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Friday, 12 June 2009


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Those people are called "trolls" and they exist merely to get under your skin. In fact they are probably really psyched you wrote this article.


My first thought on reading a story about this was to wonder whether someone had engineered a wonderfully simple, effective viral marketing idea. The traffic to the site pictured must have increased by several orders of magnitude.

Your comments about anonymous Internet communication are spot on.

"The e-world, ...... the less we feel like being polite to each other, the more important it's going to be for all of us to act that way." (by Mike)

I can't agree more.

I'm pretty sure Mike that you are not a fan of Sarah Palin, but this is pretty much the same treatment. We as a society are becoming more crude and 'crasser' every day. We have forgotten what 'civil' means in civil rights. It is easy to act this way when we can hide behind the net - but more and more we are acting this way to our fellow human beings as a matter of fact. Thank you Mike for your comments on this.

It is surprising that this story has such a vast following. This sort of thing happens all the time. The ad this photo is placed in looks professionally rendered. I doubt the ad's creator was unaware of copyright laws. This criminal has a very low risk of getting caught and a lower risk of prosecution.

The comments aren't too surprising either. It's the internet. Anonymity emboldens people's darker impulses.

Both the comments and the image theft come from people that feel they have no chance of getting found out.

Well, whatever you post on the internet can get anywhere in the world. Knowing this, if you want rights about small time use you shouldn't post it. If you upload it and you want privacy, once it gets used without your permission, you should shut up. It's the only way to avoid people knowing what/who the picture is actually about.
Not the fairest or most comfortable of assumptions, but it's the safest.

Would it be mean to think the photo will wind up here?

About the comment she received and given that this is photography site and we are tried to have a better eye, well, there may be some truth in the statements she did not like.

It may not be nice to post this but I think we should say the truth and nothing but the truth, at least when criticizing photos.

Let us say if one has an objective pretty scale (symmetric face is one of the measures demonstrated, as it show healthiness and hence sexy/evolutionary attractive), some people are more lucky to be on the scale in a different position than us. In fact, many photos are about these different people. (I sort of remember there were discussion about slim girl; not in Tang Dynasty as in those days they favour very fatty girl).

The question obviously is how you put it and hence it can be quite nasty to say that she is the pretties among the 4, with a more natural smile -- imagine it is the little girl like this, it might be less issue. "Ah, what a pretty girl you are" is something you can say that to a girl with her family and everyone happy ... Of course, if you see two girls and obviously different but that is a boy there and well we do not care his feeling will get hurt. But then we have the little girl issue if one takes this political correct stance.

We live in a world we no longer can state the truth that people different and some are these and some are that. We can say that there are people that are retarded and some are genius. As one of the biologist has said we are not commenting on morality and goodness. In fact, if evolution favour stupidity there is nothing good about being smart.

Sorry, the other three is not natural smile.

As regards to the lens blur ... not that good isn't it? Can we say that.

P.S. Instead of "What a lovely picture", "Oh! they should not do this.", my first reaction is really like the nasty people. But I was not allow to say this also in my culture. I guess when you are in a group of web "strangers" in another country (America), I can say the truth out now. Of course, we shall be careful to say thing in front of children as they remember minor things like this for their life. "My sister always commented being pretty ..." is not very nice to the other sister. But as for Ms. Mom, sorry as an adult I am afraid she has to take some of it. In fact, recognizing the fact is important; unless you think prettiness on the picture is the most important thing in life -- as some model may be or other people comment is very important, you have to deal with it. I do not think Einstein's other family member is as photogenic as he is and also has not discovered major theories (Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, ...) in one year. So what. But you have to take the fact you are fortunate or unfortunate to be in that family.

I believe this is not the first such case of personal pictures being appropriated off the internet for commercial use.

As you say, there's no excuse for strangers to be rude about this to the folks involved. I'm thinking they're maybe jealous of all the attention the family is getting.

Didn't you know that photography is FREE for anyone to use? Only suckers actually pay for images. (Psst...don't tell that to folks who're due to pay me for some photography next week.)

The world -seems- to be getting nastier anonymously but more polite and p.s. in-person. Read through public comments on any American newspaper Web site and you'll see some of the nastiest, and generally most illiterate, comments even on some pretty vanilla stories...as long as commenters can remain anonymous. It seems to be a popular way to vent one's spleen with no personal risk. But go to a place where identities aren't so hidden, such as the Wall Street Journal, and you'll generally see much more thoughtful public comments.

In-person people seem to generally treat each other with more respect and kindness than I remember observing as a boy decades ago. But I suspect that there's a swelling amount of public resentment and hatred actually underneath that refined amalgam. People actually seem pissed and resentful about nearly everything, and the crappy economy seems to have exacerbated that situation.

Just my observations and opinion.

Mike, its one of the things I have been banging on about for a long time - lack of respect! If more people respected the views, feelings etc of others, I am sure this world could be a better place.

Right on. I get so tired of people insulting each other on the web (Mac vs. PC being one of the areas of maximal incivility) that I tend to stop reading comments on a site as soon as the first insult appears. After the first insult I can be pretty sure that actual content is going to vanish.

Moderated comments are the way to go; I'm quite happy that you moderate this blog. I'm far more willing to police politeness that I am willing to police any particular viewpoint.

I'm sure you have suffered your share of abuse that never sees the light of day because you moderate your comments.

Dear Mike,

Humans, by and large, are not polite because it is the "right thing," they are polite because there are unpleasant consequences in the real world if they aren't, ranging from getting snubbed to getting slugged (or ostracized, or fired, etc.).

Some people have said that the Internet encourages uncivil discourse. I think that's wrong. The problem is that it has no mechanism for DISCOURAGING it. People on the whole are not less polite online than in-person; I doubt the percentage of Jerks is much higher than it is in the real world.

The problem is that:

(a) In the real world you can usually avoid the jerks and most, not all, are responsive to aversive conditioning; neither of those work in open and anonymous online communications.

(b) In the real world the circle of people you have to deal with closely enough to experience their jerkiness is probably limited to a few hundred. Make that circle 1000 times larger. For a major Internet story, make it 10,000 times larger. Imagine the jerkiest person you know, and imagine 10,000 of them. Now imagine what the worst of those 10,000 are like!

And so you have trolls, the folks who are three sigma off the norm when it comes to social behavior. They are unavoidable in any unmoderated (and, especially, anonymous) online venue. Which is why I won't participate in those.

Because you are, unfortunately, dealing with more or less "ordinary" human behavior, I don't see it getting fixed unless a robust mechanism for punishing/discouraging transgressions online develops.

~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

"I'm sure you have suffered your share of abuse that never sees the light of day because you moderate your comments."

Not really. Just a few times. Most people who come here pick up on the prevailing norm pretty quickly. We get good comments from good people in general.

Anybody who missed it before can read about our comments in the "Comment Guidelines" listed under "Resources" in the sidebar.


hmm... so many things that one could say:

- Nice looking family
- How did they blow up the image without it being grainy?
- Even if you did put a watermark on the bottom it would have been cropped.
- It's a bit creepy if someone took my kids photos for an ad
- Photography is becoming a commodity when you can just randomly surf the web and, um, "get" a photo for an ad for the cost of a bottle of wine


"In the real world the circle of people you have to deal with closely enough to experience their jerkiness is probably limited to a few hundred. Make that circle 1000 times larger. For a major Internet story, make it 10,000 times larger. Imagine the jerkiest person you know, and imagine 10,000 of them. Now imagine what the worst of those 10,000 are like!"

These are commonly called criminals. One of the wonders of the internet: new crimes, bleh.

I'm fascinated by the "virtual world," I really am, to the point of thinking about researching and writing a book about it. But maybe Malcolm Gladwell could do it...

I first began noticing the effects of virtual world-dom when Miami Vice was a hit TV show. I worked in Miami at the time, and quite a bit with cops, and all of a sudden, cops were wearing pastel sportcoats; life imitating TV.

But the real breakout of the virtual world came with cable TV, when the cable stations proved how much cheaper it was to make "reality" shows than to pay for fictional shows. The problem was, many people don't consciously discriminate (maybe they can't) between what they see on TV and what they see out the window. There are thousands of child abusers in the US (and every other country), but on a per-capita basis, they're pretty rare. But because we can turn on Fox every night and see the "tough former prosecutor" screaming about the latest child abduction, we get the impression that a child is abducted every day, on every block. Doesn't happen -- but the perception exists. That has warped the way we raise children (many no longer have real childhoods), and led to some pretty weird distortions like arresting eighteen year old boys for having sex with their seventeen-year-old girlfriend; last week it was all right, because you were both seventeen, but this week it's five-to-eight in the local joint, with a lifelong record as a sex offender.

The Internet leaves itself open to the craziest people on the same basis; I look at three or four different photo websites, and every one of them has a nut. (I may be TOP's nut.) But it's not a rising tide of national barbarism -- most people are really pretty decent. But the internet acts as a filter that ensures that the nuttiest of us, the least civil, have a megaphone, which is all most of them ever wanted. And because two or three nuts are yelling at us with megaphones, we assume they must be everywhere.

The answer on most forums is a harsh but fair moderator. Some people would say that an active moderator is nothing more than a censor, and a threat to freedom of speech. Not really. Nobody is threatening your right to say anything you want -- just say it on your own forum. Newspapers never printed their craziest letters, and that wasn't considered censorship, it was considered responsibility.

Still, it's interesting, how the internet makes it possible for the tiniest clumps of nuts -- Al Queda, the American Nazi party, child porn freaks, Leica lovers -- to set up worldwide groups.

And this virtual world gives both us and the nuts the subconscious idea that there are a lot of them, that they are everywhere; and so we pass laws, and hire cops, and chase innocent photographers through the streets, suspecting them of planning to bomb skyscrapers.


"Perfect strangers" are, these days, few and far between, sad to say. And it is so much easier to be less than perfect with the anonymity of the web.

I wonder how many of our internet communication problems are really cultural and language misunderstandings. An example of this may be Dennis Ng's post above which I frankly could not understand, and was vaguely uncomfortable with although I am not quite sure why.

Some people feel the need to build themselves up by putting other people down. My grandmother used to say, "If they're picking on me, they're leaving someone else alone."

Of course, she also said, "Lord, I know you wouldn't give me any more than you knew I could handle, but sometimes I wish you didn't have such a high opinion of me."


I share your wonder in the speed at which information gets beamed around the world and back, and just as much how quickly we have come to expect that as the norm.

As for the innocence of the use, I'm not so sure. A little research suggests this one location of the Czech chain of a large Italian retailer.

I am quite impressed with the blow up capability from what would have been a very low res image...

She probably had a pretty high-res version online for a while. She still has some big JPEGs of her kids at her site, like ~2700x3600.


You haven't told the full story. It's unfair to say the grocer didn't want to pay a small fee. When he became aware of the true facts, he apologized, offered to remove the picture, and wanted to send Danielle Smith a bottle of wine.

Luckily I am a jerk in real life, so there is nothing two faced about it.

>>People in general really do need to learn to be polite, civil, and considerate on the internet, as well as everywhere else. Not just because they might get in trouble for doing the wrong thing, but because being courteous is the right thing...<<

One of the things I like most about this site is that you appear to have attracted a fair number of those who have already absorbed that lesson.

(Though John Camp is possibly being a little harsh towards Leica lovers.

The people who post nasty comments are just the usual type of no-life-internet-trolls i guess. Sad enough.

Generally this story confirms my initial impression that publishing personal photos on the internet is a not so good idea. This certain case is pretty harmless in the sense that the shop owner violates copyright, but that does not further harm the family. But when I think of facebook and co than I can imagine worse things happening, especially when I think how thoughtlessly people make their private life public. This story however shows how global the world has become, the way from US to Chech Repulic is quite short these days.

And then there are people who violate the privacy of others that cannot even object:
Though I think he already removed the more intimate pictures.

Ahhh c'mon Mike. yer ugly & yer mother dresses you funny. ;-)

Tyco and Gabe summed it up rather well:


1. This sort of treatment happens every day on the internet. Look at any Youtube "channel" that gets popular.

2. People are meaner about people they don't like in private than we're allowed to be in physical public space. Yes, what can stop mean treatment is its natural consequences, like job loss, incarceration, dirty looks, assault, lawsuits...

3. The more eyeballs that see a picture or read a word, the more likely some anonymous jerkwad is going to misappropriate it or use it as an opportunity to vent.

4. Cracking down on this behavior would take an onerously huge amount of effort and regulation. It would also require enforcement of changes in the way people think. All people.

5. Good luck with that.

Dennis Ng - Forgive me if I've misunderstood your post, but Mike's point is NOT that people should have critiqued the photo differently or in a dishonest way. It's that they shouldn't have critiqued the photo at all. The poster/photographer never asked for it, and never wanted commentary.

This isn't a case of someone getting brutally honest critique and taking it too hard. It's a case of some people feeling the need to send cruel comments to someone for no good reason.

I find that people on the Internet are always about 10-feet tall as long as they're in their mother's basement.

I've long found that one of the best ways to reduce nasty anonymous comments is to be active in one's own comment threads - something about the difference between a hosted get-together and an unhosted free-for-all applies to online spaces as well as those offline.

The "stealing of pictures for commercial use" issue isn't new, and probably will not go away any time soon. Even hotlinking, which is usually done by clueless amateurs, is a royal pain-in-the-a$$, as not only the image but also your bandwidth is stolen. (I search for my images URL periodically to see if anyone's attempting this - I've caught a few folks, some clueless and contrite, others less so.)

Here's another case similar to the one you've posted about - though I don't know what the man's hate comments were like, compared to hers.



Love your conclusion. True words, I try to live by. Not always successfully, unfortunately.

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