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03 December 2012

RedBubble's refusal to address issue of watermarking

I have been a member of the print site, RedBubble for several years.  Over the past year or so, I have constantly found my work illegally on websites and blogs where the metadata of my infringed work indicates that the infringer lifted the image from RedBubble.  While RB does watermark the large thumbnail on the site, it refuses to place watermarks on smaller thumbnails which are, of course, able to be used for web use.  The lack of watermark is an open invitation to infringers who appear to think that without a watermark, images are not protected by copyright laws.  Wrong, of course but its the constant refrain from infringers.  One of the infringers actually admitted to my US attorney that the image was obtained from RB without the watermark.  I brought this up last year with RB and was fobbed off.  So, again, within the past week, I tried again and what followed was something out of the Mad Hatter's Tea Party.  I wrote asking why they were not watermarking thumbnail images explaining that they were being nicked constantly.  I got the usual, probably computer generated response "thanks for writing...really sorry about the copyright is of upmost importance...unfortunately its near impossible to prevent ..." and then a load of waffle.  Nothing to justify keeping unwatermarked images, my images, on their site.  It would appear that they only believe that folk download images to print out at home so they would not download low res as it would not look good on paper.  Little do they know that images are downloaded for website and blog use.   And then they closed the thread.   Warming to the subject, I sent them the following which appeared on 30 November:

"You never addressed the issue of watermarking ALL sizes (if the photographer requests this).  I have brought this up before and the matter was "closed" when it was never addressed or answered satisfactorily.  I am battling constant infringements of my work where the image, according to the metadata on the infringer's site, states that the image came from RedBubble.  What is so difficult about watermarking ALL image sizes?  Even small images can be used on websites unlicensed and without permission.  Amongst the photographer community (who are constantly dealing with infringements), RedBubble is mentioned as one of the worst offenders for allowing unwatermarked out in cyberspace."

The above appeared on the now open thread in RB.  Today, December 3,  I received the following:

"Thanks again for writing to us with your suggestion - its great to see such passion and dedication for the enhancement of the experience!  Have a great day:)"

And then they closed the thread.  Again.

It was straight out of Alice in Wonderland.  I then sent them a response via their email address and it bounced as Spam.  How's that for adding insult to injury.  I am seriously thinking of removing all of my work from RB and I am not the only one thinking this way.  Hundreds of my images are on Pinterest and 95% of them are taken from RedBubble.

Update:  Because of their complete inaction, I cancelled my account with RedBubble in July 2013.  Nuff said.


  1. That's really strange that they just removed it, as I thought it was pretty well supported by members. Hmmmmm....

    I would love to find a POD site that had all the features I love, including good image protection. I've tried a few, looked at a few more, and keep coming back to RB as having the best overall features. But image protection is something they are all lacking in, somewhat, and RB's is some of the weakest. Even I know how to get around their right click disabling, and the watermark on the large view, so you know most others know how, too!

    A watermark on small views might deter a few more. What has deterred some for me, is adding my name and copyright notice, (or at least a very legible signature), to even my images for prints. (I add a larger one on blog images and suspect that's why they are almost never taken.) My name/copyright notice is part of the image file, it's not a layer or anything, not a "watermark" but part of the image. Removing it would be more work than most care to do.

    We can't prevent all the infringements, but we can minimize the infringements. That alone has saved me a few hours a month, in reverse image search results and DMCA takedowns.

    I hope that before long all these POD sites, etc, will offer real image protection that's extremely hard to get around, and absolutely gives the infringer "notice" that they are violating copyrights. Eliminate 90% of the infringements and it helps us regain a lot of our time that we can then put back into productivity.

  2. Sheila, I'm sorry for your issues with infringement, and also for the adversity you have with Pinterest. I'm an avid pinterest user and through the site was introduced to your photography, of which I am a big fan. I was informed recently that your images were being removed from the site, and that is how I found your blog and was made aware of the fight you have undertaken to keep your images off of that and many other sites. It is of course, very sad to find that you believe users of pinterest to be violating your rights - I hope I can speak for other users in that that was never the intention. Pinterest has been a huge door for me to discover, celebrate, and share art that I love. I have never had any intention of "keeping" the images, nor selling them, misappropriating them, or using them in any capacity beyond looking at them. I have always tried to credit artists when sharing a pin - a feat that admittedly can be difficult, as images are redirected often and carelessly. While I understand your frustration, I hope that my testament helps to clarify the intentions, albeit often coupled with naivite, of user of services like Pinterest. It was a genuine pleasure to view your work. I hope that at some point, you can find a balance between observing your copyrights and sharing it with the world - most of whom would, without having someone share with them on the internet, would never have the opportunity to see it.

  3. Hi Christina

    I have no problem with my images appearing on Pinterest if they are given correct attribution but many times they are credited to Tumblr which has to be one of the worst infringers of my work. My main concern is with RedBubble who will not address the problem with the lack of watermarking on low res thumbnails which can be readily used by websites for commercial use.

  4. I'm more or less a hobbyist photographer and I'll sell a few prints when asked, so I don't really have a good feel for all the copyright issues. For me, when I see a few of my images on other sites where people have taken and shared them, it makes me feel good even if I get no attribution or link back for it. It's just nice to know that people think my work it decent enough to share with others. In my mind, the career fields of graphic art, design, illustration, copywriting, and photography are pretty much all but dead; replaced by freelance and non-paying work. There's no career with selling prints online unless you're a very prolific and already established stock photographer, or if you are just very luck to happen across a company that is willing to hire you (which is extremely rare). Most famous photographers don't even bother selling prints online because it devalues their work. So, given this, I share mine knowing full well that it's not something that will make me money. I share it because it makes me happy. My thoughts are, if you're going to get "up in arms" about copyright issues on the web, don't put your prints online (or, at least, don't try to sell them online). It'll only be a circle of frustration for you. Internet pirates and art thieves are always one step ahead when it comes to this, and the people who are willing to steal your work are not going to pay for it anyway. I'm not saying sit back and take it. But, truly to keep yourself from dying of frustration and stress, it's best to realize how it is, and if you can't be easy going about it, just sell in person. That's about the only way your can defeat the internet copiers for sure. Plus, spouting off soapbox copyright laws that need reform anyway just makes people seem like zealots, and probably detracts potential buyers as it is. That's what I hear on deviant art, anyway.


After Topaz

Using Topaz Spicify, the image has been enhanced in both colour and "pop". This may be a tad OTT but when printed out, it looks rather good (even if I say so myself!!).

Elderly gents

Image enhancing filters

I have recently been experimenting with different filters for post processing images. Topaz has been one of them. Using the adjust filter, one can change rather dramatically an image which may (or may not) need enhancing. Purists argue that one should not enhance or change an image but in this era, we are bombarded with enhanced movies so it seems a natural progression to enhance still images. The pic directly above is the original image (shot RAW and converted using Adobe Camera RAW).

Rather boring shot of Sydney Harbour

I am going to show how a somewhat boring shot of Sydney Harbour (if there ever could be one!) can be turned into something a little more spectacular. Below is the original shot (shot in RAW format with my Canon 5D) and taken off the back of the Manly ferry.

Sydney Harbour

Sydney Harbour
Rather boring shot of Sydney Harbour


Using Adobe Camera Raw ("ACR"), I converted the raw image with parameters: Blacks 7, brightness +31, Contrast +61, Clarity +77, Vibrance +7, Saturation 72 and a bit of Curves which brought me to the below image.



Flood filter conversion

I then produced a "reflection" using Flaming Pear flood filter. For those unfamiliar with this filter, it gives the image a perception of a reflection (poetical!) and I see it often in publications and I find myself examining ALL images with reflections to see if the photographer had used this very handy filter. I have details of the conversion if anyone is interested but to post it would be a tad boring. Flaming pair flood filters can be found here


Sydney Harbour reflection using flood filter

Sea of Hats

I was on my lunch hour when I was strolling around The Rocks area of Sydney when I saw a group of private schoolgirls on an excursion. As soon as I saw their hats, I knew that there was a good opportunity to get a good snap. As luck would have it, they started to cross the street to where I was standing. I knew in my head the image I was looking for and I had to be above them. With an enormous amount of good fortune, a ramp up to a shop in this old area of Sydney was a few metres away. I raced up the ramp and shot this image. It was taken with my Canon 70-200 f/4L at f/5.6 which gave me a shallow depth of field leaving the centre hat in sharp focus and the rest of the hats out of focus. I submitted this image in late 2005 to the Black and White Spider Awards and it won Outstanding Achievement - People and also won me the Photographer of the Year 2005 - amateur. It really is nice to get recognition of one's work and even though I am now a professional, it still gives me a warm feeling when I look at my certificate!

Sulphur crested cockatoo in flight

This is an image on which I have added a "flood" filter. It is quite effective and quite a nice shot in any event. Flood filters can be found here and they are worth every cent. There is always a debate regarding "Photoshopping" images but as long as one is honest about the origin and digital changes to the image, I think its legimate. The original image, taken in our garden, of the cockatoo actually landing on the lawn, had a piece of its left hand side wing missing so I "replaced" it in Photoshop CS4. Cockatoos actually dislike water and when they start attacking the timber balustrades on our verandah, all I have to do is get out the spray bottle and walk towards them. They are endearing creatures, very intelligent but are enormously destructive. They are very long lived (up to 80 years) so don't even think of buying one unless you plan to outlive it and put up with the high decibels of squawking! I really hate seeing them in cages and they must long to be free when they see a large flock passing by.

Surfing the storm

Late one afternoon, I was snapping at Avalon Beach, Sydney, when a storm approached. This did not stop a late surfer. This image is available as a print via my RedBubble site. Click on image which will take you to the print site.

Sydney Opera House abstract

An abstract look at the famous icon. It is very difficult to take any pics of the Opera House as everyone and their brother has done it before. For this particular image, I used Optikvervlabs filter.

Leopard seal

I took this shot of a leopard seal exhaling bubbles at Taronga Zoo in Sydney. This is, apparently, one of the few leopard seals in captivity. Apparently it was found injured awhile back and is happy in its huge enclosure at the Zoo along with its mate. Through a stock library, this image is to appear as a full page in a textbook.


A portrait of an elderly lady
This is one of my favourite images of Alice, an elderly aboriginal lady who sadly is now deceased. I would occasionally see her at Circular Quay in Sydney and she would often smile at me. I used a Dragan filter to bring out more texture to the image. I am often asked if I have ever been challenged when photographing candid subjects. Only on one occasion, I was asked not to take a photograph of a female street performer which was odd as that is where they often make their money. So, of course, I acceded to her wishes. Many buskers or street performers expect payment for taking their photograph and its something I always do as its their living, as taking photographs is mine. One of my most popular galleries on my website is one of Sydney Aborigines and I have many kind comments on my work. I did have one person, a Sydney academic, who actually called me a thief as she was under the erroneous impression that I was selling images of these colourful folk without payment which in fact is not true. I have model releases from many and I have made subsequent payments to them.

The smoker

The smoker
An elderly man puffs on a cigarette

Mudda Mudda

Mudda Mudda
My favourite subject
Mudda Mudda (aka Cedric) is an aboriginal busker who is often found at Circular Quay, in Sydney, accompanying other aboriginal buskers. He has such a great face and this image won me a UK award last year for traditional portraiture here