Don’t Steal, Please.

On February 24, 2012, in Work, by Meghan

[UPDATE, February 24, 2012, 4pm: Hi all, thanks for the wild outpouring of support. Your blog comments, emails, tweets, and Facebook commentary make me certain that this is a community that I love and love being a part of. Thank you.

I want to let you all know that Mark Floreani, one of Flotrack/Flotrail’s founders, and I just had a pleasant phone conversation in which he apologized for posting a photo of mine on their website without permission or credit. As many of you know, the photo was removed from the couple places it was posted at Flotrack/Flotrail around midday today.

In short, case closed, situation resolved. Thanks again and let’s all go hit the trails!]

Hello. You over there on the Internets. Have you ever stolen something someone else created/owned? Maybe just once? Maybe as a kid? My brother once did.

When we were young, he stole some candy from the grocery store. I can’t quite remember what it was, but we’re talkin’ a piece or two. What I can remember is my mom staring my brother down in the kitchen of our house, waiting for him to fess up. When he did, she put us both back into the car and returned us to the grocery store so my brother could apologize and give the manager the change he owed. My dad later grounded my brother for the weekend, sealing the deal on that moral lesson. We learned–my brother from doing the heavy lifting and me by osmosis–that stealing is bad.

I grew up in the late 80’s and early 90’s, the age of big bangs and bigger earrings (Someday I will show you pictures of what I looked like and we will all have a good chuckle.). One day back then, my friends and I climbed into my wheels at the time, a mouse brown Chevy Corsica, from a day of mall shopping. Hooked around my purse strap was a set of hooped earrings from Claire’s or someplace similar. I had stolen, unintentionally, and I was mortified, remembering the stern punishments my bro had received. I creeped back into the accessory store and hung the earrings on the first rack I could reach because, dear lord, the guilt was punishment enough.

Other people, on the other hand, steal. Peppered around the Internets are my photos and words, taken from this website or other places I’ve published them, and re-posted without attribution. In most of these cases, I believe that folks have good-hearted intentions and they don’t understand that they should ask permission to do so (When people ask, I almost always says yes. This week, a nice lady said she wanted to put a photo from this website on the cover of a forthcoming book. I loved the book idea and said yes!). In a couple of cases, however, I know people know better and have done it anyway. That’s the work of both meanypants-ville and people who must not have grown up with my parents.

This kind of stealing gets me fired-up enough to write a blog post. Last week, an Internet company announced that they were going to start a new trail running website and were on the hunt for contributors to help build an online trail running community. Here’s that website and contributor announcement. Here’s the screenshot I took last Friday of that same webpage:

Screenshot of Flotrail website and contributor announcement (Meghan M. Hicks image credit)

Right away, something about the page struck me as odd. About 32 seconds later, I realized that the photo near the top of the page seemed, I dunno, familiar. And then it hit me, it’s a photo of ME. Can you see the resemblance now? This image is a manipulated version of this photo:

Meghan trail running in Jasper National Park (Keith Brodsky photo credit).

This photo originally appeared here, in this blog post, back in 2009 when I was on vacation in Canada. How in the heck did I put seven and four together so fast? In this 2009 photo, I was recovering from plantar fasciitis. Anyone who has had a long injury knows that those early runs back to health are sweet and imprinting upon the memory. I also remember this day because I was running with a dear friend, Keith Brodsky. He took this photo, actually.

Still with me? Flotrack/Flotrail lifted a photo from my website, did a little switcheroo editing, and published it on their own website as if it were their own. Did they ask permission? Nope! Did they pay me? No way. Are they going to profit from something that I own? Not for much longer.

In case you haven’t tooled around my website much, I’ve got proprietary information listed on the bottom of each page (Scroll down on this one to see it.). Here’s a screenshot of what this looks like:

Copyright information for my website (Meghan M. Hicks image credit)

Flotrack/Flotrail, stop stealing my stuff! Sorry, doods and laydees. Fair’s fair, take that candy back to the grocery store, apologize to the manager, and pay your buckaroos. Or, apologize and take it down (And don’t steal someone else’s photo when you replace it.).

While you’re here, Flotrack/Flotrail, can I tell you one more thing that I’m sure you already know? The website you’re inventing, Flotrail, it sounds just like one that already exists. It’s called and I work for this website. Let’s bring this all full circle. You stole a photo from the personal website of an editor at a publication that’s already doing what you’re trying to promote with the photo. Funny all that.

Between doing some heavy lifting from me, a person who works her heiny off for and cares deeply about the trail and ultrarunning community, and the fabulous splash this blog piece is making, you’re sure rolling out the welcome wagon for yourselves. I want you to know that we trail and ultrarunners try our damndest to play nice with each other, every time, all the time. We get behind, support, and buoy each other. You should, too.

In the meantime, buy my photograph or take it down. And don’t steal anymore, please.

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47 Responses to “Don’t Steal, Please.”

  1. Sara says:

    I hope that felt as good to write as it just did to read. Go Meghan!!

  2. Danni says:

    I’m totally stealing this πŸ™‚

    (except no one would want to steal any of my stuff)

  3. Mike Place says:


    Attribution is important and I can’t believe Flotrail would be so incredibly stupid. They won’t be getting any traffic from me without a full mea culpa, that’s for sure. (Though we all make mistakes. I’ve certainly made my fair share. It’s easy to do.)

    I’ll use this chance to make my pitch for my favorite blend of copyright, Creative Commons. Here’s the skinny:

    Now to go license up the content on my little piece of the Internet. Good work, Meghan!

  4. Gretchen says:

    Thank you for writing this, Meghan! I have had to convince friends to stand up for themselves when their content is stolen on the web. As writers, it’s important that we all do this. You’re setting a great example.

    Flotrack probably doesn’t realize how tight the trail running community is. I do not think this is going to go well for them.

  5. I can’t believe that they took and then even manipulated your image like that! Good for you for finding it and calling them out. It is STEALING!! hame on them.

  6. Sara says:

    Look at the splash screen…your/Keith’s whole photo is there.

  7. Run Junkie says:

    Great post, Meghan. Infuriating stuff. I’ve always liked Flotrack’s youthful enthusiasm, but this shows it’s got a big downside, too. One hopes they can learn, though since the image is still up there, it seems one shouldn’t hold out hope.

  8. Whew!
    I loved this post!
    Last year, I interviewed with a “person” who was going to be opening a new fitness studio in Orange County, CA and he was “looking for established fitness professionals to collaborate in building our group fitness program, introduce innovative formats, and program design…”
    Well, I went on the interview, it went really well. He asked me so many questions about the Group Fitness and Indoor Cycling Classes I’ve designed for my fitness studio and others throughout SoCal.
    I was even kind enough to give him my press kit that included descriptions of all my classes…well, 2 weeks had gone by and I decided to do another follow up since I hadnt heard from him.
    While waiting for a call, I got curious about how his new website was coming along…
    He had “his” class schedule up already and imagine my surprise when I saw 2 of my Classes listed, by name, along with the identical descriptions from my website!!!
    Holy cow! Not only that, he had cut & pated my “trainer bio” from one of the Cycling Studios I guest-teach at and had used it for one of his instructors!!!
    I would have totally been happy to have helped him as I have helped other fitness professionals when they were just starting out…uggg!
    That same year, another instructor used my bio and a class description for a class she was teaching somewhere else…as if I wouldnt have found it…I subbed there too!
    Thank goodness that one of my clients is a lawyer and he sent them “nice” letters and the content was removed, but golly, why not just ask for help!

    CHEERS to you for your post and sticking up for your content! If you need help, I will see if my client would like to send a “legal shout out” to the peeps.

  9. sara malcolm says:

    Excellent excellent post!

  10. Tim Tollefson says:


    I come waving a white flag! πŸ™‚

    Great post and I’m glad you have written it. Too many people, including myself until today, are blissfully ignorant to this topic. I’ve been guilty of downloading google images for presentations or posts and will credit “googleimages” but have yet to ask permission from the actual source.

    I am glad you have called this to my attention as moving forward I will be sure not to partake in that thievery.

    Hopefully you read my second blog post as I really think ALL runners should be playing nice and getting along.

    I apologize again for causing rift and hostility on behalf of the roadies.

    Run happy πŸ™‚


    • stack says:

      all runners should play nice and get along? Did you think that just sounded like something nice to type? Because this doesn’t match things I’ve seen from you. Including your recent digs on ultrarunners. Do they not count as runners? Seems like if you are trying to get in with trail community that you aren’t off to a great start.

      • Tim Tollefson says:

        @stack. My recent dig was exactly what the second blog references. Taking you didn’t read it. I am not attempting to enter the ultra world, I will dabble with if the critics calling me out desire me too, but I have my sights set on the roads/track for a few more years before possibly making the shift.

        • Stack says:

          I never said anything about you running an ultra and honestly could care less if you did or not. I hadn’t heard of you before this so I’ve never said to myself… man.. i wonder what Tim Tollesomething could do if he ran an ultra.
          i enjoy the laid back, humble, supporting types I tend to run into at these races and you just don’t sound like someone who would be fun to run with/around at these events. Although I guess I wouldn’t have to see you much since you’d probably be off with the lead pack for the first 1/2 to 3/4 of the race and ahead of me anyway. I probably wouldn’t see you again until an aid station later on when you drop (like a lot of ‘fast’ roadie newbs who think they can hang tend to do). Even if I knew who you were I’m sure I would pause long enough to lend you encouragement and give you a pat on the back for your effort and hope you success in the future.
          Probably even try to encourage you to try and tough it out and offer to pace you in so you can feel the accomplishment of finishing.
          I won’t go into how you down ultrarunners and then say here how ‘ALL runners should play nice’ or how you look down on ultrarunning almost as if its not a sport yet get beat by every ultrarunner @ OTQ and almost got beat again by Wardians time on Sunday running his second marathon in 2 days.
          Substitute the word marathon for ultrarunning in your blog post and re-read it. Believe it or not there are a lot of faster track and 5k types that feel that way about marathoners. Which (as they tend to say) explains why the ‘good’ or ‘fast’ track guys don’t do marathons until they are ‘washed up’ from their ‘real’ racing careers. There are also a lot of people who look at marathoners as being the ‘galloway’ types and look at the 4+hr group. I don’t express either of these feelings but this is basically the reasoning/view you took with ultrarunning.

          I’ve probably typed too much already and I should get going… i’m writing a satirical blog about ‘Camel Racing’ and ‘Cheese Rolling’… i’ve never done either but I shouldn’t let that keep me from making fun of both right?

  11. I feel your pain here – I’ve found my writing all over the place unattributed. I’m cool if the profit is motivation; but when the profit turns to cash for someone else – the flattered feeling turns to rage. Not too long ago, a certain company took something I wrote on my Facebook page that had been shared/reposted/etc. – all credited by nice people, changed the mileage in the quote to 26.2 (rather than 100) and put it over images that they also did not own. It freaking blew up meme-style all over the social networks, with all the credit being given to the company. Eventually shirts were made and sold and you better believe I saw none of that cash.

    But I digress – at the end of the day, I’m most pissed they made the whole thing less awesome by changing the distance in my original quote πŸ™‚

    I’m sorry this happened to you – it certainly is a crazy world we live in.

  12. I’m impressed that you caught it! I actually had a similar experience about a month ago. I confronted the person (we mutually follow the others blog and she simply didn’t know how to cite things), but I have since added tags to all my photos, not that it will help much for someone that REALLY wants it.

  13. I’m no attorney but I am pretty sure that they have to pay you whether they take it down or not. They used it without permission – the point being that they USED it. They don’t have an option. They owe you for it.

    Copycat web sites/blogs – well, what can ya do. There are tons of copycat gear sites all over the place, which isn’t even close to being the same as “stealing” someone’s work, so I try to make mine as unique as possible, something no one can emulate. At least, so I hope. I’ve trademarked the site name and have had to go after a few violators in the past (called “policing the mark” which I find awesome). I can only imagine how hard it is for photographers to chase down thieves of their work.

  14. Chris says:

    First of all, great rant! Also, I hope you didn’t let your photo run on the cover of a book without getting paid for it. If you did, your hurting photographers everywhere by devaluing their work.

    @Jill – If this were to go to court, Megan would have to prove damages in order to get money out of them. Also, do you want to guess what the value of that image is? As a photographer that has had images run on major websites I’m guessing about $1 – $5.

    In the end, it looks like FloTrail (Tim) took it down in good faith and learned a valuable lesson in the process.

    • Tim Tollefson says:

      I definitely have learned from this, that said, I do not work for flotrack or their new site flotrail.

      I am simply a member of their community (since 2007) and decided to take a crack at blogging this week with my failed satirical piece. Rough entrance into blog-town! πŸ™‚

      Question, Chris. For images on googleimages, are they all copyright protected?


    • I know that’s been floating around as an argument for/against use of images, but I think if she has an established price on her images (don’t know if she does), she can sue for that price. What happens in court is anyone’s guess from there and of course is dependent on the laws of the state, etc.

      If your statement were completely true, there would be no reason for anyone to not use photos; no one is going to be afraid of being sued for a dollar.

      If she didn’t sign a release for her image to be used, that’s another issue as well.

      • Arnel says:

        I’d really have to disagree with this. Unless you pay for a photo through stock images, or you get them from a website that states they are for free public use, they are copyright protected. Period. And weather or not the photographer has issued a price for the image is irrelevant. It is theirs and cannot be used without permission from them, and giving credit, also linking back to their site if they have one. Meghan used a photo from a friend with his permission. It wasn’t illegal that her original post and use of the photo did not give written credit, it’s just poor form.

  15. Nice job Meghan — it’s important to get the word out about this. I wanted to give you a link to another blog I follow, whose author wrote what I thought was a really good and informative post on this topic:

  16. Great piece, Meghan. I’m interested in the follow up, i.e. what FloTrack does with this info. Keep up the great work!


    PS – I was pretty pissed at the Katie DeSplinter quote situation too. It’s a great quote…

  17. An attorney says:

    Actually sister, that is not YOUR photo. It is the copyright of the photographer which you admit is not you. Your pal Keith is the one who should be upset.. once stolen by you, then again flotrail.

    Even if you granted you permission to you that doesn’t make it yours either that doesn’t transfer copyright to you.

    • Meghan says:

      An attorney,

      Thanks for your thoughts. My buddy, Keith, took this photo with my camera while were were trail running together. As you can see, the photo is appropriately credited in today’s blog post. Though the photo lives today on the hard drive of my computer, I’d never take credit for Keith’s capture. Further, I’m feel pretty darn certain that Keith would stand behind my stance and this blog post.


      • an attornry says:

        regardless, you seem to be taking credit for his work. Going on about YOUR photo and stealing from YOU. I

        As an artist, I needed to correct you

        • Meghan says:

          an attornry,

          As an artist, you should also be concerned about unintentional and intentional digital piracy. As a publisher to Keith’s photo and the host of the only place the photo publicly exists, I’m protecting it, my website (the platform from which it was lifted), and the fact that we trail runners own the pretty pictures/words in our blogs. There are a million, zillion trail runners with blogs containing wicked photographs. If companies want to use them to promote their work and runners are into selling/granting use permissions, I think that’s fantastic. This blog post was and is about principle, about encouraging everyone in the community to do the right things with our content and for the people who created that content.

          As I’ve said multiple times, I have not and I will not take credit for Keith’s photo. I hope you can find it in yourself to take my word on this.


          • Arnel says:

            As a photographer myself, here, the attorney is correct. You should give credit to the person who snapped the picture underneath the photo. While the content was stolen from your website, you do have an obligation to credit the person who took the photo, underneath the photo. Photographers are funny that way. πŸ™‚

  18. Jason T. says:

    Ironic I was linked here off PCTR’s Facebook page, as their race director has been stealing the trail running community’s money over the past several months…crooks.

  19. Rhielle says:

    Glad to see they took it down.

    I ran into a similar problem late last year when someone used one of the images posted on R-U-N? Events Facebook page to put in a for-profit publication. Didn’t even ask me if they could use it or if I was the photographer. I pointed it out to my brother, the photographer, and we went through the sorting out process. Annoying and rude.

    The Attorney is right. Whoever took the picture owns its copyright regardless of whether or not they have given you permission to use it. One more thing I learned while going through my process.

    • Meghan says:


      Thanks for your thoughts and I’m glad you got your issue sorted out! It sounds like you did the right thing.

      As publishers to others’ work, we have the right to defend work stolen from our platforms, too. It’s my opinion that it’s also our obligation. We run into this issue a couple times per year on, where we find words/photos that are original iRF content published somewhere else. It doesn’t matter who wrote/photographed, we follow-up on the issue as publishers.

      Thanks again for the nice support yesterday,

  20. Meghan says:

    To everyone,

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    Your support is wicked awesome. This is a community I am so proud of. Please check the update I just posted to the top of this blog post, as the situation has now been resolved. Thanks again for all of the love today.

    Yours in trail running dirt,

  21. i am the guy says:

    Yeah I’m sure Flotrack made millions on it. Web development reality: Some Indian subcontractor probably did a Google image search for trail running terms and grabbed the picture without even looking at your site. But you didn’t bother to contact the site or get any context or allow any mitigating factors before freaking out and bashing them over it, did you? Wow, for someone with such a anti-“meanie” philosophy, you sure didn’t waste an opportunity to hammer a competitor and promote yourself and your lame site in your sanctimonious way when given the chance. Guess the Hicks kumbaya web persona is fake. Besides you didn’t even take the picture–why should you get so worked up? Also, could you give an
    example of where someone stole your text? You’re such an atrocious, frivolous writer I don’t believe that for one second.

    • Sara says:

      Web dev reality…here’s a better one if you want to talk about India: software engineers from India create powerful, widely-used web tools which allow less-brilliant minds from all over to do stuff on the web themselves.

      • Meghan says:

        I am the guy,

        Last night, you simultaneously posted nasty stuff about me personally both here and over on You’re trolling, disrespectful, and I won’t engage you in conversation. I will, however, leave your comment published so that others can see how lovely you behaved.


    • Arnel says:

      Wow, so you are saying it’s ok to steal a photo (no matter who took it) because you’re in too much of a hurry or too stupid to realize that ITS NOT YOUR PROPERTY? There are no mitigating circumstances. They knew they were stealing or they wouldn’t have flipped the image and cropped the way they did. If people don’t understand copyright then they need to stay off the internet.

  22. mtnrunner2 says:

    By contrast I recently had a teenage musician ask me if he could use a photo of mine on a YouTube video of an original composition of his. Even sent me a track in return. Talk about getting started off on the right foot.

    And anyone bashing the blog owner (Meghan) ain’t cool. Would you talk to someone like that if they asked you over to their home? Seriously. That’s what I use the “Delete” button for.

  23. Larry Gassan says:

    As a photographer, this is why I watermark *everything* I post. They’re gonna steal the low-rez image, fine. They’re just gonna be reminded who owns the image. It works, because I get queries, and make a few sales as a result.

  24. TrailBum says:

    When I was a kid, in the Cub Scouts in Texas, a group of about 8 of us little tikes walked up to a big beehive. The bees didn’t mind us – we just stood around looking at them fly to the door, land, and climb in, while others crawled out and flew away.
    Then just ONE of the brilliant scouts kicked it – real hard!
    We all ran away while getting stung. Somehow the bees knew which of us was guilty and stung him so much more he ended up being taken to the hospital. He came out okay in the end, but if he hadn’t received timely treatment, he might not have survived.
    Somehow this memory came to mind while reading this whole post and series of comments!
    I guess all’s well that ends well – and I think everyone learned something valuable from the whole experience.
    (p.s. I don’t know who coined the phrase “all’s well that ends well”, but if I knew I would surely give them credit!! LOL)

  25. Viper says:

    holy crap, i needed a thesaurus to read this (specifically that cockhead “i am the guy”‘s post). Meghan, you’re awesome & great support & dialogue. Keep up the great works. Cheers,


  26. Arnel says:

    So sorry for this. It’s really disturbing that they manipulated the image–sorta implies they knew what they were doing, doesn’t it? I stumbled upon this article while researching Flocast. I worked for mile split as photographer and loved it, now Flowcast. Was just wanting a little info on the organization and how they operate. Hmmm… Good luck to you in all future endeavors!

  27. Arnel says:

    One more thing–Digimarc! Embed photos with copyright that’s difficult to remove, and track where they go!

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