Lara discovered that her photograph was being used by a company called TVX films for the cover of their pornographic DVD Body Magic. TVX had removed Lara's watermark from her image and added it to a DVD cover advertising the movie as “Hustler's Highest Rated”. After contacting the company she was told by the owner that the cover would be replaced and that her “ten seconds of fame” would soon come to an end, but later discovered her image was still popping up on various sites around the web. When her parents tried to take the matter further by contacting an American solicitor, they were told they would be charged £50,000 just to take the case on.
The discovery comes just weeks after Icelandic single mum Rebekka Guðleifsdóttir had her images stolen and sold to Only Dreemin, a canvas print manufacturer who made thousands using her work. Rebekka contacted a solicitor, who had the prints removed, but she failed to gain any compensation out of the matter as she was not in a financial position to take the matter further.
Yahoo! company Flickr for example uses no watermarks to safeguard images and they can be anything up to 1280 x 960 pixels in resolution, making easy for someone to copy and re-use images without the owners permission. Other similar photography galleries include photo.net, whose images are anything up to 650 x 651, and Photobucket, which contains images of up to 1024 x 768 in resolution. Aside from the photographic based galleries, there are also now many social networking sights which also lend themselves to image theft. MySpace, possibly the most popular social networking site, contains images of 600 x 480, while Bebo's maximum upload are images of 500 x 376 pixels or less.
What can you do to protect your images?
The only way to prevent this happening to you is to either mark your photo in some way, such as with a watermark in a place that cannot easily be cloned out, or only upload low resolution versions of your images. There is also a method of embedding secret codes into images as proof that they belong to you should they ever be stolen. For more information on protecting your images using secret coding, try this Steganography site.