Help, my image has been stolen! What next…
I’m Innocent, Really!
There seems to be a never ending supply of threads where people find their images stolen or being given away for free. Our first line of defense should be to contact the infringing party directly. There is still a lot of education to be done regarding proper licensing and many people do not know how to license an image, or that stock photography even exists at all. If we inform the offending party – we not only stop them misusing our images, but have the chance of gaining a new microstock customer. Make use of a good referral link when you notify them and you will not only profit from the sale of another image but from the referral income as well. Shutterstock recently contacted an offending party, who purchased the wrong license for their image use, which resulted in multiple extended license downloads for many members on MicrostockGroup. Most people are honest and want to do what is right – we need to help them know what is right.
Maybe Not So Innocent
Ok, I’ll admit that sometimes people aren’t so innocent and outright steal images to give away, sell, or build up a portfolio on flickr or some other photo sharing site. If you get no response from first contacting the infringing party – it is time to get more serious.
If the images are being sold on a microstock site, contact the site directly and explain the situation. Give links to both your own, and the offending images. Most sites have a link on the bottom of every page labeled ‘contact’ or ‘support’ which you can use to send them a message. The microstock sites are quick to take down infringing photos and deal harshly with users who upload infringing content.
Most photo sharing website are more than willing to remove infringing content from their site, and flickr is no exception. A quote from the flickr guidelines:
If you see photos or videos that you’ve created in another member’s photostream, don’t panic. This is probably just a misunderstanding and not malicious. A good first step is to contact them and politely ask them to remove it. If that doesn’t work, please file a Notice of Infringement with the Yahoo! Copyright Team who will take it from there.
You may be tempted to post an entry on your photostream or in our public forum about what’s happening, but that’s not the best way to resolve a possible copyright problem. We don’t encourage singling out individuals like this on Flickr.
If flickr agrees that the image is infringing on your copyright, and generally they will, flickr will remove the image from their website. If the member’s portfolio is primarily made up of infringing content, the entire account will be deleted.
For a form letter you can send to flickr, along with addresses and further information, check out this information from Kevin Hulsey
If a website is hosting your content, one recourse is to report it to Google. This won’t get the site or the image removed from the internet but it will remove the site from the Google search results and should drastically decrease the amount of traffic the site receives. For addresses and information on contacting Google, as well as a form letter check out Kevin Hulsey’s page again.
Most websites are hosted at a web host. You can find which webhost a website is using with a simple ‘who is’ search. Once you have found the website, send them a form letter informing them of the infringement. All web hosts will have different policies regarding copyright infringement but if a site is hosting your content, they should take steps towards getting it removed. Also, remember that the host must receive a “reasonable amount of time” to remove the content.
Do you have any other suggestions for protecting your intellectual property? Let’s hear them in the comments.