I, like many photographers, routinely use Google’s Image Search in order to find people that have stolen my photos in order to issue DMCA takedown notices. Recently, I came across a weird situation.
Several years ago, I took this photo depicting some “found” artwork at the site of the then-soon-to-be-demolished Good-Latimer tunnel in Dallas’ Deep Ellum neighborhood:
I photoblogged it in October of 2007 (and note that I don’t sell prints of it) and kind of forgot about it (that was almost six years and ~2,000 photos ago!).
So, imagine my surprise when Google Image Search returned a hit that showed some charlatan had taken my image, cleaned it up and made a (admittedly cool-looking) t-shirt from it:
And here’s an imperfect overlay of both. The oblique angle that I took the photo at is apparent in the t-shirt…the other variations are obviously from cleaning up the photo a bit and vectorizing it.
Normally, I would’ve fired off a DMCA notice to Redbubble and had the t-shirt removed, but in this case, my photo is of another’s artwork, so it’s a grey-area. The original work doesn’t exist anymore, having been demolished in late 2007 along with the rest of the graffiti-covered Good-Latimer Tunnel and determining the original artist would be nigh-impossible. And, since I don’t own the copyright to the original work, going after this image thief would be a pointless endeavour. So, instead it looks like I get to sit back and watch someone else make money off a derivative of my work that was originally a derivative work to begin with.
And it makes me damn angry.
And if I make my own t-shirt of this design, what’re my rights?