1. Missed the live Ask the Expert event?
    Catch up on the conversation with Ken Hutcheson, President of U.S. Lawns, in the Franchising forum.

    Dismiss Notice

Misrepresentation & Itellectual Property

Discussion in 'Hardscaping' started by Murphy's Law, Feb 6, 2014.

  1. Murphy's Law

    Murphy's Law LawnSite Member
    from NH
    Messages: 174

    I was contacted the other day through my website from a web site developer who says his focus is on paver installers and masonry companies.

    I'm actually launching my brand new website in a couple weeks but the curiosity got the best of me.

    I followed his link and I started to look at sample sites that he built already.

    The home page of the very first one had the cover photo from Unilock's catalogue as the featured project. The very first example! 9 out of 10 homeowners who see that on their homepage would believe that they built that. I dug deeper into their website and I can assure you that they did not build it. Never mind that Unilock might have something to say about this guy using their professional photographs.

    Now this annoys the heck out me. Maybe it's because I have websites and picture editing on my mind but I can't stand when people pass off other work as their own.

    It's a total misrepresentation of who that company is and what they can do.

    In a separate search I saw the same group of photo examples in 3 different websites!!!! Are you kidding me? They are in separate parts of the country so it's not one company running 3 sites to generate more traffic and leads. The guys who built those sites stole an entire portfolio from someone.

    For you guys who have professional photography that you paid for of YOUR projects that you installed on your websites be careful. People steal things all the time and you would never know that Bob'sPatios.com is using your work to sell jobs.

    Watermarks are on my photos but I get the sense that they are like locks. Only keeping the honest guy out. Can they be removed from photos by a third party?
  2. PaperCutter

    PaperCutter LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,996

    Short of obliterating the entire pic with a watermark, you can get around watermarks.

    Do you know for sure that they're using Unilock's pics without permission? Apparently Belgard lets guys populate their entire portfolios with their imagery (again, comes back to the whole issue of "why do we care/we just want to sell our product").

    Local kid contacted me, new startup, saying he wanted me to send him my install work. I was going through his portfolio page and I was like wow, for someone just out of landscape architecture school he's got a LOT of high end jobs and this is some top notch pro photography. And then I saw one photo and I thought, "wait a sec, that's gotta be from Phoenix or Tucson or somewhere like that." I called him and asked him about it and he was totally unapologetic, saying Belgard told him to use the pics and it's cool because "we can totally do that kind of work we just haven't had the chance yet."

    Shady. I'm not sending him any work.
  3. DVS Hardscaper

    DVS Hardscaper LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,576

    Yes Belgard does in fact let contractors use their photos. Keep in mind, it may be Belgards photos......but it's not their work. They didnt even design it. So they don't care.
    Posted via Mobile Device
  4. DVS Hardscaper

    DVS Hardscaper LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,576

    Anything on the Internet can be pirated. My pics have watermarks too. And a majority of my pics have the watermarks on key places of the photos so that if anyone wants to try to remove it.....they screw up the picture's focal point.

    You can monitor activity with your website. You should be able to go into it through a back door and see when people click on it. My website shows my IP addresses. And you can trace the IP addresses to the town/state. So if someone from another state is spending alotta time on your site then you probably have a pirate. I remember about 8-10 years ago, on Lawn & Landscapes forum a guy noticed unusual activity from an IP address on his website. Low and behold he caught the thief half way across the country!

    You can also use Google Image to see if your pictures come up anywhere else on the net. Does anyone else know about Google image?

    Back in December I discovered someone on MD's eastern shore copied the domain name to my other website. Im in western MD. He merely added a word to the end. Why do that. A website with two words will always be easier to remember than a website with three words. It seems stupid on his part. And if you look at google you see my domain and his all on the page. It's confusing to the consumer. Why would you want to confuse people when you're on the other side of the state? It's stupid.

    And then it's awfully coincidental that his logo is VERY similar to mine. My logos always have one distinguishing characteristic to them, and his logo has the same characteristic. Very coincidental. But.....I don't use that logo on my website. I use it on my proposals and its in the signature of my email. So that tells me he must have had me do a pretend estimate.

    It's flattering that people like my brain work so much that they copy me. But on the other hand it's like "dude. Really? You're to stupid to come up with anything original on your own?" I thought about shooting him an email and calling him out. But then again I'm like "who cares, whatever floats your boat, karma will bite you in the butt".

    Same with my legal biz name. Someone in PA has my name as their tag line. There is no way they came up with that on their own. My biz name is SIMPLE. Very SIMPLE. And it took me about a month to come up with it. Part of my biz name derived from a portion of a name of a drywall hanging company in the area. It took some thought for me to come up with it the way I did.
    Posted via Mobile Device
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2014
  5. DVS Hardscaper

    DVS Hardscaper LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,576

    Posted via Mobile Device
  6. SoCalLandscapeMgmt

    SoCalLandscapeMgmt LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,109

    LOL... I remember that!! What ever happened to John? It looks like his website is no longer up. We used to have some good round and round political arguments between him and Sal!
  7. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,872

    This is a subject I probably have more experience in than almost anyone else here. I've spent hundreds of hours dealing with this crap over the years. Stealing copyrighted material from one website and using it on another one is illegal. But it's done all the time.

    First, understand the rules. It's illegal to take a photo, image or even a line of text from anyone else's website and use it on your website without their express written permission. Once you place something that you wrote or a photo of yours or anything that is uniquely yours on your website it's your "Intellectual Property". You don't ever have to copyright it or anything. It instantly becomes It's illegal in the USA as well as most countries around the world. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act protects this. It was signed into law in the U.S. as well as most other countries.

    If you ever find anyone using your photo, your logo, your catch phrase, or even copy an entire page (which has happened to me dozens of times) then you can get that removed. But it's the person who owns that stuff's right to go after others for it. If they don't care or don't take the time to go after it, it will continue.

    There are some serious penalties for those who do pirate photos, text, images, etc. First thing is that using copyrighted material on your website is a violation of your web hosting company's "Terms of Service". If they are notified of the violation they will either take down the web page in question, take down your entire site, or take down your entire site and ban you. All are not good options.

    The second recourse is getting your page and/or site de-listed on search engines. It's against the "Terms of Service" of all major search engines to use copyrighted material on your site. If the copyright holder notifies Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc. they will look into it and then if it's true they will take your website off all search results. And it's a real PITA to get it back when that happens.

    The third recourse is via civil court. There are some HUGE civil penalties for doing this. If the copyright holder chooses to, they can sue you. I know people who have done this and come away with tens of thousands of dollars. I've never had to go this far but there are whole law firms who LOVE to get these kind of cases. Really easy to prove and really easy to win. Only problem is the company you're going after has to have the money to pay out, otherwise, all you really do is put them out of business and then you're left with thousands in legal fees. I'm not a huge fan of this option because I find it much easier to just get people to take them down via the first two recourse options above.

    I've had our photos and/or content on our website stolen over a hundred times so far. In fact, I don't pursue it as much as I used to. It just got old. But it does bug the crap out of me. I still go after people when I find it. I just don't go out searching for it as often anymore. It all started when I had guys from Lawnsite and other local contractors notifying me that they saw one of our jobs - or an entire page on our website - on someone else's page. This started happening all the time a few years ago. Sometimes I'd get 2 or 3 notifications in a week about an offender. So one winter when things were slow I spent almost a month searching out all the offenders and going after every one of them. I cleared them all out at that point. Each time I find one it takes anywhere from 30 minutes to 90 minutes of my time to get it taken care of.

    To me, it's important because I don't want my photos, especially, to be all over the internet on other contractor's sites. That's bullcrap. Use photos of your own work, not mine.

    I would be happy to explain the process of how I go after the offenders if anyone wants to know. But it's a lot more typing. So I'm not going to bother unless someone really wants to know the exact process. Suffice it to say, there are easy ways to find out if someone has copied you content or photos and also fairly easy ways for you to get it removed with a little leg work.

    Then after I got all of them removed I took some steps on our website to help make it a lot more difficult to pirate our stuff. First, I disabled the right-click on our pages. That is how 80% of people were able to copy the photos. (Right Click - Copy Image). Next, we embedded a watermark into any photo we posted online, on or off our website. That prevented most other people from wanting to use our images. Yes, there are ways for someone who is good with photoshop to remove the watermark. But most people don't want to work that hard or know how. The third was we put copyright notifications on most of our pages. Once we did these three things we saw pirating of our stuff go down by 90%.

    I just caught a guy yesterday up in Washougal, Washington who had used two of our water feature photos on his site. Fortunately, it was an easy fix. I called him and reached him in person. I politely told him that I found our photos on his site and where and that I needed him to take them down. He explained that someone else built his website and he had no idea (they always say that...) but that he would get them removed right away. In this case, it was really funny because my watermark was on the photos clear as day. Looked pretty bad for him to have another contractor's photos on his site. But whatever. He had them removed by the end of that day. So problem solved.

    I think it's ridiculous that people can't use their own photos. But that's the reality of the internet. There are no police there. You have to police it yourself if you care. If you don't care, your stuff will very likely be pirated.

    If you're wondering if your photos on your site are being pirated or not (hint: they probably are) let me know the URL of your site and I can check really quickly and show you who the offenders are.
  8. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,872

    For instance, I just did a quick check on PaperCutter's website. I went to the "Patios and Walks" page and checked all the photos on that page. Real quick, I found out that the first photo on that page is being used on this website here.. Which isn't a big deal. That's more of a site about home inspiration ideas. They probably didn't ask permission. But they're using the photo in more of a complimentary way, as opposed to showing it off as their own work. It would be nice if they at least acknowledged where the photo came from, though.

    The bigger offense was the third photo down on the page. The one with the really beautiful pergola with stone columns. I found that photo on this other contractor's website here. Scroll down the page just a tad and you'll see he used that photo on the right.

    Again, this crap happens all the time. Most contractors just don't realize their photos are being copied and/or don't know how to find it easily. And some just don't care too.
  9. easy-lift guy

    easy-lift guy LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,372

    I believe copyright laws are limited to the US. Other countries like China will never have any issues with violating IP Rights. I also believe civil court solutions are more determined by how deep ones pockets are in order to prevail or not.
    easy-lift guy
  10. DVS Hardscaper

    DVS Hardscaper LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,576

    I agree about the civil suit talk. Usually it's just that.....talk. Most attorneys want the money upfront in order to take the case. The ones I have talked to (keep in mind we work in the DC market where a majority of our customers are attorneys) all say they usually want at least 6 G's up front, and that doesn't even guarantee a victory for the plaintiff. So the upfront money usually makes a prospective think twice.

    Also - say that Jim sued me. And Jim wins. And I have no money. He walks out of the court room with two things: 1) The same thing he walked in with when he entered the court room - NOTHING. And 2) A final bill from his attorney. Me, I walk out with a judgement against me. No biggie, there's a system for ways around that.

    You can toss and turn every night worrying about people using your pictures. Best thing to do is slap a watermark over the key point of the photo. And if anyone wants to set forth the time to photoshop the watermark - then they've earned it. It's like this - would you break into a house with an alarm system or would you enter a house with the door unlocked and no alarm system? Me, If I wanted pics from the net I'm gonna use pics that are not watermarked. Less work for me and it's faster.

    Jim - could you share with the class how you looked up photos from other sites and found them used elsewhere?

Share This Page