Thursday, January 29, 2009

Hey guys, stop stealing my pictures! Thanks!

You don't all need to stop using them. You just need to stop taking credit for them.

A minute ago I searched for "Philippines" on Google News and in the image thumbnails there was a picture that I took of the Philippine flag and contributed to Wikipedia. It was on a news article about some kidnapped teachers in Zamboanga, and my flag image was being used as an accompanying photo. Completely without attribution! The site is from New Zealand, which surprised me a bit. I thought first world countries would have more class.

This is just another instance of something that happens all the time. I can't even remember all the cases I happened to come across one of the dozens of photos I've uploaded to Wikipedia. Off the top of my head I can tell you I've seen them used in The Inquirer, in Cebu Daily News, at, on ABS-CBN News Channel, on GMA News, in the Negros Chronicle, in an in-flight Cebu Pacific magazine, on the t-shirt of some fat lady I saw in National Bookstore, and tons more.

It's not that I want people to stop using the images. After all, I uploaded them to the internet for the good of everyone. But all that's needed is follow the terms that the image is licensed under.

All my image contributions are dual licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL) and Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 (CC-BY-SA).

They used to be licensed only under the GFDL, until I noticed them being swiped by some news outlets and realized how unreasonable it would be to demand that they abide by the license's terms-- which would mean they'd have to include a printed copy of the 3000-word license.

That's right, they stole my image without credit, and my retaliation was to switch to a license that's even easier to comply with.

The terms of the CC-BY-SA license are really, really simple: You are free to share and modify the image, as long as you appropriately attribute it, and distribute it under an identical license. That's all there is to it.

You can put it in your website, print it in a magazine or newspaper, use it on a poster, broadcast it on television, modify it to your heart's delight, do anything with it you can imagine. You can even print it, frame it, and sell it-- for profit!

But come on guys, you need to give credit where it's due!


  1. Ah, yes, credit! I've been victimized as well. About a decade ago I published my second conference paper. My professor at the time was my second author. When recently searching for that paper online, I came across my professor's CV and found that she cited the paper, but with herself as the only author. OK, granted, this was a lifetime ago and I doubt if anyone ever read that paper, but still it bugs me. I think I'm going to write her about it.

  2. Psst, Mike: I wrote her and she changed her CV. Amazing what a polite request does. ;)

  3. Swiping images from the internet without credit can usually be explained by laziness or ignorance of the rules. Stealing credit for a conference paper, especially if it's someone you know, is on a higher level... that takes some gall. Good that a polite email can fix things up though. :)

  4. Hear! Hear! Of course we are both victims of unattributed maps and images.

  5. I used Mike's photos and Eugene's maps in my books, but I not only gave them credit, I also asked for prior permission.

  6. Kuya Vic, you are a rare bright spot in this vast dark internet.