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]ehost.com, 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)