I saw website/band/person/magazine using my image without my permission, what do I do?
In this digital age, it happens way too often. I’m not going to get into people giving away their images for free being a symptom of the devaluation of photography (crap, just did haha 😉 ). The main thing to remember is to be professional and keep calm. We have a tendency of acting emotionally and wanting to lash out at the offender. Don’t. Know that the usage of the image has and is going on, so you have the bigger end of the stick.
1- Document the offense.
Take screenshots of the webpage. Make sure you get dates in the shot if you can. This way, in case they remove it, you’ll have proof. If you saw it in print, get a copy. If it’s a billboard, take a picture.
2- Do some research
This can seem weird, but research where you have sent the photo in the past. Some contests have rules that state that any photo submitted can be used in any way by the contest organizers. Some rules state for contest promotion, some don’t state anything which means they can actually sell the image commercially if they want (it has happened!). So make sure you haven’t entered a contest or allowed any other usage can could of led to this. Maybe you sent in the photo to a media and they sent it off to the artist? Think before you type. 🙂
Research can also be how much you would charge for the image usage (+ damages). A great site for image usage pricing for Canadians is the CAPIC.
3- Decide if you should be paid or have it removed
Let’s be honest… a random blogger using your image without permission is not going to pay you $500 for the usage. Should they? Sure. If you have the funds to pursue legally, then by all means do so. For something like this, I don’t. A company using it commercially on their website? Whole different ballgame.
Many people will offer to put your name (if it’s not already there), thinking that is payment. For me it’s not. But it’s for you to decide if you are fine with that. Many images I take of events or shows are usually only “buzz” worthy for a few days. So if a band puts up one of my images on their Facebook, and 3 days later offers to put my name on it… screw you, take that image down. The damage has already been done.
3a- Prep an invoice
If you are going to ask to be paid, get that invoice ready to be sent in.
4- Contact the offender
Be professional. “Yo, you are using my image, take it down or pay me now” should be avoid. Keep it business-like. “I noticed you are using my image on your website without my permission. I’m really happy to see you like my work, I’m attaching an invoice for the usage you have made. If you have questions, let me know”. Short and sweet. “Hello, I am the owner of the image you have taken, cropped the watermark, and posted on your site. Please take it down within 24 hours as this is not your work. Thank you”.
5- Follow up
If they don’t answer, don’t let it go. If you want it taken down, contact the site. Facebook has taken down an image of fine someone posted on their fan page within 8 hours of my writing in. So has tumblr. You’ll usually need your original image to prove that it’s yours. Details and steps are listed with each service provider.
If you are to be paid and they haven’t even acknowledged your email, look into sending a registered letter. Makes it more official as they have to sign when they receive it. State payment delay in the letter.
If you are still getting no where, look at contacting a lawyer or seeking professional advice.
It’s been my experience that acting professionally, straight forward, and honestly usually gets you the best results. And no, I am not lawyer, I do not play one on TV, these are just my ramblings. 🙂
If you have a question, hit me up on Facebook 🙂