Recently I sold this lovely lucite chair to a local furniture dealer.
He paid me my full asking price, so I didn’t mind too much that he was probably going to resell it. I had seen his listings before on Craigslist, so I would check every now and then to see if he reposted the chair and how much he was selling it for. Nothing popped up, so on a whim I checked eBay.
Sure enough there was my chair!
How can I be so sure that it was my chair? The exact same one I had sold?
Well, first of all the chair was posted for local pick-up only, here in Dallas. Second, the eBay username included the first name of the dealer who bought it.
And third, he was using my photos in the listing.
There was no watermark, of course, because I don’t watermark the posting photos I use on Craigslist (although now I’m rethinking that!). But there, staring back at me, was my home.
How could someone think that was okay? Logistically, how did he get those photos, since I deleted the Craigslist posting the minute the chair sold? (Answer: he must have saved the photos to his computer before sending someone to my house to pickup the chair.)
The nerve! The laziness! The complete douchebaggyness! Not that he was reselling the chair. I expected that. What I didn’t expect was to see my carefully composed photos – my creation – staring back at me.
I’m not going to lie, I had some killer revenge fantasies, mostly involving using the phone number he sent me in an email… Like taking out an ad in the Craigslist personal classifieds on his behalf. And/or those insurance websites where you enter your number for a quote and are then plagued by insurance phone calls for approximately the next seven years.
Rest assured, Bryan told me in no uncertain terms that those were terrible ideas and I was not to act upon them. I refrained. My anger simmered down.
What I could do, however, was take steps through eBay’s VeRO (Verified Rights Owner) program to have the listing photos removed by submitting my claim that I was the copyright owner*. So I filled out their online PDF and sent it in.
Right around this time, I finally heard back from eBay (around 11 pm, so about 14 hours after all this began). They wanted to look into my case, but by law, they needed my physical signature to proceed. No problem, right? Except that my stupid printer was out of ink, so I couldn’t even print out the stupid document and sign it and then scan it back in and then email it back to them so they could get started investigating whether or not this guy was infringing on my copyright.
No immediate gratification of justice served.
Cue despondent sobbing.
Can I share with you guys from my heart? I love what I do, but I work really hard for and on my pieces.
I spend hours trolling the scummy depths of Craigslist to find awesome things. I lug them home and clean them up. I set up my DSLR and tripod and remote and spend a great deal of time composing, styling, and taking the best photos I can. I load those photos onto my computer and fix lighting and color and crop in Photoshop, which is far more time consuming than you might think. I save three sets of photos: original size, resized for Craigslist, and resized (a different resolution) and watermarked for the blog.
And after I’ve invested all of this time and effort and creativity and heart and soul into something, what does someone do? He swoops in and steals all of my hard work.
It hurt, and the hurt phase lasted the longest. I took it personally. Why keep giving and giving everything to a passion that isn’t necessarily paying off? I’m never going to be able to create a job for myself through this. I don’t know how to grow or expand this. I’m just pouring my heart and soul out to a dream. My ambitions and aspirations might never come to pass. Why persevere? Why work so hard just to have my dreams coopted and exploited?
As you can see, this went very quickly from: I’m upset because some jerk stole my photos; to: I now question the worth of all my endeavors. True Ecclesiastes style.
Thankfully, somewhere along the way I calmed down and resolved my existential crisis.
I still don’t have printer ink, and I still have a very miniscule amount of faith in humanity (but mostly no printer ink), so this is the message I sent to the eBay seller this morning:
The photos you are using in this post are actually copyrighted images owned by me and protected under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. You can read more about the DMCA here: http://www.copyright.gov/legislation/dmca.pdf. To summarize: it’s illegal to use my intellectual property (the photos) without my permission. I can continue pursuing a course of action through eBay’s VeRO (Verified RIghts Owner) program, but I hope that you will simply cease and desist using my content so I don’t need to escalate this.
– [my ebay name]
I am hopeful that this will work, and that perhaps the seller just didn’t realize the seriousness of using someone else’s content. Maybe he’ll take the photos down.
If not, I can always go buy some printer ink and let eBay handle it. But I feel better for taking the high road and attempting resolution before revenge.
P.S. You noticed the “Part 1” in the title, right? I looked at how long this post was, and then at how much more I have to say on the subject, and decided I’d string you guys along for at least another post or so. Whether you’re a blogger or not, it’s really important to understand copyright issues in this digital age, so I want to talk about that a little more next time!
Tell me: Have you experienced copyright infringement? What steps did you take? Did you go through the same hurt and anger, or do you expect such things to come with the territory?
Continue reading Part 2 here!