Using YouTube To Catch A Thief

from the hope-it-works dept

There have been a few stories in the past about people successfully catching thieves by putting up videos on sites like YouTube, so it’s always interesting to see another person try it out — especially when it sounds like the police aren’t able to do very much. In this case, a guy who noticed packages often went missing from his front doorstep set up a video camera and successfully recorded a woman approaching his door and supposedly making off with a decoy package (the video isn’t all that well positioned, so you can’t actually see the woman open or take the package):

What’s interesting is that this is exactly the sort of case where police are unlikely to be able to be of much help directly if there’s no other evidence concerning the woman’s identity. But by taking the video and posting it online, it seems much more likely that the alleged thief will be identified.

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Geeb says:

...more likely that the alleged thief will be identified

Or that a perfectly innocent woman who was just posting a leaflet as part of some charity work (or whatever) will have her reputation dragged through the mud, with no effective way of clearing her name. My money is on her suing YouTube rather than the guy who posted it, though…

Coldsun says:

Re: ...more likely that the alleged thief will be identified

Wow, innocent huh?
Let’s ignore the fact that the bag was flat/empty when she walked up and was full (with brown boxes) when she walked away. Does it take over 45 seconds to leave a leaflet? And why does she clearly bend over? I guess you must think that she had to write the leaflet, cut it out, and then try to slip it inbetween the door and frame after carefully moving aside the mail and packages. So that’s what those scissors were for…
Thank you Geeb for pointing out this mistake. I guess the rest of us are just daft.

Mark Regan says:

Hey, That's My Ex-Wife

I need the name and address of the guy who took her picture, as I OWN the copyrights and trademarks and all use of her images, public and private. He can expect a bill from me for exploitation of her image without her authorization, plus attorney fees and court costs.

There’s nothing to prove she got your lousy empty boxes, and plenty to prove your malicious violations of her rights. Those boxes might have been taken by someone approaching from outside the view of the camera.

I am so sick and tired of people trying to blame my ex-wife for all her supposed “crimes” when the true criminals get away with cheating ME out of my royalties from their use of her visage.

I have already gotten a restraining order from the court and served it on you, Mr. Cameraman, via YOUR wife, and am seizing your camera as security pending finalization of my award against you for the financial damages I have or will or might suffer from your deceptive and wrongful use of my ex-wife’s images.

See you in court, buddy.

Coldsun says:

Re: Hey, That's My Ex-Wife

Well Mark if you actually read the news article, it is apparent that “Mr. Cameraman” (his name is in the article) does not appear to have a wife, just a roommate. Unless your “ex-wife” is a model, musician, etc. and you are her manager (and owner of the company); you do not own her image rights. If the “image rights” were obtained through marriage, upon divorce that contractual agreement was relinquished and therefore you own nothing. Also, you would have to prove damage to her career and that she was wronged by this incident in order to sue. Being that the average person does not know who she is; you probably will not even get to the trial stages. Plus, she clearly is not invited into that yard and is thus trespassing. When someone is trespassing/stealing/committing a crime they forfeit many of their rights (police do not need to obtain consent before using someone’s image for investigatory purposes).

Do you remember when Winona Ryder was caught stealing? That video was all over the news. Winona has much better lawyers then you do, she lost much more then the suspect in this video ever will, and yet Winona did not sue.
Here is a list of a couple reasons why you should not sue (just like Winona) over this recording. The video is:
A) a news topic,
B) a public interest issue,
C) not for a commercial/monetary gains purpose,
D) being used by the police to find the suspect in repeated documented crimes (incidentally felonies) for questioning.

Also, if posting this video would violate the suspect’s rights, the police would have prevented the action.
Feel free to waste your money on a lawyer and court costs. The Judge will throw it out immediately unless you can prove that this video violates her “image rights”. The burden of proof is on you Chief and from the lack of research thus far from your end; you’ll need all the luck you can get and just hope he does not counter sue, he’ll have legitimate claims.

Do us all a favor, read up on image rights before you type another message. Your ignorance and brashness is hindering the progress of society.

Mark Regan says:

Re: Re: Hey, That's My Ex-Wife

1. I BOUGHT her, ergo, I OWN her.
2. I’m her MANAGER and she signed a contract giving ME all rights to her image and any other rights she might have as a (barely) human.
3. She WORKS for ME and is therefore MY employee, and I can, whether you and the homeowner like it or not, assert our rights in any court or forum.
4. You claim I won’t win, therefore, there is no sense in trying to win. That is what OJ Simpson’s initial lawyers told him until he hired Johnny Cochran, and you see how well he did with his “glove” argument. In fact, even though he now lives in “another” world, his ads still appear on TV and phone directory back covers around the country. He told me that he would represent me and guarantee a victory, and I believe HIM, not YOU.
5. To win a case in this country, it matters NOT whether you have law or precedent on your side, or whether you are guilty or not. What matters is whether or not you convince the jurors or ask your brother-in-law to give the judge a good “stock tip” next time he’s on the golf course with the judge hearing the case. I once testified for the government as a witness in a major case where F Lee Bailey was the defense attorney. The guys were guilty as sin, but got off and shortly thereafter the federal judge retired as a very wealthy man. Need I say more?
6. I’ve seen a LOT of weaker cases go to trial without the judge throwing them out. You apparently aren’t as well traveled as I am, else you wouldn’t be as confident in the “quality” of jurisprudence as you seem to be. Maybe you live in a pocket of “Ethicsland” which has not yet been encountered by me in MY travels.
7. I didn’t realize that litigants (plaintiffs, in MY case) were required to be conversant with intellectual rights — I thought that was the province of the lawyer who the plaintiff retains to file the complaint. And, like most attorneys, who can practice in ANY field they desire in most states, there is NO requirement that the attorney who files the case be a specialist in image rights. Moreover, I have seen snot-nosed attorneys right out of law school prevail against “certified specialists” over and over, simply because they know how to use overhead projectors and power-point presentations and graphics to convince jurors, and how to flatter the judges ass instead of trying to make him look like an idiot by quoting law and precedent to him in front of the jury.
8. I’m not an attorney, but have prosecuted approximately a thousand small claims cases, many defended by experienced attorneys such as what YOU sound to be. My record so far is 999 to 1. I’d say those are pretty good odds.
9. But thanks for the free legal advice. By the way, I tried your link, but it didn’t go through. I’ll try again later as it might be my ISP’s fault, as I live in a very backwoods area where 50 politicians (including judges) ran unopposed for EVERY elective office in the country. One county judge lives across the street from my brother’s 300 acre ranch. He has NEVER lost a case, whether he is guilty or innocent. So you see, being RIGHT is not all what it is made out to be.

Sue Regan says:

Re: Hey, That's My Ex-Wife

First of all, Mark, that’s not me in the video. I was sleeping with your best friend Steve when that video was recorded.

We have video of our own as evidence.

Second of all, you don’t own me. You always go off on this Fred Flintstone “A man’s house is his castle” bullcrap and this is why we’re through. I am not a some pet that you control, I am a human being and I have feelings.

Your court appointed therapist will be really disappointed when he finds out that you are posting delusional threads to the internet again. For a short while it seemed like the medicine was working, have you stopped taking it?

Get some [more] professional help,


Sue Regan

P.S. If I don’t get your child support payment soon, I am taking you back to court.

Mark Regan says:

Re: Re: Hey, That's My Ex-Wife

Sorry, Sue. (Did I ever tell you I married you because of your name?)

I promise not to embarrass you any more by continually letting people know about our “arrangement” (whereby you “gather” the mail and packages and my girlfriend cashes the checks and exchanges the merchandise for cash at the local stores.

If you PROMISE to NOT show that video you’ve been blackmailing me with for the past year, I promise NOT to post the “receipt” your previous owner, the pimp, gave me when I bought you from him.

I apologize for all those nasty games I made you play, and with my therapist’s help understand how badly they made you feel.

Since my insurance ran out, I haven’t been taking the medicine, and can’t get another appointment with him either. Do you think we could allege “emotional damage” in our lawsuit due to the publication of your picture on the web, and get the defendant(s) to pay for my medicine and psychiatrist?

I’ve always suspected you and Steve, but unknown to you he’s been streaming the videos to me so that I can post them on the web if you post those pictures of our “role playing” that your attorney showed the divorce court judge.

Your child support check is in the mail, Sue. I promise this time. Please don’t take me back to child support court until we get a settlement offer from the guy who owns the house where you got those packages.

Still miss role playing with you.


Juris Doctorus Bungali says:

Wrong Target, Buddy

The Defendant should more properly be, as indicated by Mr. Geeb, above, YouTube.

That company, a subsidiary of the deep pocketed Google Corporation, knowingly and willfully and recklessly posts or allows to be posted images of your ex-wife that they know or should have known were likely taken without her advance knowledge or authorization, and could possibly be violative of both her right to privacy and YOUR rights as the holder of her copyrights, patents, trademarks, or other intellectual or physical property.

Furthermore, you have a cause of action for slander and libel against the Police Department and YouTube who obviously conspired with each other to disparage your ex-wife’s good name, character and reputation.

Within 90 days of filing a lawsuit on your behalf against this corporate behemoth who is so cavalierly violating your wife’s constitutional and human rights, as well as your commercial and intellectual property rights, I will, if you hire me and pay my normal $10,000 retainer, guarantee you a settlement offer from YouTube. You may reach me at the toll free number listed on the back page of your local telephone directory.

Coldsun says:

Re: Wrong Target, Buddy

You are just trying to get money out of a company. The only way you will get anything is because YouTube/Google chooses to settle instead of paying over 10x more in legal fees fighting this lawsuit. Just hope they do not fight it on principle, which they will otherwise they open themselves up to an onslaught of lawsuits. If it was a sure win, why do you request a $10,000 retainer? Confessed felons have to pay less of a retainer. Obviously you are one of those lawyers that the stereotype has come from. Do us all a favor and find some ethic. This is a frivolous and potentially regressive lawsuit that has little chance of succeeding based on any of the information here.

J. D. Bungali says:

Re: Re: Wrong Target, Buddy

1. Yep, that’s what we lawyers do, get money out of companies.
2. The way to get companies to settle is to compute what it costs them to defend against the suit, sue for a smaller amount, they will not contest it (no sense spending good money after bad, right?) Then take a summary judgment, and execute against any property they hold within the state (which they will likely NOT protest.)
3. Always sue in small claims court, and if they show up with a lawyer and win, appeal to a higher court, then offer to settle.
4. Companies rarely assert “principle” if you make a “confidentiality agreement” part of the settlement offer.
5. Felons usually qualify for free lawyers. I’m good, and don’t work for free. A $10K retainer pre-qualifies cases and clients for me, making my job easier. What’s wrong with that?
6. A high retainer beats 33% of nothing. Do you think I’m stupid?
7. High ethical standards has not been a qualification for practicing law in most states until recently. You must be young. Most law schools never even offered courses in Ethics until recently. With ethics, however, comes higher pay — love it.
8. The question of whether or not a lawsuit is frivolous is not up to YOU, it is up to the judge. Did you ever wonder why attorneys make campaign contributions to ALL judicial candidates? Think about that and chew on it.
9. By the way, sir, with all due regard to your personality, you have NO sense of humor.

Rekrul says:

Or that a perfectly innocent woman who was just posting a leaflet as part of some charity work (or whatever) will have her reputation dragged through the mud, with no effective way of clearing her name. My money is on her suing YouTube rather than the guy who posted it, though…

It would be very easy for the person who shot the tape to verify that she was the one who stole the packages. Since he couldn’t know what time the thief would show up, he most likely set up the camera to record all day long. If the packages were there when he left and gone when he came home and she’s the only one who comes up to the porch, it’s pretty obvious that she took them. Or would you like him to post the entire 6-8 hour video so you can check for yourself that nobody else could be to blame?

Geeb says:


It would be very easy for the person who shot the tape to verify that she was the one who stole the packages. Since he couldn’t know what time the thief would show up, he most likely set up the camera to record all day long. If the packages were there when he left and gone when he came home and she’s the only one who comes up to the porch, it’s pretty obvious that she took them. Or would you like him to post the entire 6-8 hour video so you can check for yourself that nobody else could be to blame?

I was more thinking about how much implicit trust everyone is putting in this guy’s assertion that things had been stolen and that she was the one who did it. There’s video evidence of something there, but there’s a worrying level of uncritical acceptance of the context which the guy spins around it. You can make a picture say whatever you like by the caption you add, and it’s very difficult to change your interpretation if you’ve already been told one person’s version of events.

If I’d just seen the video, with no captions or description, there’s any number of things she could have been doing – maybe that parcel had a note saying “old clothes, glad to help” and it’s charity collection day, who knows?

Not that I think that’s what happened, of course – she looks guilty as hell to me, but I might be wrong. This essentially boils down to a rather worrying form of unwitting vigilante justice, because publishing this stuff on the internet isn’t just a request for information, it carries consequences too. I don’t think the guy is trying to punish her, but he might be mistaken – as outside observers we don’t know what the rest of the film shows, whether any packages really ever went missing, or whether it’s actually a practical joke on his own stepmom who just spent those 45 seconds yelling through the keyhole at him to get his lazy ass out of bed, and clean up his front porch. Doesn’t seem to matter, though: whether she did it or not, she’s that “thieving whore” on the internet now. The guy’s intention may be to gather information to catch a thief, but he’s (perhaps inadvertently) punishing her too, before she’s been found guilty of anything.

ChibiCat says:

Slightly nauseous after reading comments.

When did Techdirt’s comments area turn into Slashdot? Please stop it. There are few and far between non-nauseating tech oriented news sites left.

Y’alls comments are ruining our readership. Go away. Go back to your Slashdot threads. Techdirt is for grownups who enjoy relevant and insightful comments.

We could be having a valid conversation about the potential liability of the video taker, the implications of regular people seeking justice through technology, the implications of one’s right to protecting one’s reputation. Instead we’re stuck with the merits of owning your ex-wife’s likeness.

You are ALL the reason women stay away from tech boards. *shudder*

Mark says:

Re: Slightly nauseous after reading comments.


1. Potential liability of the video taker: ZERO.
2. Implications of justice thru technology: HIGH — as costs of web cams and video streaming and wi-fi come down, more folks will couple a video surveillance system to their normal alarm system, and link their T-Mobile G-1 (Google WebPhone) to the website containing the streaming video from their house / porch / garage / bedroom.
3. Implication of one right to protect his property: HIGH.

There, now PLEASE don’t stay away from tech boards, lady. We guys value your opinions and input. We just like to clown around catching Coldsun’s goat.

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