I Stole, Sie Stahlen, Ты Украл, We Steal Stolen

On Jan. 31 of this year I’ve published a post with a cute title Roll Your Shit And Follow The Stars! It had to do with dung beetles, the Milky Way and everything in between.

Months later, someone named Manuel commented on this post, complaining that it used, without permission, an image he created, and that he had no intention of offering it to anyone for free.

I emailed Manuel information about the origins of the image I used, which was a Russian site where every image is free for all.

Manuel countered that the image was stolen from the site he listed it for commercial use and was posted on various Russian sites, often photo-shopped.

Indeed, dung beetles rolling all kinds of shit — green balls, table tennis balls, TV- station-logo-engraved Ping-Pong balls etc.–  happily reside on numerous Russian sites, such as lj.rossia.org, joyreactor.cc, live4fun.ru, cartoonbank.ru (where I’ve got it, signed by the name which isn’t Manuel’s).

For unspecified number of minutes I used a default vernacular in my native language to express my feelings about the situation. Oh yes, I put quite a few excellent Russian profanities into a good use right about then.

Afterwards, I emailed Manuel information about the origins of the image I used, which was a Russian site where every image is free for all, and I put the entire text of the email into the comments to the post.

Also, I bitterly complained to everyone who was inclined to listen to my lamentations, “Can you imagine… Who could’ve known…”

“Russians are stealing pictures from the Internet? Big deal! Relax. Chinese steal even more!” some of my Russian friends commented.

Right. Perhaps they do. But to use this as an excuse would be like saying, “My son is a thief? Hey, look at my neighbors – they have two sons and both are thieves!”

Paraphrazing (and badly mutilating) a Russian writer, Either he stole a coat, or a coat was stolen from him – one way or another he was involved in some murky affair.  That’s pretty much how I felt, which isn’t a pleasant feeling, to say the least.

Perhaps,because Manuel hailed from Germany, I remembered a story from a family folklore I’ve heard many (many!) years ago. Very rarely, if ever, I resort to biographical minutia in my posts, but this one sounded almost like a fable…

In the 70s (past century it was, to be sure) my cousin, a ranked Soviet Army officer, was stationed in the East Germany (the former Democratic Republic of Germany, that is, or, rather, was), at or near the picturesque (isn’t everything in Germany picturesque?) village.

My cousin was endowed with a Nordic blond appearance and spoke seviceable German. His job was PR. In today’s parlance, he was designing ways of winning the hearts and minds of local population with nothing much to show for it.  By his own admission, the job was no cakewalk, although his German kept improving with every passing day.

Mostly, he had to deal with a steady stream of local folks, lining up at his office doors since early morning to complain. Majority of their complaints had to do with thievery committed by the Russian soldiers stationed in their picturesque, previously crime-free village. Predominantly, it was petty theft, such as stealing a tin can of paint left outside by an unsuspecting fence painter.

“Donnerwetter! Herr Schwartz stepped inside to get a glass of water. He came out a minute later, and his paint was gone! Herr Schwartz caught a glimpse of a uniformed Russian soldier, tin can of paint in hand, turning the corner.”

“Why would you steal a can of f*ing paint? What would you do with the f*ing can of paint?”  This was my cousin speaking in tongues, German not being one of them.

“Comrade Major! It was just sitting there… unattended, and no one was looking!” was an answer.

No wonder the locals wished that every single Russian thief would spontaneously combust, preferably all of them, and at the same time.

Eventually, the stiff punishment was imposed for thievery. Anyone caught stealing was immediately court-martialled. Satisfying instinctual urges to lift stuff when no one was looking stopped making any sense whatsoever…

Much to my officer-cousin’s dismay, the stream of villagers, lining up by the doors of my cousin’s office, failed to diminish as might’ve been expected. Quite to the contrary, in a short period of time it increased tenfold. The village was ravaged by unprecedented wave of pilfering and burglaries.

As it happened, petty thieves from all over Germany kept arriving to the village, hoping that  their crimes would be blamed on the ill-reputed Russian soldiers. Locals caught on to it eventually, but it took them a long time, a lot of grief, and it’s another story altogether…

The moral of all of this? Don’t steal images and use them in your posts… unless absolutely necessary, like it’s the matter of life or death. If it is, then steal them from some obscure Russian sites. It might or might not happen to be stolen from some other site, which — god knows — might’ve stolen it too… Or not. If not — and you get a comment from the rightful owner — you always can say you didn’t know. Or you can say that Chinese do it all the time! Or you can provide the info of the site you’ve got it from and why you were under impression it’s free and available.

Manuel had emailed me that he was able to contact the person who photoshopped and re-posted his (Manuel’s) picture I’ve found and used. They came to some sort of amicable agreement. It makes me feel a little better.

The pictures used in this post  — I’m almost sure — is a stock photos. If someone can claim it as his/hers, please let me know, and I’ll provide all necessary info about the site I’ve got it from.

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One comment on “I Stole, Sie Stahlen, Ты Украл, We Steal Stolen

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