not to care about such things. What a world we live in.

    Keep up the good work with your splendid and engaging pictures.

    Best wishes,

  2. Scott Simmons October 4, 2013 at 7:52 pm

    Thanks so much for the linklet! I tried it on a few of my images, and so far I’ve found three sites that have stolen my images. appears to be the biggest culprit (at least a dozen, probably more), but the U.S. government is another, believe it or not. NOAA appears to have used one of my images without my permission, but their site is down, so I can’t check it out.

  3. Dennis Coleman October 4, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    Tried your link. I searched for “badger”, found your image and clicked on the Image Tracker link you provided. Up came this page, “badger mia mcpherson wallpaper”. Here is the link, Giving your name and leaving your copyright mark on the photo gives the viewer the idea that you have given your permission.

    There is always someone looking to profit from the hard work of others…hedge fund managers come to mind. 🙂


    • Mia McPherson October 4, 2013 at 1:33 pm


      This Badger image has been stolen by tons of those sites and it is very hard to get them taken down. They hide in clouds, behind domain proxy companies and often the hosting providers are pretty sleazy themselves and don’t respond to DMCA Takedown Notifications.

  4. Utahbooklover October 3, 2013 at 8:21 pm

    The downside of the internet and Facebook — I avoid problems by not downloading anything suspicious and not being a part of Facebook. Thanks for sharing your story, Mia, and that wonderful image of the American badger.

  5. Ricky Jones October 3, 2013 at 7:52 pm

    Excellent post Mia, I can talk about this issue for days. Been fighting this ever since the digital age. Nicely done.


  6. Jane Chesebrough October 3, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    Another thing I wish Google would clean up; I googled my name under images just out of curiosity and my photos came up but so did some of yours and other people’s simply because I had commented on them at one time. At least your name and copyright are on yours otherwise people might think that I was claiming them as mine.Even on Facebook I saw a friend make a comment to another friend that she was so happy that the person had posted a photo of a deceased person that we all knew. The first person said your welcome but I was the one that took the picture and could have told the story around that case I put no copyright on it and decided to let it go but it bothered me that this woman copied my photo and didn’t even remember who took it or did not admit that it wasn’t her who took the photo.

  7. Elephant's Child October 3, 2013 at 4:44 pm

    I am so sorry. And angry on your behalf. And for all the other artists whose work is stolen.

  8. Merrill Ann Gonzales October 3, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    Dear Mia, It’s not just photographers that are getting ripped off…. Artists too suffer the same fate. I had such a horrendous year one year I closed down all my internet stuff. (Some of my drawings/paintings may still be floating around out there. But I no longer post anything at all online.) Not only did they steal my creations, but in one instance they actually accused me of not having the copyright to my own creations.
    I found that if I wanted to continue to be an artist I had to cut all ties with the internet. I find I have all I can do to protect my stuff through e-mail…
    Now I understand why you’ve been under the weather these last few weeks. All I can say is, please know that your fight not only helps you but others who do not have the wherewithal to deal with these things.
    In gratitude, Merrill

  9. Sally Wood October 3, 2013 at 10:39 am

    Mia, you sooo have the right to be angry, disgusted and vindicated. If Google and others can’t function as a lawful entity in their influential capacity, they are a real and clear menace to society. Developers should be required to have their applications legally approved before release. The buck has to stop somewhere – it seems the responsibility should rest with the publishers of apps.

  10. Steve Creek October 3, 2013 at 9:37 am

    Thanks for sharing that bookmark Mia!

  11. Timothy Snapper October 3, 2013 at 8:45 am

    I get my images from Flickr that are under Creative Commons and I Always attribute them to the person who took them.
    I use them in booklets and it wouldn’t be worth it to have to defend myself over a lawsuit. There is no need to steal, there are plenty of free images out there.


    • Mia McPherson October 3, 2013 at 12:42 pm


      Without a doubt there are these apps that are created by ethical people, my main complaint are the apps developers who are infringing on our images without our knowledge, consent or authorization. There needs to be a way to discern between legitimate apps and those that are just stealing images from anywhere on the net. Maybe a screen shots of thumbnails of all the images contained in the app or forcing app developers to show proof of licensing or that the images are Creative Commons licensed.

      Also; not all Creative Commons images are actually free to use. I have found my images on other Flickr users accounts marked as Creative Commons when I have all my images All Rights Reserved and don’t even post to Flickr.

  12. Montanagirl October 3, 2013 at 6:10 am

    Wow…That’s scary. I’m not a professional photographer, but I do rather like my own work staying out of the hands of thieves. Thanks for sharing this, Mia.

  13. Bob Bushell October 3, 2013 at 5:39 am

    They, the thieves, will find a way to steal anything, especially from people like you.

  14. Julie Brown October 3, 2013 at 4:51 am

    I have read all of your posts about image thieves and find it mind-boggling how much work is involved in protecting your work. Thank you for sharing your discoveries and keeping us informed.

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