Lately I've been writing about the versatility of Google. The popular search engine that delivers so much more than just search.
For some reason, I needed to do a Google Image Search and discovered people are helping themselves to my Registered U.S. Copyrighted graphic maps!
It never ceases to amaze me, how people will right click a map and consider it theirs. Do they think they are safe from detection?
Years ago, before so many real estate people had ever figured out the power of the Internet, I was on it. Working my fingers day and night creating content. I did this by researching information, driving to locations taking multiple photos to illustrate and area only to have lazy agents come help themselves to my work.
Do I sound angry? You bet I am!
Early in this decade I took my creativity to the next level and hired a very special designer (Lenn thanks!) to help me create area maps that would match the color scheme of my site. She created a Metro Denver Map, Denver Metropolitan School District Map, Metro Denver Counties Map, Denver City Communities, Denver's Ballpark map, and tons more.
Now people may think that the Internet is free and everything therein they are entitled too. Not so.
If you do a search on Google for an image you will notice even though Google indexed the image Google has a statement that says, "This Image Maybe Subject to Copyright!"
Another clue, is typically found in the lower right corner, although there is no requirement for an image to have a copyright notice, many people will place theirs there.
Mine looks like this...
Of course, there are the folks who think they will be tricky and cut off the rather obvious ©ReflectiveMotion notice.
Guess they really think I'm totally stupid, blind or kind and gracious and willing to donate my time, and money for their benefit?
I think not.
Oh, it even gets better. There are the very creative ones who think they can really fool me by taking my graphic and recoloring it.
Here's an example of some very, tricky Photochopping. I bet it will fool you too...(not.)
Every (smart) mapmaker leaves some identifying clue. Typically it's not even noticeable by the average observer.
Furthermore, people who are intent on protecting their work oftentimes place an overlay of digital markings that can be traced when the graphic is copied.
So is it wrong to use graphics, photos, maps and content created by others?
In a word, yes. Unless you have written permission, taking such is equivalent to stealing. Stealing is wrong.
How do I find a thief?
- Set up Google Alerts
- Subscribe to a service that tracks my content
- Just do a Google Image search
- Digitize my images (it's like putting an ankle bracelet on them, you can't see it, but it's there, tracking every move!)
- My friends tell me
Do I need to prove "damages?"
I'm not an attorney, but any copyright attorney will tell you it's not necessary to prove damages if the content, images, etc. are registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. When they are the owner is entitled by statutory rights to a specific amount per occurrence.
Another twist, agents who steal will also bring their brokers into the law suit. How embarrassing can that be? I wonder if the offending party would end up having to pay for their mistakes both to the infringed upon party and also by losing their affiliation with their broker! Oops! I wonder how nice your broker will be to you after you have cost the brokerage a lot of money.
Brokers, do you have a Social Media Policy in place?
I wonder how many brokers are aware that they are also held responsible for the doings of their agents online. How many brokers would be able to sleep at night if they knew their agents are out stealing content and images? Brokers are still responsible for setting policy, it they fail to do so, they will find themselves in hot water too.
Here's the kicker, Google indexes these thieves. Yes, the thief can go remove the offending content and images quicker than the (so called) webmaster can sneeze. But the Google will hold the memory for a long, long time.
Plagiarism and Copyright Infringement
Embarrassing? You bet. Expensive? You Bet. Is it worth it? Heck no.
Think twice before lifting the content, graphics and photos that don't belong to you. If you do steal, plan to get caught. Plan to pay. Plan to feel like a chump for being stupid, because stupid you will feel when the limelight is on you for being a thief.