Amateur photographer James Wheeler was looking through Shutterstock, one of the world’s largest stock photo sites, when its “similar images” algorithm began suggesting his own photos to him. It was then he realized his work had been stolen and uploaded by fraudsters.
His images had been downloaded from other sites, before being uploaded to Shutterstock. But it only gets worse: upon delving deeper, he realized it had been occurring for at least eight years. He says although the site did cooperate when he raised a complaint, they did nothing more than delete the offending images. The problem persists, as more just get uploaded upon a deletion. The only savior is that the site’s new feature recognizes similar-looking images and subsequently brings any illegal uploads to the photographer's attention.
In a new video posted to his YouTube account, Wheeler talks through his experience and offers advice on how to spot when others are uploading your work for sale through stock image sites. His advice includes details of how to send a DMCA takedown notice to get Shutterstock to take down photos, a process he is now well and truly acquainted with.
Wheeler raises the point that it would in fact be straighforward for sites like Shutterstock to catch copyright thieves before the photos are ever published online, using the same AI that recognizes and recommends similar images to the one(s) you’re viewing. But Shutterstock doesn’t currently have a system of that nature in place, so photographers are left with no choice but to do it manually.
View the video in full for further insight into Wheeler’s experiences and tips on how best to deal with similar situations.