Beware the Internet When It Comes to Your Personal Photos


In December of 2008, as I was getting ready for a vacation trip to Brussels, I posted the above self-portrait of myself sporting my new winter coat to my Flickr account. I didn’t think much of it after posting it and I’d pretty much forgotten about it over the years.

Today, as I was reading some discussions about people having their photos used to create fake online identities I decided to use Google Image Search to see if any of my self portraits could be found anywhere on the vast Internet.

Honestly, I was not expecting to find anything. It was more of an expression of idle curiosity that I thought would amount to a few minutes squandered before moving on to bigger and better wastes of time.

Imagine my surprise when I found this “interpretation” by a Flickr user called Leeber:


I have no idea who Leeber is or why he chose my picture to transform. But unlike that previous experiences where I have had a photo I created used without permission, I’m not really offended nor am I seeking to have the photo removed. Mostly because I am amused.

A similar incident came up with this photo I took of my dentist:


Years later I found this posted as a winner of a Photoshop contest at


Again, I’m not so interested in asserting my copyright because I find the work creative and amusing and I don’t see that the person is profiteering off of my work.

I guess it just goes to show that you can never fully tell what people may be doing to the content you post to the Internet or how they might be using it.

About the author: Jay Lee is an IT guy, writer, and amateur photographer based in Houston, Texas. Visit his website here. This post was originally published here.

  • Christoffer Bjerregaard

    That “self portrait” is the funniest thing i’ve seen today! Thumbs up to whoever made it! :))

  • Dlakavi Zamorac

    Lool, this made my day. :)

  • Jason Kirby

    I have to say that I respect his decision to not take any kind of action against these people. They took his work and repurposed it for something completely different than it was originally intended for. Yes, they don’t have the right to use your photo, but they were able to do something different and artistic with it for other’s enjoyment or in this case amusement. If they were making money of it then it would be a different story, but as he states they aren’t. I am glad he found these images and it makes me want to search around to see if I can find any of my images repurposed.

    I do have one question…did you reach out to the “leeber” guy and ask how he found your image?

  • Zigmars Zilgalvis

    What is the big deal? Nobody became rich of your photos, what would also be impossible. If you place your photos online, chances are somebody will do this. Grow up.

  • Guest

    Zigmars: I found it amusing. I’m

  • 773metric

    You didn’t read the article properly, did you? There is no big deal. Jay is grown up. He clearly says “I’m not really offended nor am I seeking to have the photo removed. Mostly because I am amused”. He’s just pointing out something interesting.

  • Jay Lee

    I was amused, not upset. It was an interesting experience and I wanted to share. Thanks for being so judgemental and instulting. You’re the best!

  • Jay Lee

    I posted a comment on the Flickr image. I need to see about sending him a Flickr message.

  • Bujo

    Nice Bumble in the background. Can’t beat being a misfit…

  • lidocaineus

    Jay: I’m curious, what did you use to search for your images? The original title, file name, certain types of metadata…?

  • cheap shots for real

    Zigmars, grow up and read the articles through, otherwise your comments won’t make any sense – unless you’re a troll? And grow up to quit smoking for it’s not an adult “thing” like it’s marketed to the gullible aka youth.

  • kt

    How do you search to find a variation of a photo you have posted?

  • Jay Lee

    I used Search By Image which is a Google Chrome plugin that lets you right click an image on the Web and search with it. You can find it if you Google search using the terms “Search By Image” and “Chrome”.

  • Amy

    That was awesome!

  • Jay Lee

    I used Search By Image which is a Google Chrome plugin that lets you right click an image on the Web and search with it. You can find it if you Google search using the terms “Search By Image” and “Chrome”.

  • 9inchnail

    Because writing an article had priority?

  • 9inchnail

    You should also be able to enter the URL to an image in Google and then search by image.

  • jeremysexton

    Well, I’m offended…

    That the Shrek pic won a contest. It’s awful! lol

  • shhhhh

    Yea right. No way you found these after a few years. No way.

  • Jay Lee

    I don’t understand your question

  • Jay Lee

    I have found images that are part of a collage or even changed by desaturating or skewing the aspect ratio and even images that have been severely cropped.

  • independentskeptic

    Fantastic response! I’m going to use this the next time some chowder head with a keyboard gets sassy with me for no reason.

  • Antonio Carrasco

    those are kinda funny… kudos to the author for having a laugh and not getting all fired up about it.

  • Mead Norton

    The reason you are not concerned that other people are using your images with out permission is because you are an “amateur” photographer. This attitude makes it harder for us professionals to make a living because anytime people get away with using images for free or without permission it makes them think that it is ok to do steal anyone’s image. Please in the future help all photographers out and if you find any of your other images being used without your permission at least contact the other party and tell them it is not ok to steal…



  • Jay Lee

    The reason I am not concerned is because I am not concerned. It has nothing to do with my status as a pro/non-pro. These are harmless and entertaining and that is why I don’t care.

    And don’t presume to lecture me about asserting my copyright and going after those who would commercially infringe on it. Read this to hear my tale of copyright woe.

  • lidocaineus

    That’s the least “professional” response i’ve ever seen, which makes me wonder if you are a professional, or even if you know what that means.

  • Andres Trujillo

    if your images are properly registered, you shouldn’t have to worry about things like this, so in short, no, your attitude as far as what non-protogs should be doing with their images (or not) is incorrect. If you’re not willing to do the work, don’t expect someone else to do it

  • Joe Lampard

    I hope you’re using the portrait conversion on your passport and/or drivers license…

  • zachariahblair93wh

    my co-worker’s sister makes $60/hour on the computer. She has been
    unemployed for six months but last month her pay check was $19989 just
    working on the computer for a few hours. Here’s the site to read more­ ­ ­A­s­k­2­5­.­­c­o­m­

  • OSS Developer

    Copyright doesn’t require registration to be protected, without explicit permission the default is all rights reserved. Official registration is just another layer of CYA. Of course morons think they have the right to use whatever they find online and then issues like Jay mention arise. This even happens with larger companies, search with respect to GPL violations.

    Perhaps you are the one confused?

  • Andres Trujillo

    I apologize that it took me this long to reply. Yes, even if you don’t register, you still have ownership of the picture. However, if you want to pursue punitive damages (or a big payday), your chances are better if your image if copyrighted vs non. Check Greenberg and Reznicki’s talks on the point of benefits of copyright

  • BadNoodlesNoSoya

    XD OMG I have to say these interpretations are trés amusement!

    Why can’t people do this when my photos get used? :( They never change a thing le sigh