If I were to tell you that there is a website out there that steals photos you post on the Internet and sells them without your permission, how would you react? I bet you would not be happy. Earlier this week, our very own Thomas Stirr reached out to me, asking what I would do with a website called “WallPart.com” that sells posters of my photographs. At first, I didn’t think it would be bad, since my photos get taken without permission all the time and they often end up being on some unknown sites (mostly outside of the USA). But this one did tick me off a bit more than usual, since not only did it contain a boatload of my images sold at a ridiculous price of $5.59 for a 6×4 print, but it also contained images of pretty much every photographer I typed into the search field. And based on the Alexa rank of the website, the site has been growing at an incredibly fast rate, with close to 60% of hits coming from search engines. That’s pretty alarming, given that the majority of people ending up on the website are coming from the USA. So if you have been posting your work online, it is either already on this website, or fairly soon it will end up there. So what should you and I do about these thieves?
To start out on a positive note, let me say that I think the story of Pinterest is inspiring. It is tempting to believe that many of the simpler ideas associated with innovation have been thought of, and only very complex, time consuming, expensive initiatives can break new ground. Along comes Pinterest, offering an extremely simple idea – providing the electronic paradigm of a corkboard with photos, recipes, and other notes that people want to keep handy and visible, and giving them the opportunity to link to those of others. If anyone doubts that there is always a simple, yet powerful idea lurking around the corner, look no further than Pinterest.