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Submitted on
August 19, 2006


The real title of this entry is "Theft of Intellectual Property: The Sincerest Form Of Flattery?"



I was looking through some old, hand-colored SEM images that I was thinking of posting to my gallery. One of the images was a specimen of freshwater algae called a desmid. I wanted to verify the identification, so I took a quick trip to Wikipedia...

When I found this article: , my reaction went something like this:

     "Huh... That looks exactly like my picture..."   :O_o:

     "Wow! That is my picture!" :eyepopping:

     "Holy shit!!! That's MY MOTHER-FUCKING PICTURE!!!"    :jawdrop: :angered:  :threaten:

Turns out that a website called "Cosmic Light" has lifted, in it's entirety, an old gallery I used to have on CompuServe. A total of 16 images and their descriptions… , as well as the (truly awful) text for an article on electron microscopy… that I did for an issue of CS's hardcopy, magazine that featured my work.

So, I went back to Wikipedia and found the following six articles, all of which prominantly display my pics. If the articles have more than one pic, I list mine in ().

Integrated Circuit</b> (… and…
Electrical Filament</b>
Magnesium Oxide</b> (…
Sodium Chloride</b>  (…
Stoma</b>  (both images)
Penicillium</b> (…

From the following quote it looks like the guy at Cosmic Light may have made an innocent mistake and thought that because he found the images/text on line that they were automatically considered to be in the public domain.

"These artificially colored images were originally put in the public domain in a very early AOL image library, circa 1995, by R. B., a teacher and electron micrographer, along with text files describing the images and providing an interesting introduction to the SEM.  These files were used to provide the accompanying text."

To be fair, elsewhere in the site he does, in fact, give proper attribution to other people who have (voluntarily) allowed their images to be used.

I've written e-mails to both Wikipedia and the dude at Cosmic Light. However, I was so angry when I wrote them that I've decided to wait until tomorrow, re-edit the letters when I'm NOT hysterically enraged, and see where it goes from there.

Truth be told, now that I've calmed down some, I'm kind of flattered (hence the title of this journal entry). I mean, how many other photographers on dA can say they've got pictures plastered all over Wikipedia?

Hell... I've got more images on that site than Ansel-Fucking-Adams!!! That's gotta be something... Right?
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AWikipedian Featured By Owner Mar 29, 2007
"I'm kind of flattered ... I mean, how many other photographers on dA can say they've got pictures plastered all over Wikipedia? ... Hell... I've got more images on that site than Ansel-Fucking-Adams!!!"

Not anymore. :-( Now that they've found this, all of your images have been deleted.

Wikipedia used to allow images with the permission and attribution of the copyright holder, so we could have given you attribution and used the images with your permission, but this has been restricted more and more over time. Now they've managed to prohibit all content that isn't freely licensed for use by anyone for any purpose and it's really pissing me off.

Don't get me wrong; I fully support the free content movement and have spent countless hours contributing text and have created more than 100 free images for the project, but c'mon. If we've been given permission to use an image on the site, and there's *no* free image that provides the same information, what's the harm in using it? WE HAVE PERMISSION. We are legally and morally allowed to use the image! Grrr!!! So what if other people can't copy and redistribute it? At least they can *see something*. At least they can learn something.

But that's not good enough for them, apparently.

So now your beautiful images are gone, and I don't know how they will ever be replaced with free ones. *Sigh*
eyeballman Featured By Owner Mar 30, 2007
You're about two months late. I was contacted by a Wiki editor some time ago and the situation has been rectified.

You created images for Wiki, I didn't. The point is that I didn't post the pics at all, someone who ripped them did. An encyclopedia that doesn't check it's sources is a pretty poor encyclopedia.

Personally I'm not interested in making other people's life more interesting if it requires the use of stolen property - especially when that property can be used by anyone in their commercial endeavors.

If that makes me a bad person, I can live happily with it.
AWikipedian Featured By Owner Mar 30, 2007
"You're about two months late."

Yeah, I was involved with that. I was just reminded of this by the licensing policy that was created last week, and that I am unhappy with.

"If that makes me a bad person, I can live happily with it."

When did I say you were a bad person? I'm complaining about the Wikimedia Foundation, not you.

You said that you were, ultimately, flattered, and "I don't necessarily want either Wiki or Cosmic Light to take the images down, I just want proper attribution". So I'm assuming that you would give us permission to use the images if they were only used on our own site if they were fully attributed to you. But, unfortunately, that's not enough. You'd have to license them for commercial use as well, which you're not ok with, and which I completely understand. It sucks because I'd really like our articles to have your pictures, but, unfortunately, the people upstairs have decreed that this isn't "free enough", and it pisses me off. Your images are the prime example in my mind of the harm that these policies are doing to our project.
eyeballman Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2007
Hello again...

I've found two more images on Wiki that have been uploaded without my permission...




Once again, the images are incorrectly identified as being in the public domain.

Unless the licensing rules have changed, I guess I'll need to ask that those images be removed too...

Ron Barber
eyeballman Featured By Owner Mar 30, 2007
Could the images be used under the "fair use" EDP (which I imagine would exclude commercial use)?

"Content used under this doctrine on Wikipedia must meet the United States legal tests for fair use. Furthermore, Wikipedia places additional restrictions on "fair use" of copyrighted material; the image or content can only be used if it is not replaceable with a free content image."

There can't be many "free content images" to replace mine...

Or has the use of the "fair use" EDP been abolished in general - the links given by Wiki to various parts of the policy seem to give conflicting information...
eyeballman Featured By Owner Mar 30, 2007
Sorry for the misinterpretation. I'll have to read more carefully. My only excuse is that I read your post at 5am before I'd pumped enough caffeine through the syringe into my veins.

I would have LOVED to keep my images on Wiki. And you are correct, if they could have been used under the old "non-commercial" licensce, they'd still be there. But I am a professional photographer and the pictures I take are my livelihood. If someone is going to use them commercially, I'd at least like to know about it before I see them in stores...

If there's anything I can do to "help the cause" (testimonials, etc.) let me know and I'll do what I can.
eduardofrench Featured By Owner Oct 1, 2006   Photographer
:o Damn.... I don't get it how people take as their own pictures, drawings, photos, etc of other people, heck everytime I do a powerpoint presentation I took the photos I need (even in the time when I used film, then with my powershot a40 and now with my digi slr!) but that is something I think, schools, colleges and universities fail to inforce, the usage of internet material like photos in an assignement should be used (and received by the cathedratics) with the permission of the author.

the "freedom" of the net has been mistaked with stealing!!

Hope everything solves out in a good way!
UniquelyYours Featured By Owner Aug 22, 2006
Wow... I see the dilemia in how you "should feel". It truely is a double edge sword... one shines, and the other side stings. What happened??
eyeballman Featured By Owner Aug 22, 2006
Haven't sent the letter yet... The first one was pretty fucking nasty and my wife gave me the Marge Simpson noise. So I rewrote it last night. If I get approval from She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed (chief editor and proofreader of all my official correspondence and my life in general ;P), I'll send it tomorrow.

I'm not anticipating any trouble. I only want attribution, not money... =)
UniquelyYours Featured By Owner Aug 22, 2006
Well, if you don't want money and just credit I don't see the problem... Good thing you have a She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed ... it will keep you balanced. Good luck with that
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