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
Barry Chapman's picture

Further to the above, I'm glad to see they've now blurred out the detailed instructions.

what the guy did (stealing the images for him ) is wrong but sharing his knowledge was not and blurring some part of the post is dumb as somebody else proved in this comments. he just put a link to the post which you can not delete form internet.
This post just helped me to know what not to do if I don't want my images to be stolen

They blurred the post for a reason, several actually.... 1. so as not to support his stealing by teaching people who don't know how to do it & finds the articile; 2. not to be liable if Gradimages decides to file suit and include them; 3. To make it clear that you SHOULD NOT do this!!

He's actually taking a pretty long winded way around it. You can use any http traffic analyzer to pull the image without having to do any Photoshop re-work. In fact, why stop at a single image? You can just download HTTrack and rip a photographer's complete web presence (portfolio, blog, videos, everything) in one go, and upload the whole thing as yours with minor changes (I have seen this done on certain sites).

If you load any image in a browser, that image is available freely on your computer if you know where to look, and the originator will never know you have it unless you do something stupid with it. As a photographer (or in fact, any online content producer), you have to assume that everything you upload is available to anyone with a minimum level of web intelligence and who really wants to steal it.

Dude, it's illegal to "copy" another photographer's work no matter what the resolution of that photo is All it takes to generate a decent 4x6" print is a photo that is 600px on the long side. That's not very big at all. This Jesse Chen is promoting theft and he actually engaged in an unlawful act using his own portrait from Grad Images as an example. They should, at the very least, send him an invoice. If he thought the photo was good enough to steal then he demonstrated satisfaction of the service provided by Grad Images and he owes them some money. There's just no getting around the fact that it's illegal no matter how you try to justify it -- theft is theft.

Barry Chapman's picture

Please upvote this comment if you want the detailed information on how to steal copyrighted images and remove watermarks deleted from this article (now that the original tutorial it was based on has been removed).

David Apeji's picture

It's not just his attitude towards photography/photographers that is the problem, but his attitude towards intellectual property.

And there are tutorials on how to pick locks, how to make weapons, etc, etc. This is the Internet, there is a tutorial for everything!

Only reason this is a post so you could leverage "Facebook Engineer" in the title of the article. As fStoppers grows, you can clearly see the posts that are meant to drive traffic. It's turning into Buzzfeed for photographers.

You're right, but I don't necessarily mind that. Are they supposed to ignore all the best practices and marketing standards all of us are using? Or at least, all of us trying to make a living or build careers.

Is there a tutorial to remove watermarks? Yes.

Is it necessary to make sure you know a "Facebook Software Engineer" made the tutorial? No.

See the difference?

A useful post would be, "Here is a tutorial on how people remove watermarks, here are some best practices to avoid this." That would help you build a career.

This post just wants to rally pitchforks, as a previous commenter noted.

But they're picking up traffic by building a headline for impact. That's the job of a headline from newspapers to now. My point is, why would they deliberately leave out factual elements of a headline if it can gain viewers? They didn't lie. I can't fault them for running a site based on traffic and then doing smart things to build traffic.

I can't fault them either, it's business. Just hate seeing one of my favorite sites give in to the "buzzfeediness" syndrome that has taken swept across the internet. Guess it's the world we live in now

So you really don't see anything wrong with what Jesse Chen has posted? You must not be a working photographer.

I don't give a rats ass about how many clicks they generate or what their motive is. FStoppers is all about photography and in the world of digital photography that we live in today, this kind of theft is very common and it needs to be brought to the forefront. If for nothing else than to educate some of the people commenting on this post right now who don't have a clue about CI or IP.

Yeah! So we should all just shut up and let this guy steal from a commercial photography company and say nothing of the legalities of such actions.

That "Facebook Software Engineer" is in the title is very relevant because not only is he representing the company he is working for, he is advocating theft on behalf of his employer who happens to have a huge world-wide presence. And wouldn't you know, he's on the Facebook Photo team. How ironic.
If you have a photography business this post will resonate with you in to the core and we should "rally pitchforks" for this kind of theft because it is against the law and our work is supposed to be protected under the law.

Per his LinkedIn, "Currently on the Photos team at Facebook" makes his position and influence relevant.

Just wanted to put it out there that searching for "How to steal copyrighted images" on google. Which is half of the headline for this post leads here, a detailed tutorial to do just so.

I'm not knocking the article or anything just that if someone were interested in actually knowing how to remove watermarks has just found a perfect location for that information. Perhaps you don't need to include all the steps?

How much do you all want to bet that isn't a legal copy of Photoshop either ;-)

That's exactly what I suggested before Chen dropped his blog. You can see my comment on the web archive cache.

Haha, I swear people have no common sense. Let's break several laws and post it online along with a tutorial on how to do it!

Not really surprising coming from a FB employee. The entire company was founded on sketchy ethics. Check in to what happens to your photos when you post them and read their TOS. Makes me never want to post any decent photos on FB ever again.

would have change something if the post teach the same BUT with his own photo ( taken by him), NO people who really want to steal they know how to do it

He did mention being the student that university, you would have access to a legit copy of Photoshop (in school perhaps). Which makes it worst, using the school's property to perform crime.

I think the point of this article is *not* to show the fstopper readers how to remove watermarks - any digital photographer worth his salt should know this already. Or know somebody who does.
The point is that a guy with a college degree - an engineer and an adult by most standards- has no scruples taking what is not his.
The point of the issue here is bigger than this sorry guy - he just tags off with the other scape goats of the moment. The point is the uneducated public concerning copyright, intellectual property and what is allowed and what not.
If you point your finger at someone, at least 3 fingers point back at you. If you have a standard issue hand.
So how does the creative industry go about educating their clients about this sort of stuff? For one thing, a transparent billing would help. Get it across that the photographers need the 10 bucks per image sold to put bread on the table, that the cost of the session usually just covers expenses. Get it across that taking photographs is more than just 3 seconds of "smile" and "click".
Just sharpening the pitchforks doesn't do the trick, imho. Point in case: the music industry. They took a nose dive when they tried everything to copy protect their CD's until even genuine products sometimes refused to play on every player.
Until they learned and hooked up on the internet as a sales vehicle instead of an enemy.
Just my $0,02

Barry Chapman's picture

Well, $0,02 is a lot more than most musicians get from their music being played on the internet. Here's one musician's take on it: https://www.facebook.com/OfficialFrankGambale/posts/775667115797011 How do you educate people about the value of your work if they can get it for free?
So the internet as a sales vehicle isn't a panacea for most creatives. Yet it's even less so if ways of circumventing their copyright are disseminated widely, as this article has done. I'm sure they've given the techniques used a much wider audience than the original blog post (which has now been removed), and the article will show up more prominently in search results when people try to find instructions for stealing images and removing watermarks. I don't see any justification for including detailed instructions for circumventing people's copyright and hope to see them removed from the article.

Hans Klett's picture

Why not create a better watermark? Surely there are ways to make it so difficult to remove it that the price becomes more attractive.

Why not, NOT steal?

Hans Klett's picture

Good luck with that.

So its our fault that we have watermarks that are not bulletproof?

Oh yeah, sure. We can just watermark the heck out of all of our work beyond recognition and be completely safe. The point of a watermark is to let you know that if you snag the photo, you are snagging copyrighted material that is the intellectual property of the photographer/artist who created it. It's not intended to be hacker proof, it never has been. Otherwise, if such thing existed, don't you think we'd all be using it by now?

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