Copyright Infringed LOLCATS

This page is about my copyright infringed cat photograph and the popular ICANHASCHEEZBURGER web site, also known as LOLCats.

When I discovered my photograph of our beloved deceased cat, Katy Blue, being used as a joke at ICANHASCHEEZBURGER, for their own commercial purposes, I demanded it be removed. I thought that would be the end of it, but it was not. Although ICANHASCHEEZBURGER admitted that I was the owner of the photograph, they felt that I should be proud that it had been on their front page for so long – whatever that means. If I wanted the photograph removed they had such a long list of legal requirements for me to fulfill, that I felt required to contact an Intellectual Properties attorney to help me. It was not easy to do, and I still cannot assure myself that the photo is totally removed, as I do not understand the workings of their website. Since then, I have discovered that my copyright pet photo at Flickr is not the only one that suffered such a fate. Here I am documenting for other Flickr photographers my experiences with the ICANHASCHEEZBURGER commercial web site.

I posted “Good Cat, Bad Cat” at my Flickr account in August 2006, and since that time it has always been prominently labeled as “(c) Copyright – All Rights Reserved.” Recently I was made aware of the ICANHASCHEEZBUGER site when another Flickr member found my copyrighted photograph displayed there as  “dunno source.”  It was being used without my knowledge or permission and seems to have been posted as a template for their commercial activities. At last count, before I jumped through their required hoops for removing it, I counted sixty-two (62) of my “copyright infringed” images at their web site. As near as I can understand about how the web site works, each of those sixty-two images had been uploaded to individual members accounts, and from there, greeting cards, etcetera, could be created. In addition, there were that many HTML codes provided so that my “copyright infringed” photography could be posted anywhere on the World Wide Web without any attribution to me. I have found that this website publishes picture books that are for sale at Amazon and they have applications available for viewing their photographs on iPhones and iPods at the iTunes Store.

If you believe your copyrighted photographs have been infringed by the ICANHASCHEEZBURGER web site, you must first prove you own the photograph. Apparently, ICANHASCHEEZBURGER does NOT have to prove they own any of the photographs on their web site, as their name is “prominently” displayed on ALL photographs there, implying their ownership.

Although Flickr’s Terms of Service seem to forbid commercial activities by Flickr members, the ICANHASCHEEZBURGER commercial web site has a Flickr Group at Flickr where under their “ABOUT” statement they seem to claim legal rights to override privacy and copyrights for Flickr photographs. According to Flickr’s own Community Guidelines (under “Don’t Use Flickr For Commercial Purposes”), this can only be permitted with Flickr’s approval. Flickr states: “Any other commercial use of Flickr, Flickr technologies (including APIs, FlickrMail, etc), or Flickr accounts must be approved by Flickr.” Here is the Flickr Can Has Cheezburger group’s statement appearing 1 January 2009 at Flickr:

About Flickr Can Has Cheezburger

Now officially opened! This is a group for posting photos that are captioned like those at the ever-awesome lolcats photos at, and for the website’s intarweb fans.

NOTE: ALL photos added are considered as submissions to the website. Legal information may be found at the site here.

If it is your own photo, you are giving administrators royalty-free right to use that photo. If you submit a photo that is not your own, it must be a creative commons photo allowing derivative works and commercial use. Basically, the website can post and use any photos or captions posted to the pool. Please also note that this is only a fan group and is not affiliated with the ICHC owners. Also, photos posted to the pool are the responsibility of the member posting, not our own.

I have NEVER been a member of that group, so how did my photograph make it to the Cheezburger site? I have reported this to Yahoo, owner of Flickr, and they are totally uninterested, as I can document with the emails between us. On 27 December 2008, Yahoo responded that I must use this link  ( to report TOS violations of groups. Said link advises to contact the group administrator, who in this case is an official of  …  ICANHASCHEEZBURGER’s commercial website:

Aside from Help, Ideas and Bugs, Flickr Groups are moderated by their administrators. If you have any concerns regarding activity within a group, please contact the admin for resolution. You can find the group admin by clicking the member link at the top of the group “home” page.

Here is another ICANHASCHEEZBURGER photograph from “dunno source” although the picture is “(C) Copyright, All Rights Reserved” at Flickr:

funny pictures

moar funny pictures at ICANHASCHEEZBURGER. But read a COMMENT at Flickr about this picture.

Here’s another posted at ICANHASCHEEZBURGER: “Caption by: cindyscrazy | Picture by: dunno source.”

funny pictures

moar funny pictures.  This picture is actually claimed by LAMcNamara at the LOLCats site, although it appears identical to a photo at Flickr, labeled — Bachelor Pad? “(C) All Rights Reserved.”


16 Responses to Copyright Infringed LOLCATS

  1. […] Copyright Infringed LOLCATS   […]

  2. […] without my permission, nor even credit given, at (The Generations Network, Inc.) and […]

  3. Anon says:

    You can send a DMCA takedown request to have them take it down. (Do it right, don’t try to abuse the process.) If they don’t, that’s instant legal liability and copyright infringement. You can also try DMCA’ing their ISP.

  4. Tara says:

    I agree with Anon. Send them a take down notice. If they don’t comply then you have every right to sue them.

    I am very annoyed when I see photos that my friends never submitted nor did they want their pictures to appear on a commercial website without their permission.

    I used to like icanhascheezburger, but after knowing how they obtained the photos, it really disappointed me. I can’t stand people who do not respect others’ work and put their logo on photos that do not belong to them without even asking for permission. Very greedy and rude!

  5. SHAZ says:

    The simple fact of it is once you submit something to the internet ie: music, photos, art, even personal info, it is never truly safe from public use. It is a huge downside to using the internet, but it’s still true none the less.

  6. Mary2 says:

    Why would you post photos to the internet – by its definition NOT private – and then complain that people are playing with them (in a way that it is in no way disrespectful or offensive to you)??????????????

  7. neddy says:

    Mary2 – Those who disrespect an individual’s copyright are stealing that individual’s work. It is that simple.

    International Copyright Laws exist to protect the limited rights of creators of published materials. Basically, those who create material are supposedly protected by law to license their creations for their own benefit and use for the lifetime of the author/artist/creator. The Internet is not private, but neither is a public library, a bookstore, a music store. All copyrighted material within those places is “supposedly” protected by law. Those who disrespect an individual’s copyright are stealing that individual’s work. It is that simple.

  8. noneyabiz says:

    wow. i have 4 cats & love them all dearly. but, seriously, you’re taking yourself waaaaay too seriously. i’m going to suggest that you A) get a new hobby and B) get a new pet. you posted a photograph in a public domain & now you want to get bejiggety about it? it’s a fun site & i would be happy if one of my babies (dead or alive) had a pic there. you know why yahoo is completely uninterested??? ’cause they HAVE BETTER THINGS TO WORRY ABOUT! i wish the problems in everyone’s life were as ridiculous & mundane as yours, then maybe people wouldn’t be dying all over the world every day.

  9. stephen says:

    seriously… people love photos of cats, they are never vulgar or profane in the words they use get over yourselves. You should be honored your pet makes so many smile… stop being selfish… when your pet was alive im sure it was overjoyed making you and your family smile… why deny them the joy of making millions smile?

  10. Rallix says:

    I would argue that Lolcats, and the works displayed at ICHC Network (if you look through other sites, they include derivative works from MANY copyrighted sources) are pretty soundly protected by Fair Use. See specifically the fourth factor of Fair Use.

  11. Kgil says:

    The internet is public domain. If you don’t want it public, don’t post it. (I thought everyone knew this…)

  12. Neddy says:

    For those of you who are spreading “misinformation, disrespect for creative people, and jaw-dropping condescension” by positing that the Internet is Public Domain, you should read this report from NPR and get yourself educated a bit:

  13. Hoopy Frood says:

    A few things: first, unless the photos are being used in ICHC’s merchandise or advertising, it is not, in fact, being used commercially. Therefore, it falls under the Fair Use Act.

    Second, most of those photos are submitted by the various people on the internet who visit ICHC, not by the ICHC staff themselves. ICHC thus is not responsible for the submission of your photo. One of their many site visitors/members is to blame.

    Third, the reason for all the legal red tape involved in trying to have your photo removed is most likely to prove you do, in fact, own the submitted photo. Now, I may be wrong about this (as I have not seen the document in question), but I do know this is a common way to prevent people from having media taken down that they do not actually own – a problem which has notoriously plagued YouTube for some time.

    I wouldn’t bother with a lawsuit, but do insist on having the image removed. Fill out whatever legal documents they need, and don’t be afraid to be assertive about it. Provide sufficient proof of ownership & show the copyright notice, and they should take it down (hopefully). You might get a little grief, but that’s what legal departments do.

  14. Kevin McKenzie says:

    Fair Use isn’t an act, it’s an affirmative defense. Which is to say, after someone has sued you for copyright infringement, you can then claim fair use. Unfortunately, this leaves a lot of things really fuzzy and in a state of legal limbo, until a judge decides.

    And given that ICHC has ads on their pages, they are making money off of the pictures, and therefore are using them in a commerical manner.

    Personally, though, I wouldn’t mind it so much if they didn’t put their name on the pictures, implying creation/ownership.

  15. Anon says:

    “Those who disrespect an individual’s copyright are stealing that individual’s work. It is that simple.” How are they permanently depriving you of your property, which is the basic definition of theft? You are still free to use and enjoy your image. So it is not that simple.

    Once something is posted to the internet, it is very hard to control. Copyright exists for the benefit of the corporations, who can afford lawyers. For the average person with no commercial interests to protect, it’s better not to post something to a public space if you don’t want it used by others. Especially pictures of cats.

  16. Sharron F says:

    For some reason, people think it is wrong to go into an art gallery and steal a piece of art but they think nothing of stealing (and often claiming credit for) someone’s photo. Flickr is a site for posting your OWN photos- technically they are not being posted to a photo sharing site. Flickr is a personal way to post your own pictures. They are copyrighted- even though that is unnecessary since they are the property of the person who took them. Take your own damn pictures. Post your OWN cats. STOP being a THIEF. If it isn’t yours, don’t use it. I know a fundraising site for rescue kittens that CONTINUALLY has its photos stolen- they use the photos to make money for their cause but other people feel they can just do as they please with someone else’s property. If you think stealing is okay, well, you are a dishonest person. Period. Go steal some integrity. Just because someone uses their right to post a photo on the web doesn’t mean YOU have the right to steal it.

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