With the exposure that social media brings photographers also comes the susceptibility of image theft. Although social media has given photographers a great platform for exposure and consumer advertising, it has simultaneously blurred the lines between personal and commercial usage for images. All it takes is for someone to simply right click and save to download one of your images and use it as their own.
For this Candid Chat we asked our community of 22,000 photographers:
What do you do when your images are stolen and used on other websites?
We’ve summed up a couple of viable options for you to consider when you see one of your images floating around the internet.
Report the Image
An overwhelming amount of people claimed that the easiest and most efficient way to temporary solve this issue is to report the image. Instagram and Facebook both have a Report or Flag function that directs you to a list of options that apply to the issue.
Use a Lawyer/Attorney
Taking matters into your own hands and going the legal route is definitely a more permanent and threatening solution to the issue of image theft. Check out this video from Chelsea & Tony Northrup who underwent a huge lawsuit after finding out their photo was being used for a product they didn’t endorse.
While justice was served, the case took over 2 years to conclude and still cost them money for lawyering up. It is up to you to determine what length to go to if you come across image theft and if it is even worth the hassle of bringing an attorney into the equation.
I email my attorney & let him go after them. So far I’ve won’t 12/12 demands/lawsuits.
— Giancarlo PAWELEC (@PAWELECphoto) April 19, 2019
Well, first I’d give them a call & explain that the images on their site are being used without consent, they should be taken down or pay usage fees for each image. Otherwise…they will receive a letter from my attorney. Last resort of course.
— Shannon Faulk Photography (@sfaulkphoto) April 19, 2019
We all need help and it’s okay to admit that this matter is something far from our comfort zone or something we require advice on. One that several photographers recommended was Pixsy, which helps photographers find and fight image theft. The Lawtog has also been touted as the #1 legal resource for photographers, providing contracts, releases, and copyright infringement to protect you. There are even sites like StopStealingPhotos which enlists the help of the photographer population to find and report websites and companies stealing images and earning a profit.
I use @PixsyHQ and let them deal with it.
— Matt Harvey (@75Central) April 19, 2019
Ask for Compensation
The most apparent issue about image theft is the fact that someone out there is using your image and you aren’t getting compensated for it. Determine a rate that you would charge for image rights usage and send over a contract and an invoice so that they know that this is now a legal matter.
Some consider stolen images as publicity for their work, almost like free marketing, but the only issue is that they aren’t credited. Reaching out and setting up a meeting or sending an email defining the legal boundaries crossed may be enough to settle the issue. Sometimes it’s easier to bite the bullet and move on rather than fight an uphill battle.
Steal the thief’s identity.
— Brent (@brentschmidt) April 19, 2019
In the midst of doing research for this article, I came across a photographer that stole copy and imagery from the Lin and Jirsa website for SEO content.
Just goes to show you it can happen to anyone, at any point in time. Just depends how vigilant you are in finding the culprit and to what extent you are willing to pursue legal action. We hope this article gives you some viable solutions to combatting this issue if you are unfortunate enough to come across it.