Lamar Smith: (Alleged) Serial Copyright Violator
Jan 13 2012
After our blog post about SOPA author Lamar Smith's unauthorized use of a copyrighted image on his official campaign website came out yesterday, Lamar's site went down "for maintenance" for a while.
According to numerous commenters on this very site and Reddit who probably know more about this kinda thing than me, the above screenshot suggests that, while the site was down, Lamar (or Lamar's webmaster) altered the site's "robots.txt" file to prevent visitors from being able to view archived versions of the page via the Wayback Machine (the method by which I first discovered the initial copyright violation).
There are other, legitimate reasons to prevent web crawlers from accessing your site that have to do with bandwidth and privacy, and while we can't be sure Lamar was trying to cover anything up, something definitely smells fishy.
Above is a screenshot of his site as it appeared the morning I wrote the blog. If you've been on his site since, you'll notice that the banner has been changed (to an image from iStockphoto which, unless he's a complete moron, he paid to license). So you have to assume that there was something in that banner he didn't want us to see. Though the pictures are too cropped to reverse image search effectively, doing a quick Google Image Search turned this up:
The second image from the right on his banner is of the courthouse in San Marcos, Texas. The image in Lamar's site used is the first thing to come up If you Google Image Search "San Marcos Courthouse".
And the image to the left of that is of Fred Street, in Fredrisckburg, TX. And hey look what happens if you Google "Fred St, Fredricksburg, TX"!
There's also this (unbelievably shitty) video that's still on the homepage of his site.
The image of the Alamo used is the first usable image to come up if you google image search "the Alamo" (that other one that looks like a colour photo is actually a tiny GIF)
And the image of Fredericksburg's Historic District is the first thing to come up if you search for "Fredericksburg Historic District".
And lastly, San Marcos Courthouse is also referred to as "Hays County Courthouse". Shockingly, the image used in the video of the courthouse appears in the first page of results when you do a search for "Hays County Courthouse".
The other four images used in the banner/video (two shots of Hill County, TX, another shot of The Alamo, and one of Austin, TX) didn't come up when I did google-image-search-guesses.
I also tried tracing the images I could find back to the copyright owners to see how easy it would be to get legal clearance on them after finding them through Google, but was unable to do so for all but one of them.
Though I have no way of saying for sure that he stole these images from Google without getting the copyright holder's permission in a "please please don't sue me for libel Lamar" kinda way, the fact that 5 out of 9 are things that came up on my first Google Image Search ain't lookin' great for little ol' Lamar.
Follow Jamie on Twitter @JLCT
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