Photographers: Galleryoftoday.com may be stealing your photos

My photos on galleryoftoday.com
All nine of these photos, found by searching for “scrollwright.com,” were stolen from my website. (screenshot)

July 22, 2014 12:57 a.m. MDT: A new website has cropped up in the last month that is dedicated, apparently, to stealing professional and amateur photographers’ work and republishing it as freely available wallpaper downloads.

While it is possible that some of the work visible there is in the public domain or has a Creative Commons license, I have already found thousands of images that meet neither qualification, including nearly every one of my own, posted on this site.

Galleryoftoday.com seems to be designed to make it very difficult to locate anything specific, showing only 9 photos at a time and using a tagging system that breaks every word of an image title, or your search, into a separate tag.

WHOIS information for galleryoftoday.com
WHOIS information shows that galleryoftoday.com was just registered on July 9, 2014. (ipad screenshot)

The search field is not very intelligent as far as I can tell, not respecting quotes to search for phrases, and doesn’t appear to be able to handle any boolean formatting I’m familiar with. Thus, searching for your images is a game where you have to outsmart their algorithm, which also seems to be designed to select the nine photos it displays from as wide a variety of sources as it can.

I first learned of the site on Facebook from a photographer friend in the Bay Area, Leah Millis.

Since then I’ve found hundreds of my own photos, and those of many of my friends as well as images from Getty Images, The Associated Press, major newspapers like The New York Times, The Denver Post, and dozens of freelance news photographers.

The domain name was registered on July 8, 2014, to a “Sony Goh” of Hong Kong. According to DNS records, though, the site is hosted by Bluehost — my own hosting provider.

DIG and NSLOOKUP info for galleryoftoday.com
DIG and NSLOOKUP show that galleryoftoday.com is being hosted at an IP address owned by Bluehost. (screenshot)

I’ve emailed the Bluehost legal department for advice because I’m not looking forward to spending my evenings trying numerous search queries to find all of my images and file individual DMCA takedown notices for each one. I bet you’re not either.

I’ll update this post when I hear from Bluehost legal. In the meantime, check the site for your own work. Search for your name, your organization, your domain, the titles of your blog posts, your photo captions — anything. I’ve found my own stuff in a lot of ways already.

The numbering system the site appears to use for its harvested photos indicates that it has gathered several hundred thousand photos already, and it’s clearly still in what most of us would call a beta stage.

The ad positions are just placeholders, the “DMCA” page appears to be stolen from someplace else and the names deleted, and the “About” page is just Lorem Ipsum (they didn’t even have the decency to use Hipster Ipsum!). Little comfort, I know, but at least they aren’t making any money on our stolen intellectual property yet.

If you have advice for other photographers, or any insight in how we can stop at least this one infringer (there are many, but this is egregious), please leave it in the comments below. Tell us how many of your photos you’ve been able to find.

UPDATE July 22, 2014, 1:09 a.m. MDT: A friend of mine on twitter discovered that the registrar, Sony Goh, also owns another domain.

Trendingimagestoday.com info
WHOIS, DIG and NSLOOKUP of Trendingimagestoday.com (screenshots, composite)

Trendingpicturestoday.com was registered at the same time as galleryoftoday.com, and is hosted on another Bluehost-owned IP address.

Searching for many of the terms that brought up my own work on the Gallery of Today site did not yield any results on this site, though it does appear to be hosting images stolen or licensed from Reuters and other agencies.

UPDATE July 22, 2014, 1:56 a.m. MDT: Looks like this site was mentioned in a thread on Flickr around 12:40 p.m. MDT yesterday. Around the same time a few tweets cropped up from @JAMortram, @lottiephoto, @LowerClaptonRd and others.

I hope Jim Mortram’s guess is right, though I don’t know if someone would harvest this many photos if it were.

This cartoon image [link removed after site changed to porn ads], harvested from The Oatmeal, is particularly ironic in its title.

UPDATE July 22, 2014, 8:0.2 a.m. MDT: Per the comments below, another place to contact Bluehost about this issue is through their Terms of Service Compliance folks at [email protected].

The Bluehost help page for “report terms of service violations” recommend that address. Bluehost’s Terms of Service is broken down into sections and it appears galleryoftoday.com would violate several.

You can also find @Bluehost on Twitter.

UPDATE July 22, 2014, 9:19 a.m. MDT: According to the commenter who tried emailing [email protected], that address referred him back to [email protected] (which I posted above and contacted myself last night).

The email address listed in WHOIS information for both the domains discussed above is [email protected]. Several photographers have reported sending takedown requests to this address, but as yet none have indicated that there has been any response.

That domain, dropsugar.com, appears to host a site titled “PluginNinja” which discusses making money and operating a WordPress blog, and includes a category dedicated to autoblogging and auto-generated content. Typically, autoblogging refers to harvesting content from XML/RSS feeds and creating posts in WordPress from the feed data.

The site isn’t well-stocked with content, and its images don’t seem to be serving. The site is in Indonesian, according to the translate function in the Google Chrome browser.

UPDATE July 22, 2014, 9:35 a.m. MDT: The image search site seems to be gone, replaced by this:

Updated galleryoftoday.com screenshot
A new screenshot taken at 9:29 a.m. MDT, July 22, 2014, shows the sudden change to galleryoftoday.com. (screenshot)

The website now has a nonfunctional search box and a picture of a girl in a bikini on an eye-searing turquoise background.

A commenter below speculates that this may have been the plan all along — generate traffic from enraged photographers and then switch to porn ads or somesuch. As with the above Twitter speculation, I feel like the image-harvesting setup is an awful lot of trouble to go to for something so simple. I’ll continue to investigate and report as things change.

Here’s hoping the complaints to the domain name owner’s email address fueled a change of heart.

I have removed my hyperlink to the site above in case this is a precursor to something malicious or a lot of pornographic ads or something. If I see any further changes, I’ll update here.

UPDATE July 22, 2014, 9:43 a.m. MDT: If you don’t have an ad blocker or similar (I use Disconnect) you probably saw something more like this on the “new” galleryoftoday.com:

Updated galleryoftoday.com screenshot
An updated galleryoftoday.com screenshot, with ad blocking turned off, shows ads for sex sites. (screenshot)

Next time perhaps I’ll remember to turn Disconnect off before I take a screenshot!

UPDATE July 22, 2014, 9:51 a.m. MDT: From a comment below: Bluehost has a well-documented copyright claims process that you can follow for your images, should the image-harvesting version of galleryoftoday.com reappear. Be sure to follow the guidelines in No. 3 on that page to the letter.

UPDATE July 22, 2014, 10:16 a.m. MDT: The site appears to have been removed by Bluehost and now displays an error:

galleryoftoday.com error message
An error message now appears indicating that galleryoftoday.com has been taken down by the hosting provider. (screenshot)

The URL in the address bar includes the segment “/suspended.page/” which may be an indicator that Bluehost’s legal department has heard the many cries of the photography community and responded swiftly as we’d hoped.

More search results for me
More searches reveal another 8/9 photos here are mine. Seven of these are from this site and one was stolen from denverpost.com. (screenshot)
  • Devin Lester

    They’re not even bothered by watermarks http://galleryoftoday.com/140862-laura-garys-pregnancy-announcement Just found this one image so far

    • Nope, not at all. I’ve run into a few Asian and Russian sites hosting harvested images like this, but never on quite this scale.

      • Devin Lester

        I hope that since some seriously big names are affected there’ll be some more pressure on the site to sort this out!

        • I hope so, too. I’m seeing threads from lunch time yesterday on Twitter and Flickr, so I’m not the first to report it, though I think I’m the first to actually write anything up.

          • Devin Lester

            Please share your advice on the approach taken to try get your images removed.

          • Yeah, I’m going to have to do that in a subsequent post. Won’t be tonight, I’m afraid.

          • Devin Lester

            Thanks, looking forward to it

  • Thanks for doing this follow up research. For what it’s worth, I think I did the first tweet about these clowns: https://twitter.com/benrobertsphoto/status/491271999143292928 – although I was sent there by Paul Treacy (@photohumourist) and the EPUK email list.

    • Okay, cool. I see you sent a takedown notice to that email associated with the domain registration. Any response on that yet?

      • No response and I’m not expecting one either. The guy has probably been swamped with messages, and it could well be a bogus email address. I would think that the best course of action would be trying to initiate a shutdown via his service provider.

  • Tiara Rad

    LOL…. I’ve been stolen from and I am a nobody lol

    • I sincerely doubt that! But they do seem to be hitting just about everybody.

  • Metal God

    I’ve tweeted about it and mentioned @bluehost. I got an instant response from the host asking me to send details to [email protected] .

    • Ah, cool. Did you get any response to your email?

      • Metal God

        Have been advised elsewhere to send complaints to [email protected]. Still awaiting reply.

        • Yeah, that’s where I sent my email last night and what I listed above. I’m still waiting, too.

  • Vicki Lea Boulter

    Have tweeted about it ( @vickileaboulter ) too. Have fund at least 10 of my images now – and i’m less than please >(

    • I’m sure you’ll find more if you keep searching. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. We’re all miffed and up, I’m sure! :P

  • Joy @ Joyfully Green

    Thank you for this article! I found my own photos, and when I shared the link with my Google+ photography circles to warn them, it now seems that the offending site is all porn ads. What on earth!? Maybe this was the original intention of the site–to get a lot of traffic, and then switch missions?

    • Who knows. That’s news to me. Updating story. Thanks for the tip!

      • Joy @ Joyfully Green

        Thanks for the original story! Even though stuff like this turns my stomach, I’d rather be aware of it so I can do some damage control whenever possible. Really appreciate your bringing it to light (and apparently, bringing down their site)!

        • I think the credit goes to all the photographers who emailed and tweeted Bluehost, but thanks! I just wanted to help get it out there because it turns my stomach, too.

  • Marc W.

    WOOOO.

    After just reading this article I searched and found one of my photos. I was about to write an email to both TOS and [email protected] and wanted to get a screenshot of the website and now it says it’s down.

    The website you were trying to reach is temporarily unavailable.

    Please check back soon.

    If you are the owner of this website, please log in for additional
    information or contact us as soon as possible.

    • I’m still seeing the site like in the newest screenshot above, but as news spreads, it’s possible we’ve unintentionally DDOS’d them. I’m not sorry, if that’s the case. :P

      • Marc W.

        Now I get that new screenshot when I go to the website.

        • Which one, the bikin girl or the suspended account?

          • Marc W.

            I now see the bikini girl. When I wrote my first comment, it was the suspended one.

          • Yeah, that’s odd. I still see that on my Mac, which is configured to use Google DNS. On my PC, which is using my ISP’s DNS, I see the Bluehost error page instead.

  • Brenda

    Bluehost has a process in place for DMCA takedown requests which you can find here: http://www.bluehost.com/copyright-claims-policy Make sure you read and follow #3.

    • Excellent advice. I’ll add this to the post. My concern here, though, was that they’d stolen well over 100 images from my site and DMCAing each one individually would take me weeks.

      • Brenda

        Hopefully you won’t have to. The site actually was just taken down – at least for the time being.

  • Brenda

    For those who were affected but didn’t have a chance to notify Bluehost you might just tweet them a thanks – which will help them know how widespread the abuse was. I just did and got a reply back. Plus, it is great that they reacted so quickly. They are @bluehost.

    • Sounds like a good move to me. I’ve tweeted at them a couple times but haven’t gotten a response yet, personally. Seeking comment on their reaction to post above.