Fair warning: prepare to be outraged.
I don’t know how many of y’all who use Flickr have had this problem, but here’s the thing. Occasionally I get people who add me as their contact who speak very little English, and who have no pictures available in their photostream. If I ignore it, a couple of days later, I’ll get a Flickr message like this (honest to God, I’m copying & pasting one of the emails I’ve gotten):
Catie I found very beautiful, and I can use the photos of her. Please think well. The Catie is the most perfect little girl that I ever knew, I am photographer.
I found this very beautiful little girl, and in my opinion should be a model. She is simply nice, beautiful, sweet … I would like to know her better, and thus allowing me to use the photos of his daughter.
Many people use the photos of her daughter in ORKUT, if you want I can help it.
Kisses, good week and good night.
The first time I got one of these, I wondered what the hell Orkut was, so I did some investigating. Turns out, it’s a social networking site, sort of like Facebook or MySpace, but the users are predominantly in Brazil and India. It’s run by Google, and appears to be a legitimate website from what I can tell.
So, whenever this comes up, I always respond that NO, you may NOT use the photos of my daughter, and then I block them so they can’t see my Flickr pictures anymore. Lately, I’ve been even more proactive: if someone adds me as a contact and they have a vaguely foreign-sounding name and nothing in their photostream? I block them. No questions asked, they’re just gone.
Then, the other day I got an email from someone on Flickr with a link to a profile on Orkut. I followed the link and found this.
Somebody set up an account, claiming that they’re me, using my daughter’s picture as their profile pic, and acting all outraged that people are using Catie’s pictures on Orkut. And they add that “Bianca and Daph” (who??) are the only people authorized to use Catie’s pictures. What the ever-loving eff?!?!!
First, I reported this person to Orkut for identity theft. Then I started doing some investigating. Orkut is sort of like Facebook in that you can post a message called a “scrap” (sort of like writing on someone’s wall in FB). I left a message that was borderline hysterical, sort of “who the hell is this? You’re using my daughter’s picture and acting as though you’re me online? TAKE THIS PICTURE DOWN IMMEDIATELY OR I WILL HUNT YOU DOWN AND ARRRRGGGGHHH HULK SMASH!!!” Or, you know, something to that effect. I’m pretty sure I dropped an f-bomb. (Which probably has less effect on someone who speaks poor English.)
This is the response I got.
No I have not got it very badly and I really apologize, is that I see many people using photos of her daughter Catie and I decided to do this to stop using his daughter, if you are aware already found 5 girls who wore the daughter and she stopped using because I asked, even though I did wrong I have done something right, sorry about that
So… you’re just pretending to be me in order to protect my kid? Um, sorry, but NO. If you think someone is doing something unseemly with pictures of a stranger’s child, wouldn’t you, I don’t know, try to CONTACT the parent of the child whose pictures are being used illicitly? Maybe?
I took this screenshot & posted it on Flickr, and the person immediately contacted me and asked me to remove it. HELL NO, jackass. I responded and said that I would not be removing it because I wanted to warn the other parents I know to be on the lookout for this. Meanwhile, the profile appears to have been removed, so yay for that, I guess.
So, now I’m left with questions:
1. Why on earth would anyone have any interest in these pictures? It’s not as though they’re naked pictures of her that could be construed as p0rnographic. I don’t post anything like that. What’s the motivation for this? A quick search on Flickr shows that I am definitely not the only one having this problem. But why? What’s the purpose? Do I need to be worried that some Brazilian child sex ring is going to come to North Carolina looking for my daughter? (That’s what my mom thinks. She advised me to shut down my Flickr account AND my blog when she heard about this. And Mom, I love you, but no.)
2. What do I do now? I don’t want to set my Flickr account private, because then I won’t be able to use the pictures on my blog. How do I keep this from happening in the future? Do I stick a watermark on my photos? Would that even help? I mean, if they’re going to steal so blatantly, I doubt a watermark would be much of a deterrent.
3. How do I use my tiny little space on the Internet to try to make this stop? I doubt I can make huge websites like Flickr or Google listen to me. I’d love it if Flickr had some sort of option to block incoming links, so I could have an option that blocks anybody who’s clicking over from Orkut. But I doubt they’re going to make a major site design overhaul based on the complaints of a few people. So, what to do? I know some of y’all are way more clever than I am with this type of thing. If you have any ideas, please share them.