Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Dealing With Image Theft
Making your site stand out in the vast universe of the World Wide Web is key to generating interest and ultimately business, but the hot design also can attract some unscrupulous and sticky fingers
In fashion, we use the word “look” to describe someone's style. Why we don't use the word “style” to describe someone's style, I'll never know, but there it is. It's a person's look that differentiates him or her from the rest of society at large. Oh, you know, “She has such a fabulous retro–'80s twist on a contemporary red–carpet look.” Our look is important to us.
As the Web has increasingly become a seamless part of our identity, the look of our Web presence has become as important to us as our regular personal style. So when someone recently stole my Web look and placed their own pictures in the design, I felt like someone showed up at my party wearing the same clothes as me.
My very first agent gave me a bit of advice when I found out that someone had said some nasty things about me at a party. He said, “Listen, whether they're talking good or they're talking bad, at least they're talking about you.” I've learned to embrace his words at the same time as I've tried not to annoy anyone so I can keep the scales heavier on the good gossip side. My current agent, on the other hand, is particularly concerned with me receiving any bad press, so about twice a month she Googles my name. “You're not gonna believe this,” she said one morning. She directed me to the Website of a photographer based in Sweden. It was my Website with his pictures.
Pardon Me, But I Think You're Wearing My Hat
If you think about it, all our great creative ideas have come from somewhere else. It was Picasso who said, “Bad artists copy. Good artists steal.” Nowadays, we just call it emulation and inspiration. Fortunately, by the time anyone really cares that we're bogarting someone else's photographic ideas, we've evolved our own style and our creative appropriations have become blended into the foundation of our own unique offerings. There's really no way to prove where the initial inspiration came from, thankfully. As for my inspirational genesis, if anyone knows Peter Linbergh, my name is Angela and I live in Oregon. When it comes to digital “inspiration,” things are a little more cut and dry. My Web guys, in the interest of protecting their work, have embedded a sort of digital watermark in the code of the Website. This watermark is accessed by Web crawlers who, in turn, convey the information to the search engines.
Before you get that glazed look on your face, allow me to translate. Every site on the Web is made up of graphic elements that sit on top of a foundation of code that tells the site what to do and how to act when a user interacts with it. Deep within that code is a string of characters that identifies the code as being created by my programmers. Google, Yahoo and other search engines have little programs called Web crawlers cruising the Internet looking for metadata. The metadata is used to build a database of information on all the sites that the crawler encounters, allowing you to search for sites using keywords. The previously mentioned embedded copyright is grabbed by the crawlers and becomes a part of the search engine databases. So when my agent did a search for my name in Google and Yahoo, the site of the thief actually showed up in the search results. Cool, huh?