Help, my image has been stolen! What next…

I’m Innocent, Really!

© Photographer: Hartphotography | Agency:
© Hartphotography

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.

© Sukmaraga |

Microstock Sites

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:

Copyright Infringement
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.

[Flickr Guidelines]

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

[flickr copyright and intellectual property policy]


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.

Web Host

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.

[In the Forum: MicrostockGroup Image Sleuths]

About The Author:

Tyler Olson works as a microstock photographer who also runs the MicrostockGroup forum and blog. Being so closely involved in the microstock community as a submitter, forum moderator and blogger, Tyler is able to keep updated in the constantly changing microstock marketplace.
Posted on January 20th, 2010 in Tips / Tutorials | tags: , , , , , ,
  • While this article is interesting, it stops short of what you do about serious infringements. Having images removed from websites may help one feel less “violated” as an artist, but it doesn’t really serve much purpose. A great deal of time and effort is spent on the process yet yields no income at all, and even removes the potential value of your image being used for search engine rankings and other internet-wide diagnostics.

    Most importantly, the article doesn’t even touch upon the process for handling serious infringements. For info about that, see this article:

  • anonymous

    thats a good article by Dan Heller.
    If you put your stuff up on the net -watermark it! that is your best bet the other thing you can do is not put your images up at all.

    But we forget that the worst pirates of all are google themselves! Just have a look at how google images works. Your image comes up and is easily downloadable (even if on your site you took precautions for this to note the case, the search engine bypasses that) and they darken out your site in the background so that your site does not even have to be visited! yay! It amuses me that people focus on other little people and not on the huge stealer of images GOOGLE! oh by the way they also have ads on google images so they make money out of your site as well as encouraging image stealing.

    Just look at google books: entire book content stolen and no one makes a peep about it!

  • Zita Effland

    nice info!!!