Someone stole your image, what next? Three steps you can take to bring a digital thief to justice


posted Thursday, October 20, 2016 at 6:00 AM EDT


Image theft is a serious problem that affects many photographers. I've personally been the victim as the index image to the right was being used on someone's Flickr page, with the user claiming to have taken the image using an app that they created. In my case it was a moral issue, but in more serious instances, people or businesses are making considerable money using someone else's work. If you find that your work has been stolen online, what can you do about it? Image theft victim and the founder of Photography Life, Nasim Mansurov, has some tips for you.

You might think that litigation is a good option for dealing with online image theft. There are some issues with this, as going through the courts can be a very expensive, time-consuming process. Even if you're completely in the right, legal recourse is often not the best option.

Another - much easier - option is simply contacting the company or individual responsible for the image theft. Sometimes people make honest mistakes because they don't understand image rights or how their theft is wrong. Lack of education aside, it is possible that a polite email or phone call can solve the problem.

Occasionally websites make it excruciatingly difficult to contact them or they are unwilling to take the proper, legally-required action to cease their image theft. In this case, a Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) request is the next step. You can file a DMCA request for Google here. This only applies to Google's search engine results, however, and you need to file similar forms for places like Yahoo and Bing (this link requires signing into a Microsoft account). It is to your benefit to have offending content removed from search results as that is one of the primary ways in which a company or individual can make money using your content. However, a DMCA takedown request should also be sent to the ISP hosting the offending content to have it removed from the website, but if your work has been spread around, sending DMCA requets to search engines is your best bet for removing stolen images from search results. You can read up more on DMCA takedowns here

Finally, the third option, which we touched on above is litigation. Unfortunately, the U.S. copyright system is heavily-weighted in favor of large companies due to the incredible economic burden suing someone for damages can include. For most photographers, especially those who work for themselves or just enjoy it as a hobby, it isn't feasible to sue image thieves. If you're curious whether or not you're a victim of image theft, check out this Fstoppers article about finding your images online.

(Seen via Photography Life)