Friday, January 29, 2010

PILFERED Magazine - Copyright Scumbags10

Pilfer: to steal stealthily in small amounts and often again and again

Source: Merriam-Webster

There are scumbags, and then there are SCUMBAGS. In my book, when you are a "publication" whose sole existence is based upon stealing and exploiting work from all over the internet by creatives, then you are the embodiment of the word "scumbag", and as such, PILFERED magazine is one such uber-scumbag.

When your website's About page defines you, in part, as such:
"PILFERED is a place where artists, photographers, designers, and the inspired can submit their favorite visuals pilfered from the web to share with one another. Founded on the spirit of web democracy, and built to aid in communicating ideas and concepts, PILFERED Magazine aims to assist in speaking the thousand words – visually."
You seem to be headed down a dangerous path.
(Continued after the Jump)

The lawyers for PILFERED, however, can't have it both ways. Despite a publication title and raison d'etre that seems to promote the theft of intellectual property, their privacy policy page notes under "Prohibited Uses" that you may not:You may not use the PILFERED MAGAZINE site and or its services to transmit any content which...causes distress...upon any other person...includes any unlawful...material...may infringe the intellectual property rights or other rights of third parties, including trademark, copyright, trade secret, patent, publicity right, or privacy right.

Then they state under their "No Warranty and Limitation of Liability" :
And you think that these disclaimers will get you out of legal hot water when you are infringing peoples' copyrights? Really? REALLY??!!??

Founders and Chief-Thiefs Patrick Hoelck, Rudj, Nate "Res" Harvey, and Mia Van Valkenburg, promote themselves as "hav[ing] in the past spent hours surfing the web to put together presentations for various commercial ad and editorial jobs…and noticed the hours it took to gather images and felt it was time to have a massive image collective shared by the people, for the people." What about the people who's creative works you're stealing?

Their About page goes on:
"Content on PILFERED is submitted from around the world and carefully edited by an in-house team, as well as a new monthly guest editor, to keep issues cutting edge, fresh and informative."

Guest editors? What mini-scumbags have agreed to participate in such a scheme? Well, while their March 2009 issue was a "test issue", the rest:
  • King Britt was the guest editor for the April 2009 issue, who describes himself as a "media revolutionary" and believes that he is one who "set the example of an individual[s] what freedom truly is."
  • Cory Kennedy was the guest editor for the May 2009 issue.
  • For the guest editor for the July issue they had twins Gisela Getty and Jutta Winkelmann, described as being "actively involved with the German underground Communist Organization...they meet the young millionaire heir Paul Getty III and become life's play companion with him..."
  • George Pitts guest edits the July 2009 issue, describing himself as a photo editor and photographer whose own photographic work "is an extensive meditation on Women...", and was a former editor for Vibe Magazine
  • Guest editing the August issue is Tyler Gibney, and his site's about page lists his business "HVW8 Art + Design gallery was established in Los Angeles as a studio + gallery space for HVW8 and friends. The current mandate is to support avant-garde graphic design..." and then, for some inexplicable reason, contrary to PILFRED, has a contact person where you can contact their representative for licensing - one can only assume, for some form of compensation?
  • Brett Ratner guest edits the September issue. I wonder how he'd feel if someone PILFERED one of his films?
  • Christina Ricci guest edits the October 2009 issue - I wonder how she'd feel if someone PILFERED her likeness to sell products and services?
  • Susan Kirschbaum guest edits the November 2009 issue
  • Yosi Sergant guest edits the December 2009 issue - Sergant is descibed as a "community organizer...he organized and supported artists working to elect then candidate Barack Obama, including...artist Shepard Fairey" - enough said.
  • Anthony Mandler guest edited the January 2010 issue- I wonder how he'd feel if someone PILFERED and profited from his movies, or how his friends like Rihanna would feel about having her work PILFERED? Readers, what do you think? Is Mandler a Jackass?
This seems to me to be but one visual variation on Napster - which was inundated with copyright infringement lawsuits. Yet why hasn't PILFERED been inundated with similar suits by visual artists? There are plenty of well-known images, any one of which could be the cause for a suit that could shut them down. Copyright Action wrote about this site in May of 2009 here - and it seems that on more than one occasion, the site has been shut down, but why not permanently?

When people run around espousing the notion that "copyright is changing", I get it, and I know that. However, there is a huge difference between "changing" and becoming worthless or irrelevant. PILFERED seems to suggest that your copyright is worth something because it's worth stealing, but worth nothing in terms of the creator being paid for the use of their work. Hoelck, in an interview here, suggests " You either get it or you don’t and are pissed by it." No, we get it - you are promoting stealing of creative works. Anyone who's been a guest editor should hope that this "magazine" vanishes into the ether, because if these guest editors ever have their work stolen and they sue, the defendant in that lawsuit will hold up PILFERED and say something to the effect of "...why isn't what's good for the goose, not good for the gander?"

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.


Jeff said...

Cutting edge??? It's a sad day when any rational human being would consider theft cutting edge.

Jonathan Levin said...


This seems so absurd that I actually wonder if the "guests" were actually guests, or were their identities "Pilfered" for this site?

This shit can't dry up, and blow in the wind quick enough.


Dave said...

As you pointed out this philosophy has worked well for the bittorrent sites! :)

Anonymous said...

A simple whois search on the domain shows that is the site's ISP. One way to deal with these scumbags would be for photographers whose work has been used without permission to contact, on whose servers the site resides, and file a DMCA notification of copyright infringement. Perhaps will simply shut down the site rather than become liable for copyright infringement claims. This is of course assuming that the folks who run are not scumbags. But, you know what they say about assuming. At any rate the website lists a phone number: 877-578-4000

John G. from Hickory, NC

Anonymous said...

On their "About"-Page there is a strange comment, critisising what they do and then saying:

"Credit your sources. Send traffic to these artists’ sites so they can keep working and produce images for you to admire."

Wow, this is strange, as if anyone could make a living from people watching photos on ones website.

This illustrates the erosion of copyright and sense for fair pay. Somehow some people already seem to believe, that a credit is some kind of payment or at least sponsorship that makes further payment redundant.

Unknown said...

And by the way, everyone should keep in mind that this is NOT the egalitarian, art & love, feel-good, well-intentioned website that they'd like you to believe it is. The people here who are stealing your images are being paid as they the use stolen images to "put together presentations for various commercial ad and editorial jobs." They created it in order to shave hours off of their research. It's not OK that artists and photographers get nothing (and believe me, while a credit is nice - if it even happens at all - it's not the same as income), is it really OK that the Pilfered people make money using someone else's work? I don't think so.

Anonymous said...

I am holding my breath as I wait to see them shut down, to see their staff sued, and see the Copyright laws rewritten to be more appropriate and enforceable for a digital age. Plenty of people are working on copyright issues, for example, The Copyright Alliance. Find them at .
Thanks for writing about this issue.

Tony Sleep said...

You can see some of the parasites' attempts at defending their actions in comments at and

Walt Sorensen said...

I love how nearly everyone is on the copyrights are changing bandwagon. my experience agrees with the idea that copyrights are changing, but not in the direction that pilfered is headed. I'm seeing photographers who don't understand copyrights trying to hold on, but going out of business and leaving clients frustrated about getting licenses to reuse the work. this has resulted in many companies demanding copyrights to insure they have reuse rights. clients are leaning towards copyright ownership over unlimited use, with neither being that advantageous to the client or the photographer. (these types of clients want ownership of the copyright just like they want ownership of a patent)

The other change I see is in the which copyrights are respected and which are violated. Movies and writing tend towards respect; music, graphics works, and photography are leaning towards violation. Some of these attitudes can be seen in whether someone would rather own or stream content, music studies in the UK say people want to own by any means rather then stream; and with movies people would rather stream then own. royalty free and penny stock show that people want to own photography, add that to magazines like pilfered and we see people want to own photography by any means.

In court the actions of groups like pilfered don't hold up, one large settlement against them would likely end their pilfering. but in many cases it just costs too much to go after copyright violators. Too bad Attorney Generals don't pursue copyright infringer's since a not-for-profit infringement can carry a sentence of 1-10 years for any actual infringement according to federal law.

educating students and businesses may help, and I'm glad for blogs like this one that help to educate people.

Anonymous said...

all of the well-know images on the site are credited. people are encouraged to give credits to photographers. What people are really upset about (like alway) is money. And its completely understandable that the maybe-profiting of the people who run the site is offensive. But I know for a fact it just isn't happening. There is no add space at pilfered. No one, and I mean NOBODY, makes a dime. There is NO money involved.

Adam said...

In addition to the person that runs the magazine, that goes by RUDJ, can also be found here:

He lists contact info also on his site in case anybody would like to speak with him.

Chris Johnson said...


Great work.

Thanks for notifying ASMP.

I received an email indicating they intend to look into this matter.

Chris Johnson

David Brabyn said...

It seems Pilfered magazine has now backtracked. The website now says:

To our community of photographers, artists and viewers of PILFERED:

The sole purpose of this site is to bring awareness to all the amazing images and work that is being shared on the web. This blog/site was not created for profit. Our guest editors has consistently been excited by the opportunity to create their own story through shared images.

With respect to our community, we would like to announce that we are officially re-imagining our perspective. Our hopes are to give you a better, more inclusive and suitable place where you can continue to be inspired and participate in creating content. ln pursuit of this endeavor, we would like to continue receiving your suggestions and encourage you to help us build this platform by submitting only copyrighted and permission based content.

Please continue to email your submissions and suggestions to

Thank you and please be patient while we try to build a better and more robust website for your use and enjoyment. Our goal is and always has been. by the people forthe people.


So they also think being "not for profit" authorizes copyright infringement.



David Brabyn
Photojournalist – New York

Web Presence for Photographers:

Mark said...

It looks like they got a little too much heat. All the content has been removed and replaced with a vague, feel-good, re-imagining statement. I would guess the backlash from all the press resulted in a lot of DMCA take down requests. Given their brazenness I can't imaging they saw the light without some real and potentially costly threats.

Anonymous said...

Pilfered is encouraging theft. Why not have someone post Mickey Mouse and Disney stuff on there and then notify Disney about it. FBI will go after the magazine and no amount of disclaimers will help them. You can't disclaim aiding and abetting lawbreaking and Disney is downright nasty to those who interfere with Mickey and the gang.

Koz said...

I visited the site the other day, all images are down and they're asking for artists to submit images, citing exposure and all that jazz. Curious to see how that turns out...

John G from Hickory, NC said...

Are they going to change their name to BUSTED MAGAZINE?

Anonymous said...

This site appears no different then Imagespark which is also run by the ad agency teehan + lax. Seems like no one wants to do their homework these days.

The Art Reserve said...

Unfortunately for everyone, Pilfered Magazine has gone offline. It is likely the shutdown came from people who were outraged at the conduct of the magazine to download, screenshoot and scan their way into notoriety. The concept of Pilfered was to curate a selection of images from the web and beyond, and place them into one location. There did not appear to be any pecuniary gain for Pilfered, and it was unclear whether or not that was their intent. Rather it appeared the sheer enjoyment came from curating images they found and possibly they got some enjoyment out of watching people squirm.

Plain and simple, the concept was genius. They did what museums do daily, without an acquisition budget. Both fortunate and unfortunate for some, Pilfered was ahead of their time. Copyright law will undoubtedly change and adapt not only because of technology but because of people like the founders of Pilfered. Why should their artistic expression be restricted where there is no pecuniary gain? Hopefully Pilfered will be back soon enough. Maybe the founders will become wealthy enough to lobby amendments to present copyright law. We'll see. No matter what, it is unfortunate they went down. One less creative resource. Thanks everyone.

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