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
Hans Klett's picture

So sorry for making the suggestion!

Well, how about a more thoughtful one than, hey you photogs, you need to do more on your end to protect yourselves. Like there's already something else just waiting for us to discover or something.

Hans Klett's picture

Using simple text to water mark an image obviously doesn't work that well and there's not a lot of skill displayed in this tutorial. I would think it would be harder to remove if there were nonlinear lines and not a standard font with gradients and transparencies. I know it's not perfect but if it makes it too hard for most people then they might just pay the fee. You can't eliminate theft but you can make it harder to do. I'm amazed that I have started such an offensive thread! I have learned my lesson...no more discussions from me.

The problem is, the photography industry does not have a lobby with the technical sector. For images that are stamped with copyrighted metadata, it is way to easy for say the Windows or Mac operating systems to detect this when you mouse-over an image whether it be an image on your computer or an image inside of a web browser. Is Microsoft, Sun, or Apple going to develop a device and software to support this? I'd say not. But if the tech industry wanted to, they could protect images against theft if they really wanted to. So it comes down the photography industry not having enough pull in the tech sector for the operating systems manufacturers to make this happen. It can be done.

Well like most computer engineers, I believe in open source code. So it makes sense that most others believe in open source photography ;P

The "open" in "open source" does not equate to free nor without rights. Open Source can even be commercially produced software. In fact, Open Source code is typically licensed for usage and those that use open source code from others in their own projects must oblige by the terms of that license. Open merely reflects that the source of the code is not proprietarily controlled, even though it is still licensed.

I meant it in sarcastic humor. Don't be such a prude. Who doesn't know that already?

Yes, I got the sarcasm. I intended the comment for other readers since this is a common misconception.

... i think its cultural...

if You think it`s bad to show the tricks about removing the proofs... then... WHY ARE YOU SHOWING IT HERE? why do you make it more popular? http://goo.gl/gpKS7D

Great Tut, I'll have to try that when I get home, thanks FSTOPPERS!

Figuratively speaking, the guy should be shot.

Glad I deleted Facebook over a year ago... Cant believe anyone uses that site anymore. Its over a decade old. Isn't it time you moved on as well?

May his crotch forever itch!

Oh jeez. I just checked his FB and my girlfriend's cousin works with him @ FB. smh

Jon Winkleman's picture

Jesse can be sued for giving bad legal advice. It is totally possible to strip visual watermarks and copyright metadata, however neither he or any of his techno friends can strip the LEGAL PROTECTIONS about copyrighted images. By intentionally removing visual and metadata copyrights, Jesse is giving the original copyright holder irrefutable evidence that there was intentional malice in the violation of copyright. This puts the offender in more legal peril and liable for greater monetary damages.

If someone is going to steal copyright I hope they do make it easier for the person they are stealing from to win in court and receive more money.

Living by the FB code, whats a surprise?

Would it be wise to down res (from 300 dpi to 240dpi or 72 dpi) on the buying website to help deter theft?

While the image exists only in the digital world, dpi (ppi actually) is irrelevant. Only resolution matters.

I find it very ironic that Jesse Chen is copyrighting his webpage (c2010) at the bottom while ripping off copyrighted material from honest businessmen....

Every time someone confuses stealing with unauthorized copy a happy cat dies
Keep using the wrong terms and then keep asking yourself why people dont understand what they are doing (even if this example is not the case).

The problem is that there is also a cached version http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:e42hUS4OyLAJ:www.je...

Layer up, sue Jesse Chen. But, it's funny that he his a copyright © symbol on his website. Or maybe someone should invent a new software call "Vins Image " as soon as they drag the copyright image on to there desktop the image infects the hard drive. The last thing they see is a warning. "We have taking over your computer. We see you we hear your intimate thoughts be afraid". Is that too much? I could never tell. And why is my font bold?

Somebody needs to take this guy "behind the wood shed" and use a bamboo cane on his narrow behind.

Wow, the photography community is worse than this kid ever was. What a bunch of nasty hateful people. My tripod and SLR take pictures just fine, remind me not to use a photographer ever again.

If you're going to watermark and post low res images online then just don't have a problem with people who are smart enough to take what you freely give them and improve on it. If all they want is a rubbish screen snap then they didn't need you to take it in the first place. People who are going to use that obviously weren't ever going to buy a print anyways so I don't know what you lost. I've never found the photography studio business model to be consumer friendly so now that consumers have been forced to upgrade to professional cameras, I guess photographers are getting what they asked for. And your attitude doesn't help.

PS. This text is copyrighted so don't quote it or I will be forced to do all of the horrible things you just suggested to YOU. I know you know how to copy and paste and have taught your children how to "copy", but know that it's an unholy crime! WTF, seriously people, this is how you sound. If you want to be a Picasso then paint something, your bits and bytes may not be created for free but they copy for free.

Daniel Pryce's picture

Went onto Grad images website. They shoot 1.8 million graduates each year. My sympathy for the company has went out the door. The photographer they sent got paid for their time, I don't really care at this point, its not exactly rocket surgery to remove watermarks.

I think you mean "rocket science" or "brain surgery". LOL Rockets do not have surgery and just because a business does well does not mean that it is now OK for others to steal their work. Stealing is stealing regardless of the success of the victim.

Daniel Pryce's picture

No, I meant Rocket Surgery. Well, I guess i'm a robber. 99% of people pay for their graduation photos, but obviously, some people can't do it. I don't see this as being that bad.

Daniel Pryce's picture

The best fix is to give watermarked printed proofs.

He's proud of it, too. It's referenced in the stuff he was proud of doing in 2012.


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