PicScout Elusive Bot

In the better late then never category; while investigating unusual server behavior I ran across picscout.com. I fail to actually link this website; it is no oversight.

While consulting google foo I ran across a number of interesting posts. It seems that for several years picscout.com has teamed up with various players intent on enforcing Image Copyright Infringement legal proceedings, in a David vs. Goliath environment against unsuspecting small businesses and their web designers.

At issue is whether the use of hundreds of pixels of a an image available on the web constitutes copyright infringement sufficient to deny the copyright holder but a single meal at the dinner table.

Lets be clear, for anyone to deny a meal to the originator of any image found on the web, you would need a copy of the copyright  image consisting of millions of pixels. Unless an image is published that would allow for the commercial production of the image, then these images certainly fall into the category of the exclusions defined in sections 107 through 118 of the copyright law (Title 17, U. S. Code).

The Fair Use Doctrine.

Oh yeah, google foo. Seems some folks believe they can make a buck by intimating thousands of businesses with thousands of dollars consisting of inflated claims of damages; actual economic losses. The letters these folks send out presume guilt, demand thousands of dollars per image, and violate the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

You can review most of the ancient history here. Then and now, a webmaster has to evaluate legitimate claims. And we expect anyone indexing our websites to provide clear and present identification of their crawlers in our logs.

While google foo revealed some old data on the IP addresses of picscout activity, for the most part it seems that these sources have lost track of those that wish to extort rather than build win/win business relationships.

We have identified the following sources of questionable behavior for your convenience.

  • bzq-114-71-13.static.bezeqint.net
  • bzq-179-82-199.static.bezeqint.net
  • bzq-79-176-31-143.red.bezeqint.net
  • bzq-79-177-113-122.red.bezeqint.net
  • bzq-79-178-106-205.red.bezeqint.net
  • bzq-79-178-88-235.red.bezeqint.net
  • bzq-79-181-112-244.red.bezeqint.net
  • bzq-79-181-45-20.red.bezeqint.net
  • bzq-79-182-47-213.red.bezeqint.net
  • bzq-79-183-115-218.red.bezeqint.net
  • bzq-80-16-231.red.bezeqint.net
  • bzq-80-17-3.red.bezeqint.net
  • bzq-82-81-150-209.red.bezeqint.net
  • bzq-82-81-35-175.red.bezeqint.net
  • bzq-84-109-41-133.red.bezeqint.net
  • bzq-219-119-15.static.bezeqint.net

The last entry appeared in my log files minutes after posting this article.

Of course, I leave it up to the user to fill in the IP addresses, all of which have been banned from my server. While some may suggest that you can merely add a robots exclusion for ‘picscout’, since they do not identify themselves this will not work. You really have to wonder why picscout goes to such great lengths to hide their activity, masquerading as a web browser.

A tool to help identify copyright infringement would be very helpful to the majority of webmasters, but when this tool is used to harass and demand extortion like payments, it represents the worst on the web.

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