Google Search for Map Thieves, One Easy Click

Real Estate Agent with Novella Real Estate

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 MapMetro 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!"

Google Images 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...

Duh Dumbass Copyright! 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.


Clever Denver Map Thief

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.

Google Remembers.

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.


Kristal Kraft Sells Denver Real Estate




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Comments (14)

Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573
Northern Maine Real Estate-Aroostook County Broker

Create, label with your brand obvious so no one would want to five finger discount lift it the key. Make it so you don't care and want them to use with it obvious where it came from thinking. Agree with what you say and hard work but good luck stopping it. Make it work for you.

Feb 05, 2011 02:44 AM
Rose Mary Justice
Synergy Realty Pros - Dandridge, TN
Synergy Realty Pros

This is a sad thing to happen to you and all your hard work.  Hope for better days ahead.

Feb 05, 2011 02:47 AM
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

KK - Your maps, like Lenn's, are a pleasure to look at and an enhancement to your site. Between the two of you we have some good information on tracking thieves, and a better understanding of the legal issues.

Unfortunately the word "copyright" does not seem to deter some folk.


Feb 05, 2011 03:13 AM
Joan Cox
House to Home, Inc. - Denver Real Estate - 720-231-6373 - Denver, CO
Denver Real Estate - Selling One Home at a Time

Kristal, I had never seen your maps, they ARE really nice --- could I borrow them for my site?   Just kidding!    You are very creative when you do these!     

Feb 05, 2011 03:18 AM
Maria Morton
Platinum Realty - Kansas City, MO
Kansas City Real Estate 816-560-3758

I have wondered how Lenn made the maps she uses for a long time now. A map maker! Who would have thunk?

Feb 05, 2011 03:27 AM
Eric Michael
Remerica Integrity, Realtors®, Northville, MI - Livonia, MI
Metro Detroit Real Estate Professional 734.564.1519

Great maps and an even better blog. Thanks for re-inforcing this.

Feb 05, 2011 03:34 AM
Mike Jaquish
Realty Arts - Cary, NC
919-880-2769 Cary, NC, Real Estate


The beat goes on.  I am pressing the office to have a couple of policies regarding copyright.  It is needed in the Triangle, as swiping stuff is endemic.

Feb 05, 2011 03:46 AM
Frances C. Rokicki
Fran Rokicki Realty, LLC - Bolton, CT

Kristal, I am sure that there are a host of attorneys, who are now working to keep these thieves, off of the internet.

Feb 05, 2011 06:43 AM
Lola Audu
Lola Audu~Audu Real Estate~Grand Rapids, MI Real Estate - Grand Rapids, MI
Audu Real Estate~Grand Rapids, MI ~Welcome Home!

Thanks for this post & for the link to the NAR Social Media Policy guideline PDF.  It's been a topic of concern to me for sometime.

Feb 05, 2011 06:51 AM
Kristal Kraft
Novella Real Estate - Denver, CO
Selling Metro Denver Real Estate - 303-589-2022

Oops!  I hope I didn't give away any of Lenn's secrets!  She was open with me, so I don't believe so. 

Yes, there seems to be a serious lack of respect for copyright law.  I would love to create a website called "The Hall of Shame" where offenders could be publically displayed and ridiculed, like they were back when our country was first formed. 


Feb 05, 2011 12:00 PM
Pat Laracy Baker
Realty Executives Boston West - Holliston, MA
Pat Baker Dream Home Maker

Kristal, this should not be.  YOu are right.  There is no respect for many things these days.  Good for you to point it out.

Feb 05, 2011 02:01 PM
Marchel Peterson
Results Realty - Spring, TX
Spring TX Real Estate E-Pro

Krystal, Maybe you should go after the thieves.  I know that has worked out for Lenn.  If no one lets them know they will just keep helping themself.

Feb 06, 2011 09:26 AM
Wanda Thomas
Montana Homestead Brokers, Broker, CRS, GRI, SFR, RN - Billings, MT
Billings Montana Real Estate

Interesting read, I had no idea how this stuff can be traced.  I don't think any of my agents have tried this, because they avoid the internet for the most part :(, but a social media policy sounds like a great idea.

Feb 07, 2011 01:16 PM
Steven Beam
RE/MAX Alliance - Parker Colorado Real Estate. - Parker, CO
Parker Colorado Real Estate

I love the school map. That is great for relo clients. What I really want to learn is how you get that cool torn edge on the photo you placed at the top.

Apr 11, 2011 04:57 PM

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