How to stop other sellers from stealing your eBay photographs

Sooner or later, it happens to a lot of sellers: someone takes your photographs for their own eBay listings. eBay’s own wording does, I’m sorry to say, encourage this: the link to “sell one like this” for example, can look to newbies as though your entire listing is a library copy which anyone can use.

Some sellers take a laid-back approach, and choose not to care about image theft. But theft is what it is: taking your copyrighted material and using it for their own purposes. So if you do mind, what can you do about it?

Contact the other seller

Some people act from ignorance. A polite email asking them to remove your material from their listing might work, or at least, it did ten years ago. Most people are now aware that helping themselves to other people’s work is not allowed, and therefore act from a belief that they won’t get caught. Still others take the line that “it’s on the internet so it’s public domain” and will spout all kind of weird legalise at you in an attempt to justify themselves.

Does it work? Though this is the first thing eBay will tell you to do, don’t waste your time. At best, you’ll get an email full of abuse; at worst, you’ll get auction-wrecked (both have happened to me). Save your efforts for places they’ll make a difference.

Disable right-click & other javascript methods

There are plenty of ways in which people try to physically stop image theft, and the most common is disabling right-click > save. This, they believe, stops other people copying images from their listing. If you want to try this, you’ll have to Google for it; I’m not going to tell you how to do it because it’s uber-annoying, and…

Does it work? No. Anyone who wants your picture can check the page source instead and find the server location of your image that way. Or they can print-screen and crop the picture out. Moreover, you stop legitimate surfing habits, like right clicking to open in a new tab. And you’re in contravention of eBay’s site interference policy, so run the risk of getting your listings pulled. Don’t do this.

Watermarking

Watermarking is putting your ID across the image in transparent or very pale text, firmly marking the image as yours. I once wrote an eBay guide on how to do this with Irfanview or Photoshop though now there are a few programs around specifically to watermark pictures in bulk.

Does it work? Yes. I’ve found very few sellers now taking my photos since I started doing this. Better still, when I first began watermarking my pictures, I received an email from one of my competitors: could I please stop writing my name across the photographs, she said, only it wasn’t fair on other sellers who wanted to use them. Too right. :mrgreen:
But beware: if you sell on Amazon, you will have to provide non-watermarked images, so do keep the originals! And do not put your whole URL with the .co.uk/.com on the watermark, or you’re in contravention of the links policy and your listing could be pulled.

Contact eBay

This is eBay’s own recommendation. You need to send eBay the listing number of the infringing listing, plus the number of one of your own which is older. Even with this proof, Support’s first response is often to tell you to contact the other seller: see above. Once they’ve done this, I have had most success by replying to Support telling them that they are now assisting the seller in breaching my copyright and that they should remove the listing immediately.

Does it work? Usually, but eBay’s reaction time is not always fast, so you may find by the time they’ve told you to contact the seller and you’ve replied and they’ve maybe taken action, that the auction has ended anyway. If there are other things you can do at the same time (contacting the host or changing the image on a hot-linked picture, for example), you should certainly do them.

Contact the hosts

If your picture thief has copied your images to their own web hosting or picture hosting site, you can contact the hosts to request removal of your copyrighted material. If they have their own domain, you can use Domain Tools to find who is hosting it and then contact them directly. If your thief is using a picture hosting site, they will normally state procedures on that site for requesting removal of copyrighted material: for example, here is what to do for Photobucket and Flickr and other Yahoo services.

Does it work? Yes, but maybe not as quickly as you need it to. Some hosts will remove material in a matter of hours; some will take a week or more. Consider contacting hosts at the same time as you contact eBay to request removal of the listing.

Change the picture

Most picture thieves are now wise to this one, but just in case: if the thief is using the image hosted on your server rather than copying it to their own, you can change the picture. Note that this will change all instances, so if you have the same image on your own live listings, you’ll need to edit them first. I can’t really recommend changing the image to something pornographic, though I’ve seen other sellers do this: the most effective new image to put up is a message that says “email me and buy outside of eBay for lower prices”. Then report the listing for fee avoidance. It’ll be pulled in minutes.

Does it work? Yes. If this option is available to you without too much work changing your own listings, then you should definitely take it.

In conclusions, remember that you own your work, and stick to your guns. Some people caught out using other people’s photographs get very abusive: they may belittle your desire to keep your hard work for your own use, and tell you “it’s only a photograph”. You don’t have to accept this.

If you’ve had experience of having your work taken on eBay, let us know what you did about it in the comments.