Facebook Software Engineer Teaches You How to Steal Copyrighted Images

Facebook Software Engineer Teaches You How to Steal Copyrighted Images

According to his bio, Jesse Chen is a software engineer at Facebook and recent graduate of UC Berkeley. Jesse has a personal blog which we recently stumbled across that includes a blog post from 2012 that detailed how to go about stealing copyrighted images and removing watermarks.

The post (UPDATE: The blog post has since been removed.) starts off by congratulating recent college grads and expressing frustration about not being able to right click proofs of grad pictures (in order to avoid paying for them). But never fear, Jesse Chen and Jonathan Tien have come to the rescue with a tutorial to show you how to rip off the photographer who took them for you by bypassing the blocked right click and removing that "ugly copyright overlay" in Photoshop.


Jesse links to his own graduation images, here which he uses in the tutorial.

The article continues by detailing the steps involved to get to a high-res copy of the image (still watermarked at this point) in three different browsers. [UPDATE] in respect to Grad Images we have taken down the original screencaps and have replaced them.

Click to view larger.
fstoppers_jesse_chen_facebook_steal_full Click to view larger.

And just like that you're a master Photoshop-wielding image thief. Congrats.


This attitude towards photography is toxic and seems like it's becoming more and more pervasive. What Jesse fails to realize is that the photographer who took those images owns them- there's a copyright notice for a reason. As a software engineer, I'm sure Jesse wouldn't be cool with someone stealing some of his code for use in their own website, even though it can be done just as easily. This tutorial is not about "[taking] back what's yours to begin with," it's stealing what someone would kindly sell you (as low as $10). If you want free pictures have your family take them.

Even if Jesse is posting as himself and not as a representative of Facebook, when you work for a company and explicitly show that in your profile, your words are associated with that brand. Disappointing, to say the least.

If you'd like to see the original post for yourself you can check it out here. UPDATE: The blog post has since been removed.

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Previous comments
Austin Rogers's picture

Gnarly! I took a quicky webarchive before the post went live just to be safe.

The a$$hole understands copyright and permissions well enough to have this on his resume:
"Brand Permissions Request Form: Redesigned the entire brand request
submissions flow that hundreds of companies go through every single day
to use Facebook's trademarks and screenshots."

Gee, you can help Facebook protect their IP, but it's no-holds-barred when it comes to other people's IP? Jerkoff.

He seems to have removed the post. The link is still there in his main site, but it seems to go nowhere. Maybe he learned his lesson?

The irony is that his blog is filled with posts on how to manage your money and manage your retirement. I wonder if not letting people steal your images online is a good way to manage your money?

If you follow the link to Jonathan Tien's site, you will see that he is part of an on campus Christian group and hands out tracts at Berkley. What Would Jesus Do? Not steal photos....

And it gets better. He worked for Bibles for America lol.

Nothing is ever truly deleted from the Internet... http://web.archive.org/web/20130917042937/http://www.jessechen.net/blog/...


jajajjajaj that was really funny ,,, I am completely against what the guy did (stealing the photos for him) but your answer made me laugh a lot.

Chad West's picture

I'm glad his post was removed, but I also don't think you should have the full tutorial here. The before and after images will suffice. Just because this is a site meant for photographers doesn't mean that other people won't find your post and try to steal someone's stuff.

Austin Rogers's picture

I totally agree with the sprit of that. I'd rather not proliferate a technique to steal images but I feel it's important to retain a copy of the post, especially now that it's been removed.

Barry Chapman's picture

You're contradicting yourself, because proliferating a technique to steal images is EXACTLY what you're doing by duplicating the entire tutorial.

wake the hell up!
If you look at the screen shots above, most of the instructions are blurred out.
This thread is dedicated to exposing the ethics and illegalities.

Barry Chapman's picture

Thanks for letting me know. But the blurring has just been done (and I'm very glad of it!) When the article was first posted and for several hours afterward the instructions were fully visible - even though the original tutorial had been removed. During that time it was shared over 600 times on facebook, and I hope it's only links to the now blurred article that appear there.

There's no genie being let out of the bottle here. Chen's article is forever web cached and can still be gotten to by anyone who wishes to read up on such techniques. That FStoppers posted his article in it's entirety is not going to keep those who are deadest in violating CI and IP. That come from people with a motivation to try to cheat someone out of something -- a thief.

You can get this all over the place. It isn't a secret technique or anything that I haven't seen detailed at least half a dozen other places. Posting or not posting is inconsequential. It actually serves to prove how completely and mindfully he intended to defeat copyright and for purposes of exposing this guy, I'm not worried about it.
Are you afraid of the knowledge?

Chad West's picture

I think it's absolutely counter-intuitive to repost this guy's tutorial. It's like saying "we think this thing this guy did was so terrible that we're going to keep doing it just to show everyone how terrible it was." What kind of sense does that make?

Because for one, it's not top secret. Every photographer worth their own salt knows these techniques. For number two, Chen's post illustrates step-by-step how he defeated a commercial photographer's work -- in effect, he showed absolute intent and knowledge of what he was doing.
Now, let's put our common sense hat on for a moment. How many people do you know who are actually going to execute this lengthy 13 step tut? Not many but that's not the point. He's a Facebook employee both on and off the clock, what he's documented is unlawful civil conduct, conduct that does not reflect well on Facebook as a company not to mention the man tells us that he is on the Facebook Photos team.

Chad West's picture

Oh, the good old "everyone's doing it" excuse. That certainly makes it okay to put the full tutorial up here, because it's easy enough to find everywhere else. I've got news for you buddy, that excuse doesn't work in court. But luckily for you this is the internet where everybody's judge and jury.

But if you'd read my original comment, you'd probably have inferred that I wasn't suggesting that this entire article be scrubbed, but only (as I quite clearly said) that the before and after shots would have sufficed to prove the point that this Facebook engineer was advocating stealing intellectual property.

Well, "buddy", good luck in trying to police it then. All I'm saying is that that cat long has been out of the bag and because it is on the internet everywhere right now, does little to no good to not show the details of "his" actions. And like I said in another post, I much rather prefer the SLR Lounge approach. I'm not advocating spreading the word because the word has already been spread. Those who are all of a sudden alarmed by this post are probably the ones who had no clue it was possible in the first place but working photogs like myself have known of these techniques for years.

Reported to the relevant authorities, theft is theft,

Lenn Long's picture

GradImages is based in Clemson, SC. I will make sure they see this.

Lenn Long's picture

Take that back. GradPhotos is in Clemson. GradImages is in Tallahassee.

They are well aware of it now. Several of my associates and friends have sent messages to Grad Images as well as Facebook.

They know spoke to them earlier today, as does the HR department at Facebook. Theft is theft,

I sure Facebook is probably in the process of making him employee of the month.

spilt my tea, thanks Steve,

arial is not the same as helvetica, lemme tell ya kid.

Austin Rogers's picture

Lol that totally bothered me, too.

Having been a pro photographer for the past 30 years, I am really astonished at the amount of people defending this guy's actions and Fstoppers have done us all a favour by publicising copyright theft. Thank you!

Barry Chapman's picture

I didn't see anybody defending his actions. But the guy has since removed his tutorial, yet this FStoppers post has duplicated it in full. I think they should remove the detailed "how-to" information and I posted a comment to that effect, in the hope that others will agree.

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