NEW YORK (CBS 2) — Millions of photos are posted online each day, including pictures of grandchildren and family vacations. Increasingly, these images are being stolen and re-posted in all kids of places. But, there are ways to protect your images.
Jay Breen said he loves posting photos on Facebook.
“If I’m doing something interesting or fun, like traveling, traveling to other countries or, you know, to an island,” Breen told CBS 2’s Maurice Dubois.
Like many people, Breen posts his pictures online to share with family and friends. But recently he was shocked to find out that some of his pictures were being used to promote a scandalous dating website.
“Up come pictures of myself, three pictures that I posted on Facebook when I first signed up a while ago. This particular website is something I didn’t want to be associated with,” Breen said.
Breen’s photos had been stolen right off his personal Facebook page and he’s not alone. Security experts say with hundreds of millions of photos uploaded to social media sites daily, more and more of them are being copied and shared without consent.
Ironically, attorney Doug Isenberg said, this is something you should be protected from.
“Anything that you or I can create, as long as it is an original work of authorship, is protected under U.S. copyright law. It can include photographs, video, audio,” Isenberg said.
Isenberg said hackers copy pictures off private online albums and sell them for about a dollar each. The photos are sold to legitimate and illegitimate organizations — from scam sites to foreign billboards and political groups. One New Jersey couple was shocked to see their engagement photo being used in an anti-gay marriage campaign.
When Breen saw his photo being misused, he said he immediately wrote the site a letter.
“Please remove it, in capital letters, before I get, you know, someone involved, an attorney involved,” Breen said.
“You could send a cease and desist letter, citing violations of U.S. Copyright Act and certainly, in an extreme case, you can file a complaint in court for copyright infringement,” Isenberg added.
If you’re worried about your photos being stolen, first, limit access on your social media page to immediate friends and family only. There are also a growing number of search companies that will scour the Internet, looking for your stolen images.
“Think before you do it because you never know where the pictures will end up,” Breen said.
Another precaution is putting a visible watermark on your photos, like a logo or copyright image, to scare hackers off.
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