By in Business

Tsu's Response to Copyright Infringement

In my previous post I mentioned concerns about copyright infringement on Tsu. Now it's not the only social network to be plagued by people uploading content they don't own. It's just that when a site is supposed to be paying for original content, it does tend to put a spotlight on infringement to see somebody earning money for work that some other person did. It really underlines the theft that anyone commits in using content without permission.

In response to discussions about copyright, one of the things Tsu has done is to change the coding on the site to disable certain functions associated with the right-click context menu. One of the results is that users can no longer right click on an image to save it. But it's also impossible to do a reverse image search with Google or TinEye, to verify if other users are uploading original content.

Can Images Be Stolen When Right Clicks Are Disabled?

Absolutely! It takes less than 15 seconds – and some free software that anyone can download – to copy an image from Tsu and add a new watermark to it. Let me show you:

1) Find and copy the original. I used one of my own posts, that features a picture of my father:

Kyla Matton Osborne aka Willowyfe

2) Crop the surrounding content:

Kyla Matton Osborne aka Willowyfe

3) Add a watermark and/or text to create a meme or inspirational graphic:

Kyla Matton Osborne aka Willowyfe

This is the original and the watermarked copy together. Can you tell the difference?

Kyla Matton Osborne aka Willowyfe

Had I been a nefarious individual bent on stealing, I could have done this with any image on Tsu. The most time-consuming part of this whole activity was taking the screen captures of what I was doing with the image, and writing about how the anti-theft measures on Tsu were so easy to defeat!

Identifying the Real Issue

Beyond the fact that disabling the right click doesn't prevent theft of Tsu images, it also does nothing at all to address the dozens upon dozens of Tsu users who, well-intentioned or otherwise, are stealing original works from Facebook posts, Google image searches and random web sites – on an hourly basis. It also prevents concerned users from locating and reporting copyright infringement. And that has a negative impact on the social dimension of the site, since conscientious users are hesitant to friend, follow or share when they suspect content isn't original.

The real issue is the culture of the internet, which unfortunately spills over into the culture of Tsu. It's a culture that assumes if I can see something on the internet, I can also use it as I will. People assume that since the creator still has her original work and a copy was the only thing taken there is no theft, and taking the image isn't wrong at all.

Tsu would be far better off to address the ignorance of copyright by educating its users, than to waste its time and ours by implementing measures that thwart those who want to do right and leave real cheats free to continue doing wrong.

I have already suggested that Tsu create a video that explains copyright and its infringement. Making the distinction between an ethical and legal means to share (e.g. posting the link to an artist's original work on a page where licenses and prints can be purchased) and infringement (e.g. uploading the image without permission and then giving credit or providing a link) is crucial to people changing their habits.

Were you aware of the difference? Do you feel that Tsu and other sites like it do enough to educate their users? What would you like to see done?

| | | | | |

Image credit: All the images in this piece are my own. Screen captures were taken using IrfanView and GIMP. The photo of the eye is a public domain image by Michal Jarmoluk/Pixabay ( CC0 )

Image Credit »

You will need an account to comment - feel free to register or login.


AngelSharum wrote on December 18, 2014, 5:23 PM

They really need to do something over there. It seems like there has to be a good solution somehow.

WordChazer wrote on December 18, 2014, 5:33 PM

I would like to see every plagiarised post or photograph taken down immediately by an algorithm. Together with the obviously spun content which proliferates on such sites. An educational video is all well and good but I am sure that the plagiarisers need to be hit where it hurts - by removing their ability to post and ultimately, for serial offenders, blocking their net access completely by any means possible. Why should they proft from OTHER PEOPLE'S hard work? That is stealing, equal to walking out of your local store with something you had no intention of paying for.

MegL wrote on December 18, 2014, 5:36 PM

You make very good points and I think TRUE education is needed but how do you make the plagiarisers understand? They don't WANT to stop!

LoudMan wrote on December 18, 2014, 6:05 PM

How about memes, created for public sharing?

Kasman wrote on December 18, 2014, 6:10 PM

Education won't work. You and I both know that there are people out there (and on PP) who KNOW copyright infringement is both morally and legally wrong yet they still do it. What we need is a few high-profile prosecutions particularly of those serial copyright thieves who just don't care. Many blogging sites don't care about copyright either. They turn a blind eye to it for the sake of the income but they will all be found out sooner or later.

allen0187 wrote on December 18, 2014, 7:06 PM

Tsu is going the way of bubble ooze it seems. I won't be surprised if the members of bubble ooze are in Tsu as well, that explains part of the problem. As for Tsu doing something about it, an algorithm that blocks and removes plagiarized post would do similar to what WordChazer wrote in his comment. Removed copied content and block the accounts of serial offenders.

Ruby3881 wrote on December 18, 2014, 9:50 PM

If a meme is created for public sharing, it should be taken directly from the source. And that source should state the terms for sharing - either public domain, one of the CC or similar licenses, or some similar terms.

I've seen a lot of memes that have the watermark for a web site that specifically says in its terms that NONE of its content is to be shared off the site. If they aren't going to be specific about the permissions, then nobody should share their memes. It would serve them right!

scheng1 wrote on December 18, 2014, 9:50 PM

This shows that all owners of new sites have to think about ways to deal with those thieves who have destroyed many sites.

Ruby3881 wrote on December 18, 2014, 9:55 PM

They need to do something and we need to do something. I've been writing a little bit all over recently, and I have a couple of pieces over on DTC about ethical use of the internet, creators telling people explicitly how their images may be used, etc.

We all need to do our part. Avoid following or friending a cheat. Give proper attribution for images. Link to the artist's page instead of uploading the image, etc. And not supporting those people whose content is nothing but memes and giveaway crap.

If we all did our part, Tsu would have very little cleanup to do.

AliCanary wrote on December 18, 2014, 10:13 PM

It's much quicker if you have a snipping tool--no screen shot / paint program required, and you crop o the spot!

Ruby3881 wrote on December 18, 2014, 10:39 PM

I think a lot of the offenders don't even realize they're offending. And those who do, write it off because everybody else is doing it (or because it's all over FB, or whatever.)

I agree that there are some who do intend to steal. And yes, those need to be shut down. Tsu has so far been very reluctant to do anything about some of these who mainly just post stolen art. That's infuriating! But even the Tsu admin can be brought around if they're scared of getting caught. It's getting to be about time to involve the admin of sites like 500px and DeviantArt, whose members are frequently infringed on Tsu...

Ruby3881 wrote on December 19, 2014, 2:35 AM

A lot of people who upload illegally don't realize they're doing anything wrong. I've explained it to people on Bubblews, and some of these people are just mortified to learn that they were stealing! When you tell a person like that how to share ethically, they at least try to get it right. (Sometimes you have to correct them 2-3 times, before they get there...)

As for the rest, they're split between the ones who don't care but will make a half-hearted attempt at doing things legitimately (like the ones who stick in the "image credit: Bing" or the link directly to the image) and those who couldn't care less. Once you get the majority of people at least trying to do it right, the really serious cheats are going to stick out like a sore thumb. It makes it a lot easier to delete them.

Gina145 wrote on December 19, 2014, 4:59 AM

I closed my TSU account after only a couple of weeks on the site because I didn't like the cheating going on. Plagiarism is one problem, but as far as I recall their TOS allows the site to do whatever they want with users' content, and I didn't want to risk that either.

Ruby3881 wrote on December 19, 2014, 6:28 AM

Actually, I have seen education working not only with individuals who originally seemed incorrigible and with site administrators who seemed bloody clueless. (Granted, usually there's some sort of scare that triggers their learning experience...)

Those who really know what they're doing is wrong, are in the minority. Most are just uninformed, lazy, and figure if nobody else has to follow the rules then neither do they. Once other people around them start doing things right, most people jump on the band wagon....

Ruby3881 wrote on December 19, 2014, 6:44 AM

Interestingly, Tsu was using an algorithm to address spam a short while ago. Unfortunately, it was picking up on mentions of phrases like "follow4follow" regardless of context. So it was possible to write a completely original post in which the user condemned the practice of traffic manipulation, and end up having that post deleted and a reprimand for "inappropriate content" sent out.

Needless to say, some folks weren't at all impressed. Instead of automated spam control, the site has relied on educating members and on giving users the ability to delete comments and report spam. For the most part, it works very well! They need to expand their explanations to include a few more types of spam. But otherwise, most people get it and are following the no-spam rules.

Ruby3881 wrote on December 19, 2014, 6:50 AM

Much agreed! Anyone thinking to set up a site that publishes user-generated content should plan for this before they even start up.

Ruby3881 wrote on December 19, 2014, 6:52 AM

When it's that quick, it gets to a point where "quicker" is irrelevant...

Ruby3881 wrote on December 19, 2014, 6:55 AM

Did you really post anything there that you'd be worried about them using? Besides, their TOS explains fairly clearly that they won't use your content after you delete your account unless it's been shared by other users. That's better than Facebook...

Gina145 wrote on December 19, 2014, 7:41 AM

I was posting photos. I only ever posted a couple but I live in hope that I'll be able to earn real money from them one day, so I don't want to give another site the right to use them for no reward.

I didn't have much time for the site and hadn't even earned a cent. And I'm not sure they had a suitable payment method for me, as I live in a country where the postal service is unreliable at best, and non-existent a lot of the time as we've had several postal strikes over the last couple of years.

Now that my Bubblews life is falling apart I'm wondering if I wasn't too hasty giving up on Tsu though, but I can always create a new account if I change my mind.

VinceSummers wrote on December 19, 2014, 3:23 PM

I primarily don't concern myself with the practice. I know it is not a bad thing to help take down what is wrong. The catch is, do what we can, and it will still be there. The site proper must be the primary suppressor of illegitimate posting in my estimate.

Kasman wrote on December 19, 2014, 3:34 PM

Gina145 - if sites like Bubble Ooze are your thing then try CGP Gallery - it's almost a Bubble Ooze clone but is much tougher on spam and stuff.

WordChazer wrote on December 19, 2014, 3:42 PM

Does that include the nerks posting 'instructional' comments on people's posts on how following earns more money and so on? I wish Tsu well but I can't help but feel that a campaign by Google, Apple, Microsoft or Wiki would do better. Or else some geek managing to invent a bit of code that makes the right click automatically produce a short URL to the original location of the item.

Gina145 wrote on December 19, 2014, 6:15 PM

Thanks Kasman . I've been giving it some thought and I might just sign up there tomorrow, once I've read through their terms of service. It seems that several of my Bubblews friends are already there.

Kasman wrote on December 19, 2014, 6:26 PM

Gina145 - I had a look at it but it seems terribly complicated - and far too similar to Bubble Ooze for my liking. You won't find me there.

Kasman wrote on December 19, 2014, 6:28 PM

Ruby3881 - we need a carrot and stick approach. A carrot for the donkeys and a stick for the stubborn ones!

scheng1 wrote on December 20, 2014, 4:05 AM

I think we really see the worst side of online users when we witness how a great site like Triond becomes a rubbish dump.

Glenn wrote on December 24, 2014, 1:11 AM

I agree. I would like to see Tsū put effort into educating people about copyright. I test people sometimes by leaving a comment asking how they took that picture. What camera did they use. Where was it taken. And so on. I'm curious too see what their answer is. Instead of getting an answer, many of my comments have been deleted by the people posting the "stolen" images.

Glenn wrote on December 24, 2014, 1:17 AM

VinceSummers - We all need to be concerned about plagiarism, especially on sites where we expect to be paid for views. You may not know this, but search engines lower the ranking on sites that post duplicate content. So this means we will not get traffic from search engines to view our posts. That's where the real money is. I know, I write on HubPages and the major part of my monthly income there is a result of search traffic, not from other authors. We need to keep Google and other search engines happy. Otherwise we are wasting our time.

VinceSummers wrote on December 24, 2014, 8:07 AM

As to the duplicate content issue, I've heard both sides. While the side you mention makes sense intellectually, others deny it with boldness. Curiously, at Bubblews, we all made a mass effort to pull down the spammers and plagiarists. That's when the money took a nosedive and the site began going belly up. It's not completely dead yet, but is functioning on the money writers are not being paid.

Ruby3881 wrote on December 27, 2014, 5:52 PM

Have you spoken to anyone who is using CGP Gallery, Bill? It looks too much like they just ripped off Bubblews' code and TOS. I'm leery of anyone who would do that. And it only took me moments to find plagiarism there that was months old!

Ruby3881 wrote on December 27, 2014, 5:54 PM

Gina, could I humbly suggest that you watermark your images and place them on a photo hosting site like 50px, DeviantArt, etc? Then you can share the link for a given work to Tsu without having to give them any rights at all.

Ruby3881 wrote on December 27, 2014, 6:04 PM

I absolutely agree that the primary responsibility for dealing with infringement should lie with the site's administration. Which leaves me wondering why Tsu did such a marvellous job educating the membership about spam (which was presumably obvious enough they were suffering for its presence on the site) while almost completely ignoring this other form of abuse (which is subtle enough that they can continue earning money on all this illegitimate content.)

Ruby3881 wrote on December 27, 2014, 6:13 PM

Bubblews had, I suspect, been robbing Peter to pay Paul for some time. That explains them raising the cash-out threshold and making users wait longer for redemption payments. They were paying too much per ad impression, and they were paying out for plagiarism and spam for well over a year before they even thought to do anything concrete about it. no wonder they had to drastically lower their rates!

As for the nosedive in traffic, if you look at what happened here at PP you'll see that a lot of people hung in there and even started here after we took the hit to our exchange rate. People aren't deserting Bubblews because they aren't happy with the lowers rates. They're leaving over the poor business sense of the admin - the people who say Bubbles "isn't a charity" and it isn't "your job," the people who unceremoniously lock out users of newly "unsupported" countries without allowing them to retrieve or delete their content. These same people gladly cheat a user out of multiple unpaid redemptions over a single disagreement over the rules as applied to one post published after after those payments were requested and promised - until the BBB steps in, and then they back peddle.

It's unfair to blame the nosedive on any effort to address spam or plagiarism. That was motivated by the financial crisis, rather than intended to avert it. And it's certainly not causal. We saw signs well before Bubblews could give a care for either spam or plagiarism.

VinceSummers wrote on December 27, 2014, 6:47 PM

I agree with what you say and especially with the way you say it. Spot on. The part about receiving less money with the removal of plagiarists and spammers is, we were paid for clicks they gave us as well. Those pennies no longer continued to come in. It is a fact that daily income decreased as they were cleaned out. Things should have improved after they were cleaned out, but by then it was too late, as you point out so well.

Gina145 wrote on December 28, 2014, 3:48 AM

It is quite similar to Bubblews, but missing a few features - most notably notifications. I'm not finding it bad so far, but of course I'll have to wait until I see some money in my Paypal account before I feel really confident about my decision to write there.

FernandoSHA wrote on December 29, 2014, 9:35 PM

I have submitted more than 700 articles to Bubblews in over 6 months and I have been cheated by them and not paid a cent for the flimsy reason that many incidence of fraud have been committed in my country. I still rightfully own the rights to my articles because, with the non-payment, there is no transfer of rights or ownership, right?

AsADrivenLeaf wrote on January 8, 2015, 2:40 AM

Block. Delete. Flag. Report. And expose the serial plagiarist and spammers with evidence-based articles.