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what is going on?

what is going on?

September 29, 2007

(Updated below)

I have had a few emails asking me about the watermarks. One “funny” one that asked if I thought I was such a great photographer now with my new fancy camera that I had to put marks on them so no one would steal them. Yes! That is exactly it!

I forget sometimes that not everyone uses flickr.

stolen from flickr

Stolen and on orkut

This past week it became evident that people from a website called Orkut were stealing photos of children, many many photos, and creating fake profiles using the children’s photos. The process to have the photos removed was ridiculously arduous. My daughter had two profiles. I filled out the report abuse form no less than 2 dozen times with NO response. As of last night all but one photo was removed. I filled out yet another abuse form demanding that my daughter’s “profile” be removed.

I harbor no illusions that the internet is filled with rainbows and unicorns. This is not the first time my photos have been taken. In the past two weeks alone I know two people who have had their photos used on websites without their permission. Let me make this clear, this is not about pedophilia. This is about copyright infringement. I do not have a creative commons license on any of my photos. They are mine mine mine and taking them without permission is illegal.

Putting a watermark on the photos means people will be more apt to pass up the photo. Unless they have mad photo shopping skills and really want the photo.

The two examples I have above are screen shots of the webpages. This is how people steal photos. If they aren’t watermarked they now have the photo and can do with it whatever they want. There is no skill involved.

So now, how to watermark the photo. If you scroll through my recent photos you will see in the comment section that I had no idea how to do it either. I could write on my photos using an old Paint Shop Pro program, but I didn’t know how to change the opacity of the text.

In my comments on this photo, Andi left this link to a website that explains how to do this:


You will need some sort of photo editing software. There might be some programs available online for free download. if anyone knows of any feel free to leave a link in the comments.

Finally, I am in the process of turning most of my photos over to friends and family on flickr. If you want to be marked as a friend you need a flickr account. It is easy enough to set up. I can not add you unless you have an account of your own.

And now I must go spend my afternoon at the baseball field. Though with my new camera I am looking forward to it. Sort of.

A number of people have asked how to find out if their child is on Orkut. The easiest thing to tell you is to join this flickr group and a) search for your user name, though you would probably already know if someone had specifically identified your child, and then b) click on one of the links for one of the other kids and check out the photos in that profile. Then check out their contacts. Then their contacts. Then their contacts. Until you feel satisfied.

Posted by Chris @ 9:51 am  

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  1. JESSICA says:

    the world we now live in is sad.

  2. Jackie says:

    Hi, I like your blog and can understand about needing the watermarks to protect your childrens images. Here is a link for a free photo editing software that I use and like http://www.getpaint.net/

  3. Kate Brody says:

    good morning - Ok, so I don’t get this — what is this weird website creating fake “profiles” for children? ( I didn’t want to go to the site— giving them “business” ) why would a child need a “profile”? that’s creepy to me, so I don’t get it….go enjoy your new camera…. don’t let the unicorns and rainbows get you down! :)

  4. Leatitia says:

    Hi Chris, can I be one of your friend on flickr?

    It’s ridiculous, losing time stealing photos and creating profiles. Don’t they have better things to do? Sadly, probably no.

  5. Helen says:

    So they just went browsing Flickr looking for pics of kids? How did you find out that your daughter’s pictures were on their site?

  6. Melissa says:

    Thank you so much for this information. I have passed it on to someone who has their son’s picture all over their blog.

    I love your blog. Your humor is infectious!

  7. Shannon says:

    Yes, now I’m all paranoid. I know you probably don’t want to publish the site but now I want to check it out because I have tonnes of pics of my kids on Flickr and on my blog.

  8. Shannon says:

    How did you find out there were pics of your kids on this site?

  9. Michelle says:

    Can you please tell us that aren’t so internet savvy how to find out if our photos are being stolen? How did you find yours?

  10. Nina says:

    just found your website like a few weeks ago and have been spending my free time reading back. its rather fun looking at your family grow. miles would make such a hearthrob.

    sucks though that this is happening to you. hope that the problem would cease from occuring again once you start watermarking your pics.

  11. Sheree says:

    I hate Orkut/Google. They are making $$ by exploiting kids (even if they claim “it’s not our fault”). BAstards. I have considered going FF at flickr, but decided to go with watermarks instead. Most of my kiddy pics have obnoxious watermarks and all of my photos have watermarks somewhere.

    Congrats on the new camera, btw!

  12. Angella says:

    This is all making me nauseous. I have always set pictures of my kids to FF on Flickr because this all freaks me out. Now I think I’ll start watermarking the ones I post on my site.


  13. Cindy says:

    Chris, I’d like to be added too please. Thanks!


  14. Kate says:

    I love your photos, Please add me as a friend, I’m katymac79 on flicker.

  15. Kathy says:

    I just got HOME from the baseball field and have to go to another one at 2PM. Ahhh..at least it is a gorgeous day.

    How would I find out if my flickr pics had been taken and used someplace else? I’ve always had mine public. Guess I should change that.

    And can I be your flickr friend, too? :) I’m MsKathyElkins there.

  16. Divrchk says:

    Please add me to your Friends on Flickr. I love looking at your beautiful photos. http://www.flickr.com/photos/divrchk/

  17. Valerie says:

    I read about this yesterday from Dutch at sweet juniper. Sometimes people suck. My son’s baseball season has just started, and every time I go, I think of you and wish we were sitting next to eachother!

  18. Emily says:

    I’m a long-time reader who has never commented (on most of the blogs I read actually, I don’t comment much and now it’s occurring to me that I really should be.)
    I love your photos and the stories you tell, you really are a talented woman! Anyway I’m so sorry this is happening to your family (and Y at Joy Unexpected, and Dutch and Wood at Sweet Juniper… and and and.) anyway I was wondering if I could be added as a friend on flickr so I can keep seeing your photos. My link there is http://www.flickr.com/photos/emilyoliver/

  19. M&Co. says:

    Can I be a flickr friend?

  20. Sueb0b says:

    Yeah, you get a new camera and you instantly get all uppity and think you’re Annie Leibovitz or something…yeesh (joking).

    I would love to know how you found out your photos were being used.

  21. Wendy says:

    I would like to be your flickr friend, also: http://www.flickr.com/photos/soulprncs2/
    I,also, found this free trial version of a fairly easy watermarking program:
    I can use it and understand and that means it must be really easy.

  22. Heather's Garden says:

    Can I be your friend too? I’m hmb1974 on Flickr.

  23. Karen Vogel says:

    That picture-stealing is just so creepy!

  24. Andi says:


    Orkut isn’t creating the profiles but it is making it laughably easy for people to create fake accounts and make the profiles. They also only accept copyright infringement complaints from the actual holder of the copyright, so if you happen to see pictures of somebody else’s child on there, tell them ASAP because they and “parties authorised to act on their behalf” are the only ones who can get the photos removed. And even then, as Chris pointed out, it takes a LOT of complaining to get them to move.


    I appreciate you blogging about this; before I saw your flickr account, I didn’t understand the real reasons behind the watermark, but I’ve now locked down all child-related pics on my blog until I can apply watermarks to all of them. Better safe than sorry.

  25. Becky says:

    Ugh. This is awful. And I thought that it was terrible when people stole other people’s artwork from websites and claimed them as their own, but to do that with photographs of people’s kids!

    Could I be your friend as well? I’m Moonyrl on it.

  26. Bronnie says:

    Thanks for adding me as a contact on flickr :)

    You can change the opacity levels on layers on paint shop pro too.
    Just go to Layers> New Raster Layer & you can change the opacity level or go to Layers> properties & change it.

  27. Stacey says:

    I also want to know how you found out! I don’t use flickr, though I think I do have an old account there. I use photobucket and have it password protected. I also have a MySpace account where I share pics with family members but I do have the whole profile set to private and my pictures set to “friends only” as well. I “think” I’m doing the smart things but would still like to know how you found out so I can make sure my kids aren’t out there somewhere. And to think, at my son’s soccer game this morning, I was only concerned with trying to make sure the county name on his uniform wasn’t visible in any pictures I’d be sharing.

  28. stacie says:

    I’ve had images stolen before and it is infuriating! But I hadn’t thought my flickr photos were in danger– until just now, thank you.

  29. Crystal says:

    That IS really scary!! You have to let us know how you and your friends found out your pictures were somewhere else! There’s so much out there it seems impossible to just “find” a picture that had been stolen.

    I don’t use flicker, although I’ve always loved looking at your pictures on it. You’re such a great photographer! I loved your Helpful Hints on taking pictures on your “In the Trenches” website a while back. I use DropShots, which is not as secure as having flicker set on FF, but is very convenient. There is no password, but you have to know the URL in order to access the page (caps sensitive). I suppose people could do like email phishing and just keep trying user names. I love that you can also put up video’s at DropShots.

  30. Kate says:

    A free photoshop like program is the Gimp, which can be downloaded here: http://www.gimp.org/windows/

    It’s for the people who know what they’re doing, though…if you have no experience or aptitude for photo editing, it appears very complicated.

  31. Jeannette says:

    I love your photos! Can I be a friend too?


    I don’t comment very often, but I get very happy when I see a new blog entry.


  32. Anna says:

    me too please…for Flickr…

  33. carrie says:

    I wish it didn’t have to come to this. It makes me sick.

  34. jamie says:

    How do you find out if your picture has been stolen?? I mean, how would I know if someone was using my kids pics somewhere?

  35. Lisa says:

    Chris - I’ve been a reader of Notes from the Trenches back from when it was the Big Yellow House. I’ve left a few comments over the years, but mostly just enjoyed your great way with words and watching you deal with your blessings and trials. Please add me as a friend - I’m L82093 on flickr

  36. sarah says:

    Hi Chris. I too am sorry you have to do this to your wonderful photos. Can I be your friend too?


  37. Dutch Blitz » Blog Crises and Photo Editing says:

    [...] has SEVEN children! And I thought I was busy. I clearly have nothing to complain about.) posted this entry today about her photos that were stolen. She now watermarks her [...]

  38. Blythe says:

    I heard about this site recently. Sadly, it’s been happening for awhile in the cyber world, especially on parenting websites. I used to moderate at one and we had SO many problems with people stealing photos and claiming them as their own. We had one instance where this person was stealing pregnant belly shots and passing them off as their own.

    It’s horrible. As a digital designer, I am ALL for watermarking your pics. It doesn’t matter how good or bad the photo, protect it.

    Chris I thik your watermarks look fine either way ;)

  39. Mel says:

    Can I be added as a friend on FlickR? My screenname is mlmccormick82

  40. Nicki says:

    I have been a lurker for over a year now. I love reading about your family. I can so understand why you want to change your Flickr account. I had some of my photos stolen not too long ago, also. As a matter of fact, after some contemplation, I’ve recently ended my blog. I know this may sound ridiculous, but I felt rather violated by it. So, I need time to rethink if/how I’m going to do this blogging thing. :)

    Anyway, if you wouldn’t mind, I’d like to be a Flickr friend. Nicki@Living In My Mind I’ll understand if you are hesitant though, considering I’ve never commented here before.

  41. Kristin says:

    What the hell has happened to the Internet?

    Sorry this happened to you Chris. I remember seeing a picture of Nolan on some creeplor MySpace site and I felt like someone had stolen my toothbrush, massaged their cavities with it, and put it back. Gross.

    Am already your friend on flickr, I think? If not, would love to be.

  42. Rebecca says:

    Hi Chris! This is my first comment ever on a blog! Please add me as a friend on FlickR. My screenname is m&bmom. I enjoy your blog and look forward to reading everyday. I would truly miss seeing pics of Miles and the group!

  43. Rebecca says:

    Hi Chris, I’ve been a regular reader and occassional commenter/emailer for a while now, and would love to be added as a Flickr friend. My flickr account screen name is rmercurio8 (Rebecca Mercurio). . . I recently took my flickr photos down because of my own photo troubles, but will hopefully have them back up again soon.

  44. Single Mom With Tiny Tot says:

    OMG now i need to search the whole gosh durn internet for pictures of my child. ack!

  45. Amy says:

    oKAY…so I am off with the masses to check and see if my kids have fake profiles…maybe I will start watermarking as well!

  46. brookem says:

    wow, this is a really crappy way to repay someone who generously shares their writing and photos with the rest of us. it isn’t fair, but that’s just the way life is.

  47. Linds says:

    I love looking at your photos on your blog, and I was playing about with watermarks yesterday after reading your post. My son has managed to put a watermark on using simply word art. Is this enough? Or do I have to go and get a photo editing pack? Word Art does have on fill effects, transpaency layers, and it seemed to work.
    Another question… is it enough to simply state on your blog that all the content is yours and not to be used, or do you actually have to go and register copyright somewhere? Can we just use the copyright logo like you have on your watermark? Sigh. I always assume people are good. I hate being proven wrong. I don’t have a flickr account, and now I have no desire to get one either! I will jsut see what you post. Thanks for this.

  48. Molly says:

    Nobody has yet mentioned Snapfish. The only pictures online of my kids are on that website, and my settings are such that only friends and family can look at the albums. Does anyone have an opinion about whether that is safe enough? Can pictures be taken from Snapfish?

  49. Laura K. says:

    Add me to the club.. I’m tired of my photos being stolen and that’s WITH my watermarks on them! I don’t like to put it across the face but now they just crop them out! I guess I’m going to have to resort to it… SIGH

    I have you added as a friend already Chris

    Laura (Little Bee Photography)

  50. Brigitte says:

    Now I’m glad that I’m so technologically behind, I’ve never gotten an account or posted pictures at any of these sites! But now I have a dumb question . . do I actually have to have anything to PUT on Flickr to open an account there? Does it cost anything?

    I may not bother, so long as I can see the pics Chris posts directly into her blog, I’ve sometimes peeked at the other ones, but I guess I won’t keel over dead if I can’t anymore! :-)

  51. Kyran says:

    After all the (mostly) valuable dialogue & debate this fiasco has sparked across the board, I think it’s time parent bloggers began to look seriously at forming some kind of dues-paying association to help us leverage legal and other advocacy regarding safety and copyright issues like this. Maybe it could be nested within Blogher, even?

    I’m going to leave this comment in several places where this is an ongoing topic.

  52. liv says:

    this story makes me want to vomit. how, pray tell, did you find out that your pics had been stolen? i’m really freaking out now, as i have a flickr account chocked full of pics of my little girl. please tell us how you figured this out.

  53. Staci says:

    OOH OOH…me too! I want to be added to your friends. I absolutely love your pics, you are brilliant behind the camera!

    my flickr account is http://www.flickr.com/people/mom2threecrazykids

  54. Lulu says:

    Even though I had the unfortunate opportunity to attend the crimes against Children’s conference in Dallas this summer and have thought about kids pics on the web I didn’t get the watermark stuff. Thanks for sharing and glad you are on top of this.

    BTW this abuse of pictures could indeed be related to pedophilia. People that do that advertise like crazy among themselves (baseball card mentallity). A defense in court is often this is just a picture it’s not real (altered etc). Little too much info at the conference. What I did learn though is just how much law enforcement is working on the problem. They even asked us to look at pics to see if anyone recognized the kids. I passed on that. If you see anything that makes you have just a second thought besure to talk with local law enforcement.

  55. gorillabuns says:

    understand this issue very well. my oldest is the #1 searched picture under “big lips” with Alta Vista. i’ve complained several times and they won’t resond at all.

    it pretty much sucks!

  56. Katie says:

    My kids are too ugly to get their photos stolen. (Sorry, I have a hard time being serious about anything.)

    I’ve been considering the watermark issue for awhile now, I really should do that on my site. Although going through 4 years worth of pictures doesn’t sound like much fun.

  57. megan says:

    Wow. this is crazy. Call me clueless - but why does someone want to steal pictures of your little girl? I mean, a profile for a 4 year old?? What’s the point of this? What kind of people go to this website? I have never heard of this, but I do have my young children’s pictures posted on my blog. Please fill us in…I’m with everyone else about how you found out the pics were being used, what it’s for, etc….Please?

  58. JENinMICH says:

    what is the point of stealing pictures? I know once someone had a fake website and took my friend’s pictures of her triplets and claimed they were hers!

    Yes.. please fill us in!

    I”m “apezgirl” on flickr…..

  59. Norma says:

    Hi Chris,

    I, too, want to know how you found these pictures. I went to ORKUT or whatever and can’t find out how you came across the pictures! Please help me.

  60. bastet says:

    Thanks for the tip. It is interesting that you brought this up, I thought about it the other day…anyone can steal photos off my site…scary! Well, until today! ;) Thanks again!

  61. I just can’t anymore « Midsummer Night says:

    [...] What’s going on? [...]

  62. Débora says:

    Hi, I’ve been reading your blog lately and I really enjoyed it. I’m sorry for your doughter pictures! I went on the fake profile that is still on the page (whithout the pictures) and I tought you would like to know what the girl who stole the pictures is saying about it (I’m brazilian, so I translated it)
    Gentiiih,DELETARAM meu otro profile…a mãe da minha model me descobriiiu e daí el fui deletadah.. –’
    Maais eu naum vou desistiir naaum…vou ficah DESATIVADAH até essa guerra com as americanas acalmaar.

    which means:
    Guys, they desactivated my other profile.. the mum of my model found out and then the deleted my profile..
    But I’m not gonna give up…I’m gona be desactivated until this war calms down”

    I’m sorry this kind of sick people exist in my country, I hope it never happens again to you and that you don’t mind I translated her coment here.

    I love your blog!


  63. Holly Smith says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Chris. Do they also just download pics from a blog or webpage? I don’t have any on flickr.

    BTW, you take awesome pictures…really very wonderful!

  64. Pia says:

    How sad, that it is necessary to protect photos like that.

  65. SAHMmy Says says:

    I’ve chosen not to include photos of my family because I figure enough creeps leer at my kiddos in public as it is, without inviting them to view my children via the internet. That said, I do love your blog and enjoy the photos; so sweet! I’m not sure I understand your problem–if you sell your photos, isn’t any publicity good publicity?

  66. reen says:

    Chris, I am so sorry you’ve been caught up in that nightmare too. I’ve tried to search and don’t think my kids are on orkut, but there are SO MANY people using kids’ photos, who knows if I’ll ever exhaust the search. It’s horrible. Meanwhile I made most of my kids’ photos ff too.

    Anyway, I mostly lurk here but would love to continue seeing your beautiful photos. Would you please add me as a friend too? My flickr name’s mamalobaloca - just click on my link.

  67. Chris says:


    My problem is that I do NOT sell my photos. And what am I looking for publicity for exactly?

    Maybe I wasn’t making myself clear, I don’t want my children’s photos taken and used without my permission. Also, it is illegal.

  68. Mary W says:

    add me too please. i FF’d you (oh my that sounds raunchy)

    Also to SAHMommy this isn’t about selling pictures. This is about stealing some one else’s art and altering it or claiming it as your own. It’s a copyright infringemnet - that is illegal. It’s not that I think my pictures are the best in the world but they are MINE.

  69. Jonathan says:

    Can I be added as a friend on FlickR? I’ve been reading your blog for nearly two years. My screenname is jonbrealey. I don’t have much on there as I tend to use Facebook!

  70. Stacey says:

    Chris-I am very sorry that this has happened to you. How did you find out that your pictures were stolen? I worry about that too..I have noticed on Flickr that certain pics of my kids have lots of views and this scares me! I am going to try to figure out the watermark thing. I am not very internet/computer savy though. If you do make your pics on flickr just FF I would love to be added as a friend…I am Stacey623. I love reading your blog! You make me laugh, keep up the great work.

  71. peepnroosmom says:

    Hey Chris, I love your photos of your kids. Could I be one of your friends, too? My Flickr name is jmm1294. Thanks for sharing.

  72. Mama Loves Baby says:

    this is an excellent idea…. good good good. though i do have a right click protector on my website…. i will still start doing this right away.

  73. Elizabeth says:

    Hi Chris. Yikes! I’m skeeved!
    I just pulled down all of the pics I’d uploaded to Flikr. Is there a way to find out if your images have been used, without becoming a member of Orkut?

  74. Nicki says:

    First, thanks for raising awareness to this issue. I hadn’t heard of it until you posted about it and I have hundreds of pictures on Flickr. I wish there was an easier way to figure out if a picture was stolen. I tried to fish around Orkut and man that site is confusing.

    Please add me to your friends, I love your photography! My flickr id is sixmonkeyjungle

  75. We’ve been robbed! Freakin’ Thieves! I am sick of being surrounded by this kind of trash. : the SmockLady says:

    [...] read about what happened to Sweet Juniper here and Chris at Notes From the Tranches here (I’m a long time lurker of those sites). Then this happened and I got really angry. See, I [...]

  76. falwyn says:

    How frustrating it all is. But important to be aware.

    I would love to be a flickr friend as well. (Would hate to miss your fabulous photos.)

  77. Allanna says:

    I’d like to be added as your friend, too! (llannalee)

    And this is so terrible that people are stealing pictures. And it’s seeming to be happening ALL OVER THE PLACE.

    Sometimes I really don’t like the world.

  78. Angie says:

    Unfortunately, watermarks can be easily erased by those who know how to.

    Also, Orkut (a Google company) isn’t a very good site… and it isn’t popular either. Flickr (Yahoo company) is under the Creative Commons license, which means that you can use someone’s photos as long as you credit them.

    But let’s face it, whether something has a CC Licence, no licence, or has copyright all over it, some people just don’t care and will use it for their own means.

  79. Molly says:

    Wow, talk about photos that need copyrighting. Chris, your photos are wonderful, and btw do you know who else’s are? The woman who writes “coasting richly” (that’s the name of her blog). You should see what gorgeous photos she posted recently!

  80. nextcommercial says:

    So. Looks like I am taking my Flikr pictures down tonight.

  81. Keeping Our Kids Safe. Take a Minute to Read says:

    [...] Photos of children stolen from flickr and used to create fake profiles on orkut. Photos of children being used without permission for advertising and various places throughout the web, by companies who should know better. Flickr is turning into a free replacement for Getty and a candy store for perverts. [...]

  82. kayak woman says:

    Kristen wrote: What the hell has happened to the Internet?

    The Internet is and always has been a public place. If you want to protect writing or pictures or other information that you would want to keep other people from seeing (stealing, whatever) you need to go the extra mile to password protect it. Or watermark it or whatever.

    Or, you can just decide very carefully what kind of stuff you want to share with whoever surfs on in, like I just did.

    Kayak Woman,

    (An *old* mom of beautiful 20-something daughters who posts *some* pics of her kids and writes about them only under strict rules. Don’t get me wrong! If the Internet had been available to the general public in 1984 or so, I’d've been all over it posting stuff about my kids. Fortunately for them, it wasn’t. :-)

  83. Mom101 says:

    I just had to say that ever since you wrote this, your line about one “funny” one has stuck in my head and it cracks me up every time I imagine you saying it.

  84. Andy754 says:

    Hey Chris,

    We met at BlogHer 07 in Chicago at the brazilian restaurant with QueenofSpain. She told me about what’s going on with Orkut/Flickr and your post and I wanted to get in touch with you because I’ve been working on a solution for bloggers photos that will help reduce copyright violations such as what’s happened with your work. We will be starting an invitation only beta next week and I’d like to talk to you more about being a part of it.


  85. cher says:

    Okay, I’m late to the game and very groggy from headcold meds.. so, let me get this straight? Google owns this site Orka which is making it easy for people to steal the photos of other peoples children and make fake profiles of said children? Has google offered any explination as to why a child would need a profile? I tried to visit this ORKA site and found it led me straight to a google type profile page which I didn’t create. Hrmm… I read somewhere that there is a petition against this place? Where do I sign?

  86. At Home…in Alaska » Blog Archive » Warning for those with a Flickr Acct. says:

    [...] Please read this woman’s story for starters. Then, this one. [...]

  87. Wildkat says:

    Just wanted to comment to say thank you…I’ve been looking all day for the best way to copyright my photos and the links you provided did the trick! Thanks so much. OH and your picture looks great in Firefox

  88. Kribaby says:

    I work with a new photo site (www.photrade.com). We have image protection on our site - you can select a copyright watermark for your photos (its super easy) and share and post your photos like on flickr. The idea to add this image protection actually came from parent bloggers who were concerned about their kids. The site is currently invite only, but if you shoot me an email I can try to get you an invite. kribaby79 at gmail dot com.

  89. Follow-Up to What I Wish I Knew Then says:

    [...] a good idea to "watermark" them so that they are more difficult to steal.  Chris explains this in greater detail.As far as personal information is concerned, I have chosen not to [...]