iStockphoto Sells Stolen Images – @iStock

While I was in Florida last week on vacation with my wife, I got a very disturbing email from our upstream provider:

Date: September 16, 2010 2:57:23 PM PDT
To: us
Subject: Support Ticket 251258 – ShoeMoney Blog – TOS Violation – DMCA Complaint


Please investigate and update this ticket within 24 hours to avoid a disruption in service.

We have received a complaint in connection with the below-pasted details from Mark Jahnon regarding materials contained in the specified web site that are infringing upon the claimant’s intellectual property rights.

We are required by federal law to act expeditiously in removing or disabling access to the infringing materials. We therefore strongly recommend that you immediately remove the infringing materials.

Please note that under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, you have the right to file a counter-notice claiming that either (a) the Claimant is wrong and that the Infringing Material is lawfully posted on the Web Site or (b) that the Infringing Material has been misidentified. We encourage you to review the procedures for filing a counter-notice which you can send back to us.

Here is the original DMCA complaint:

I am the copyright owner of the photographs being infringed at:×100.jpg

Copy of photographs being infringed are included to assist with their
removal from the infringing Web site.

This letter is official notification under the provisions of Section
512(c) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) to effect
removal of the above-reported infringements. I request that you
immediately issue a cancellation message as specified in RFC 1036 for
the specified postings and prevent the infringer, who is identified by
its Web address, from posting the infringing photographs to your
servers in the future. Please be advised that law requires you, as a
service provider, to “expeditiously remove or disable access to” the
infringing photographs upon receiving this notice. Noncompliance may
result in a loss of immunity for liability under the DMCA.

I have a good faith belief that use of the material in the manner
complained of here is not authorized by me, the copyright holder, or
the law. The information provided here is accurate to the best of my
knowledge. I swear under penalty of perjury that I am the copyright

Please send me at the address noted below a prompt response indicating
the actions you have taken to resolve this matter.


Mark Jahnon

Now, this is all really interesting because we purchased the photograph on iStockphoto.

The photo in question was used as a thumbnail in my post about how to get press for your website.

The post went pretty viral and has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times in the last week, so I figured one of 2 things had happened:

  1. It’s someone messing with us (yes, this happens… even though it’s a crime).
  2. The copyright holder simply did not know that we purchased it.

So I took a little time out of my family vacation and updated the ticket with a copy of the receipt from iStockphoto. I figured that would be that and I could resume my vacation.

But then I got this response from our provider:


The complainant has responded that iStockphoto did not have the right to sell licenses for the image in question. They have reported the issue to iStockphoto who have reportedly taken the image down. They are still requesting that the image be taken down from your site.


Since it had been many days since the original request was submitted, I first went to iStockphoto’s website and searched to see if the image had been removed. To my surprise, it was still there. Something is up…

I updated the ticket requesting a copy of the original take down request and the contact information for the person who made the request. I also reminded them that it is a criminal offense to take part in a false DMCA take down notice.

They responded with the person’s contact information and I proceeded to contact the person claiming to be the copyright holder, Mark Jahnon.

I spoke with Mark a bit and it turns out he is the real deal. He said iStockphoto has ignored all of his take down requests and is acting criminal. He is moving forward with litigation against them later this month.

I can confirm the photo that started this whole thing is still for sale on iStockphoto’s website:

istock photo

It seems that iStockphoto has become a great place for thieves to steal images and make money. Who knew?


You have to read this follow-up story.