Holding iOneChat.com, Facebook AND Google Images accountable for Photo Abuse

I thought I could get past this story without getting angry but I was wrong. The Rehtaeh Parsons tragedy is gaining visibility and iOneChat.com has closed its doors. Well, at least under that brand. I predict it will simply re-open under another name and resume these practices of running ads with stolen photos just like you see with the other dating sites. 

While I’m thrilled to see the story getting the attention it deserves, I still feel that folks are missing part of the bigger picture.  The Parsons story of sexual assault and cyber-bullying is tragic and she isn’t alone.  College student Eve Carson went missing and was found dead. Her picture later ended up on a billboard in India promoting studies abroad. Again, both stories are horrific on their own but were made worse by companies who stole photos just because they were posted online. How does this happen? Simple. Just read what Anh Dung, iOneChat.com web admin, had to say… 

“I simply used a tool to scrape images randomly on Google Images and inserted it into the [Facebook] ad campaign.”

THIS, is the other part that irks me. I’ve written about it before and here we are again. Google Images allows right-clicking so most people feel OK downloading pictures off of the internet even when it’s obviously wrong. You know who else allows almost anyone to download photos? Facebook. They not only allow right-clicking but actually provide a download button to make it easier.  

So, yeah, this is what really frustrates me. Both Google Images and Facebook are off the hook on this instance, again. They are enablers. They literally provide nearly unlimited photo content for the “stealing” when all they have to do is disable right-clicking or change the process slightly for downloading pics. Maybe someone at Google or Facebook will read this one-day and decide to do something about it. Until then, maybe you can get frustrated with me and help educate others by increasing visibility on the topic. I know I’m not alone here, right? Let’s tell Facebook AND Google Images to stop taking part in tragedies such as these. They too are at fault.

— Kevin (@kevinGEEdavis)

1.2 million YouTube views and not a penny earned for Watertown Shootout Video.

It was recently brought to my attention that some people still don’t know that YouTube will pay them for video views. Whether you create original content or happen to capture something amazing on camera, you could be sitting on a pot of gold IF you get lucky. 

Lucky? Yes. YouTube, unfortunately, is notorious for promising to pay and then making it nearly impossible to collect the money. It’s actually happening right now to one of our Rawporters who captured the historic Watertown Shootout video with amazing and eerie audio. 

It’s been two months since semi-anonymous user “Jess Ica” posted her Watertown Shootout video on YouTube and generated more than 1.2 million views.

imageThe potential for earning was significant but so was the risk. So far she hasn’t earned a single YouTube penny. Additionally, more than a dozen other YouTube users hijacked the video in those first few days to drive traffic back to their own YouTube Channels. Jess Ica not only missed out on those views but also had to spend hours flagging them and submitting takedown notices. She then saw her video being used by mainstream media without compensation because YouTube doesn’t take adequate measures to prevent downloading.


Needless to say, things quickly spiraled out of control, which can be quite an issue for someone not used to this level of excitement. She asked Rawporter for help. 

Issue #1: Piracy

Like Jess Ica, people find themselves in the right (or wrong) place at the right (or wrong) time and capture something amazing on camera. Most, unfortunately, don’t know that Rawporter can help protect and license this content so they post it online to YouTube, Facebook and Twitter where it is quickly targeted for piracy as in the case of Jess Ica’s Watertown Shootout video. Without the support of a larger entity like Rawporter, an individual has to make these cumbersome demands alone and hope for the best. In Jess Ica’s case, we simply provided a link to license the video from Rawporter legitimately and simplified the process for all parties. This also made it clear that there would be repercussions for stealing the video.

Issue #2: Compensation

Photo and video content is social currency. Period. A picture is worth a thousand words and a video is worth a thousand pictures. Media Outlets, Brands and Ad Agencies realize the value of rich media and have licensing budgets. Most go down the proper licensing path but others choose not to for a variety of reasons. Most often, it’s poor judgment or inability to reach the content owner.

In Jess Ica’s case, we made it easy easily license this content by including a link to Rawporter under the YouTube video.


Jess Ica has licensed her video to several mainstream media outlets, is getting paid for her video and will likely continue to do so months, if not years, to come. Meanwhile, even though she enabled advertising on YouTube in hopes of earning for views, she has yet to see a penny. Worse yet, her attempts to collect owed compensation have been denied! Here’s an overview:

Jess Ica enabled advertising and applied for an AdSense account, which was denied.

Her brother lives at the same address and already has an account so they assumed they were the same person.

She protested and a week later they approved the account AFTER the 1.2 million views.

YouTube finally agreed to pay Jess Ica on any views beyond the existing 1.2 million views if thresholds are met.

This is what I meant when I said, “IF you get lucky.” The bottom line is that YouTube earned significant advertising revenue from Jess Ica’s video and they are keeping it all. She should have earned a minimum of $2,400 if you do the basic math: 1.2 million impressions / 1000 impression x $2 (on the low end) = $2,400. This is just ONE video with a decent viewing audience. Just imagine how many other people are getting the same runaround and lining YouTube’s pockets when they should be getting fair credit and compensation for their work.  

It’s time to do more than express frustration. We need to expose injustices and create broader awareness to protect those that are contributing to the evolving media landscape. YouTube could be doing more for its users so let’s challenge them to improve that layer of protection and follow through on that payment process. These powerful videos are in more demand than ever and YouTube is obviously aware. If you choose to upload to YouTube, pay close attention to the process and don’t let them take advantage of you. Lastly, if you see others using your content without permission, you have the right to stop them and we are happy to help. 

If this has happened to you or someone you know, please contact kevin.davis@rawporter.com so our team can try to help others get the credit and compensation they deserve.

— Kevin (@kevinGEEdavis)

May 6

Does Google Images Perpetuate Piracy? You Bet!

Originally posted here compliments of Southern Technology Leaders 

Imagine a world where after you found an image online you had been searching for, you couldn’t right click and “Save Image As”. Hard to imagine that world isn’t it? We have all become so used to being able to just right click and use an image it has become second nature to our digital behavior. What would you do to get that image? 

Well, you’d have to buy it or shoot it yourself if you wanted that image. But this isn’t the world we live in, but we need to acknowledge this is the way it SHOULD be done but rarely is because it’s just so damn easy to steal stuff from the web. 

The digital age changed everything and Google is to thank for so many of the innovations that have allowed us to connect, work and share with people around the world, but some of their practices need to be examined, especially when it pertains to copyright infringement.


On a grand scale, just imagine what could happen to the economy if people started paying content creators for their work. There would be a photography e-commerce equivalent to iTunes almost overnight which could perceivably generate billions of dollars. This could actually happen if Google simply disabled the right-click “Save Image As” functionality. 

Pause… Ponder… Digest. 

This could actually happen. The endless supply of free images would shrink exponentially and everyone would have to turn to Creative Commons for the same generic stock content, buy it or shoot it him or herself. After all, you can’t publish all text these days. Few will read that long blog post or news article without an image to suck him you in.  Another possibility is that photographers could actually start earning money again and fewer Getty Images Demand Letters would need to be sent. Oh, you haven’t gotten a Demand Letter yet? Buyer – oops, I meant Pirate — beware!

Getty is all about copyright protection. Ken Mueller ( @kmueller62 ) wrote about this recently and explained that pulling that image off the Internet could cost you.  Getting a letter demanding payment of $1K might surprise you but it’s actually a reasonable request that wouldn’t be necessary if images weren’t so readily accessible. Do a quick search and you’ll see this happens frequently because people simply right-click and “Save Image As.”  Simply put, Google Images is perpetuating this piracy. There’s just no denying it.

I know people will continue to download photos and videos just like they do with music but there are ways to prevent it. Let’s start pushing Google to do the right thing and simply disable the right-click functionality on image search results. Let’s get permission to use photos and videos or buy them like we’re supposed to. What’s the worst that can happen? You actually dust of that old camera or fire up your smartphone and get out there yourself? Sounds like a good excuse to get some fresh air to me!

— Kevin (@kevinGEEdavis)

Social Media Crisis Carelessness

Who is feeling a massive sense of relief? The unfortunate people who were originally mistaken as suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing! It’s easy to get swept up in the hysteria when an unthinkable tragedy occurs, but we need to take a deep breath and pause before we open the social media floodgates. I’ll admit that I’m guilty of posting first and thinking later at times, but I’m making a concerted effort to improve my impulse control. Why? Because I’m tired of contributing to the 24/7 stream of misinformation. 

We saw it with Hurricane Sandy in 2012 where online postings reached an all time high (or low in this case) with altered images and blatant lies on Twitter that almost resulted in criminal charges against @comfortablysmug. And over the past several days since the Boston Marathon bombings, it’s gone a step further to witness sort of real-life witch-hunts. I was just as eager to find those responsible for this unthinkable act, but it’s apparent that something went wildly wrong when our friends at Reddit have to protect two people who are considered guilty before proven innocent by the public-at-large because they were wearing track suits, had bags with them and may have been middle eastern. 


With a little help from the media, these two people have had their identities exposed; their Facebook profiles shared and were ongoing targets for racial profiling. That kind of mob-mentality can ruin lives like it did for Richard Jewell after the 1996 Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta. In the future, let’s try to imagine how you would feel in their shoes and I’m sure you’d be a lot less likely to join the witch-hunt. We can put down the pitchforks and let these two people get on with their lives. 

Meanwhile, let’s applaud the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for doing their job and finding the people actually responsible for the bombing. Let’s hope this doesn’t happen again but if something similar does, then you can help by sending the FBI photos and videos to help their investigation. BUT, remember to take a moment to think through your next tweet before you join the social media frenzy which could do more harm than good. 

— Kevin (@kevinGEEdavis)

Boston Marathon Tragedy Condolences

An international event that usually ends in celebration was transformed into a tragedy yesterday. We at Rawporter would like to extend our most sincere condolences to those affected by the senseless Boston Marathon bombings.

By now, you’ve probably seen more visual coverage than you ever cared to or would have imagined. As painful as it is to imagine, these photos and videos can assist the FBI investigation and we encourage anyone with helpful information to call 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324), prompt #3. If you want to follow the FBI’s progress we encourage you to visit their website for more information.

Again, we are incredibly saddened by these events and our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.

Kevin, Rob and Michael.

Who L’eggo My Photo? Facebook, That’s Who!

I hate to break the news to you, but Facebook is not a social network anymore. Did I get your attention? It’s true. Facebook is now an ad network with a social layer.  Don’t be too upset, we should have seen it coming. They have finally come out of the closet and made your newsfeed fertile ground for ads to slip into your life moments. After all, they are making your photos available to just about anyone who wants to download them, including their own third-party business partners including ad agencies.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the idea of user-generated content (UGC) for commercial purposes but it should only be done with permission and payment when appropriate. Rawporter does business with everyone from traditional media outlets to reality TV production houses but only on behalf of our Rawporters. If a Rawporter has a photo they posted to Facebook or Twitter through our platform, we’re happy to ensure they get the credit and compensation they deserve. What concerns me is the blatant disregard Facebook has for copyright protection, which manifests itself in their download feature in the application.

Their main justification for download functionality is so friends can easily share personal photos. But why would they allow anyone outside that social circle to access to this content?

Here’s an example. I’ve met Fred Wilson, a VC and Principal at Union Square Ventures, but we’re not close enough to be Facebook friends. But if I want a picture of him, I can just download it. Why would I want Fred’s photo? Well, he’s popular and a well-known investor, so hypothetically, I could easily use his likeness in a campaign for an investment class, you know, cause I needed an image that I could find on the Internet, for free.

imageThink this would never happen? Think again.

Take a minute to view this video and you’ll see a couple of real-life examples. Having your family Christmas photo used by a Travel Agency is one thing, but wait until you see what happened to the photo of missing UNC college student Eve Carson who was later found murdered. It’s sickening and it happens frequently. People have had their identities stolen and even ended up, unknowingly, on scandalous dating websites. The list could go on for ages.

Is Facebook to blame for this? The lines are too blurry, but maybe it would be prudent for them to take action before they see a mass exodus due to fear and frustration.  Should Facebook disable the download function? From Rawporter’s point of view, Yes. 

Another option, and wait for it, would be to make it much harder to pirate those photos. Just because photos and videos are posted online doesn’t mean they are free for the taking.

As it becomes easier to take content from all over the internet and our digital lives increasingly become more open and susceptible to use by brands, ad agencies and news outlets, we’ll start to see more and more privacy and piracy issues around UGC (that’s YOUR content we are talking about) and we’ll need to find a solution. 

Rawporter was founded to protect your content and at the same time we want to create more awareness for you, media outlets, ad agencies and brands that your content is yours and has a value if it is going to be used.  So, l’eggo my photos (and videos) until I say its okay for you to have them.

— Kevin (@kevinGEEdavis)

Mar 1

Our SXSW Itinerary

The Rawporter team will once again descend on Austin for SXSW Interactive. Last year was our launch party, where almost 1,000 enthusiastic beta testers joined us for an awesome night. Rumor has it that even Kevin was spotted dancing, though all photographic evidence was destroyed immediately upon our return to Charlotte.

This year will be a little more low key, but we’d still love to meet any of Rawporters who happen to be in Austin. Here are some highlights of what we’ll be up to:

#bGiv The National Hour of Giving at SXSW 2013

We’ve partnered with the U-ee Foundation to help three local Austin families get back on their feet. We’ll take part in several round table discussions on how tech companies can take a more active approach in helping those in need. Plus we’ll have some fun with indoor skydiving provided by iFly Austin and a closing BBQ. We’ll be donating all the proceeds from photo or video sales to U-ee. To participate, upload your photos or videos to Rawporter (be sure to include #bGiv in the description) or visit sxswi.com to buy photos or videos.

SXSWi Sessions

There are tons of great sessions this year, but here are three we’ll definitely be attending:

Startup Village

We’ll also be sharing a booth in the Startup Village with the team from Nibletz.com and the folks at TechHustlers have been nice enough to let us crash their Recharge Lounge at the Hilton Garden Inn Downtown.

So, don’t be shy! Come out and see us if you’re in Austin!

—Rob (@RawporterRob)

Oops! It happened again. DKNY uses photos without permission.

I promise not to write about every copyright infringement incident, but I want to address this one because it wasn’t a media outlet or ad agency but a major brand that was involved. 

In short, DKNY approached NYC street photographer Brandon Stanton about using his photos, which he declined after failing to come to an agreement on compensation. A fan, halfway around the world, later informed him that a DKNY store in Thailand was using his photos anyway and sent photographic confirmation.

With a little help from social media, the story became public and got the attention of DKNY resulting in swift resolution. So, congratulations Brandon for seeking justice and I applaud DKNY for listening and doing the right thing. A $25K donation to the local Y is an amazing gesture on both their parts and once again shows how valuable this type of content is.  

I want to personally thank Brandon for going public with this and allowing me to once again remind folks that those photos and videos you post online have value. You own the copyright and are entitled to protect them.

The digital content game is changing the same way it did with music file sharing. Nobody thought iTunes would work but the landscape changed drastically when people started getting fined and faced potential jail time for Piracy. Now the masses get outraged when Instragram admits to selling images to ad agencies and major media outlets like the Washington Post are found guilty of copyright infringement. The consequences are material, with Instagram losing more than 25% of their users and a potential multi-million dollar settlement for the Washington Post.  Will media outlets, ad agencies and brands keeps stealing photos and videos? Of course, BUT the tide is turning and the risk is potentially severe now that precedent has been set.  

Let’s continue to share with others and reinforce the message that just because it’s online, doesn’t mean it’s free. It will take more education but I feel we are making progress quickly. The more we talk about it, the faster change will come. After all, even Twitter is paying attention. If you need another distraction, check out their sister site that is currently tracking over 6,500 copyright complaints!

— Kevin (@kevinGEEdavis)


This is utterly, wholly inexusable. Shame on @DKNY.

I am a street photographer in New York City. Several months ago, I was approached by a representative of DKNY who asked to purchase 300 of my photos to hang in their store windows “around the world.” They offered me $15,000. A friend in the industry told me that $50 per photo was not nearly enough to receive from a company with hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue. So I asked for more money. They said “no.”Today, a fan sent me a photo from a DKNY store in Bangkok. The window is full of my photos. These photos were used without my knowledge, and without compensation.I don’t want any money. But please REBLOG this post if you think that DKNY should donate $100,000 on my behalf to the YMCA in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. That donation would sure help a lot of deserving kids go to summer camp. I’ll let you guys know if it happens.


This is utterly, wholly inexusable. Shame on @DKNY.


I am a street photographer in New York City. Several months ago, I was approached by a representative of DKNY who asked to purchase 300 of my photos to hang in their store windows “around the world.” They offered me $15,000. A friend in the industry told me that $50 per photo was not nearly enough to receive from a company with hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue. So I asked for more money. They said “no.”

Today, a fan sent me a photo from a DKNY store in Bangkok. The window is full of my photos. These photos were used without my knowledge, and without compensation.

I don’t want any money. But please REBLOG this post if you think that DKNY should donate $100,000 on my behalf to the YMCA in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. That donation would sure help a lot of deserving kids go to summer camp. I’ll let you guys know if it happens.

Elephant in the Room: Citizen Journalism & UGC Compensation

I love Social Media Week and cannot stress enough how amazing the events are. I’ve been lucky enough to attend several sessions focused on Media and Journalism. Last night I attended a panel at the Associated Press HQ hosted by our friends at Muckrack and featuring heavy hitters like Eric Carvin (@ericcarvin), Steve Rubel (@steverubel), Greg Galant (@gregory), Sara Gillesby (@saraAPNYCand Craig Silverman (@craigSilverman). The title was Digital Newsgathering Standards: A #MuckedUp Conversation with AP. 

It was a lively discussion that quickly turned to User Generated Content and Citizen Journalism. We’ve been watching this landscape evolve and recent incidents like the Instagram controversy and copyright infringement lawsuit against the Washington Post have begun to make waves. I thought for sure that these items would be key to the “digital newsgathering standards” but the focus was solely on “verification” yet again. We get it. There are several amazing companies who focus on this and I applaud them for seizing that opportunity. But what about the other half of the equation? It’s important to find good content and validate that it’s real, but what about getting permission to use that item and compensating the owner?

I had to ask the question, and the tone changed in the room. If digital newsgathering standards are being established, I would expect that licensing would be included. Most major media outlets pay their employees so why not start thinking about compensation for the people who are providing valuable photos and videos? Eric said it himself. “If we use it, it’s journalism.”

But he also said he’s more concerned with verification than copyright infringement. It’s not necessarily about being “sued” so much as paying someone fair compensation for their work. After all, the reason this content is so valuable is because it attracts traffic, which in turn generates revenue.  Shouldn’t that revenue be shared with the people doing the work?

I have nothing but respect for last night’s panel, but I don’t think we can continue to ignore copyright protection and compensation. Perhaps there’s a side to this debate that I’m missing, but surely it’s time we had the discussion. For those of you from last night’s session or any other journalism panel, I’d be happy to join these discussions. 

Meanwhile, here’s a Storify link to the event and the Muckrack Facebook page. Enjoy!

— Kevin (@kevinGEEdavis)