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Someone Used Your Photo Without Getting Permission — What Now?

Author: The Printique Team



In a perfect world, no one would steal your images. Unfortunately, this kind of thing happens all the time — the real world is far from perfect, especially for photographers.
Even now, some people hold to the decades-old adage, “If it’s online, it belongs to everyone.” The truth is, though, that when it comes to creative work, that’s rarely the case. As the U.S. Copyright Office explains, “Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that is perceptible directly…or through a device.”
That being said, the degree to which your images are copyrighted is largely up to you. It’s possible to select Creative Commons licensing, which differs from standard copyrights in that it reserves only some of the rights afforded intellectual property, rather than all of them.
So before you accost someone with a nasty cease and desist letter, double-check what degree of use your image is actually labeled for.

Know Your Copyrights

Once you’ve confirmed that your work is being used without permission, you have a few options. Threatening legal action is only worthwhile if you have the finances to back it up.
Keep in mind, though, that your potential compensation will likely be determined by the market value of the piece, not your emotional attachment to it. Chances are it won’t be enough to pay for the lawyer.
A cease and desist letter can be sent to the infringer from the publisher of the stolen work. Usually, the image will be removed, but with little or no remuneration. The letter is your best option if you can’t afford a copyright lawyer, and it usually looks official and aggressive enough to get the job done.
Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, you can contact the website’s Internet Service Provider (ISP) with proof that images on the site are yours and are being used without permission.
If you provide the ISP with the proper information, they can then remove or disable the site. For more info, the American Society of Media Photographers offers a very helpful and detailed explanation of the necessary steps for an ISP takedown.

Mark It Up

The best way to avoid image appropriation is to clearly mark it as your own. A digital watermark can be as simple as a transparent overlay on part of the image detailing your name, the year, and the copyright symbol. But watermarks can get more complex if needed — you can encode factors like camera make and shutter speed into digital makeup of the raw image.
A watermark is an effective deterrent in that it complicates the process of stealing your work. A simple download and re-upload is no longer a sufficient way for an image thief to claim your piece as their own. It requires a great deal of time, energy, and skill to remove a digital watermark, and unless you’re a true computer wiz, the measure will likely keep your images safe.
So go forth and take your best photographs, armed with the knowledge that they’ll be protected when the time comes to show them to the world. And if you’re in the mood to show off, make sure your photos look their best with a high-quality print or photo book from Printique.
The White Glove quality checks given by our certified experts are guaranteed to do your photos justice — unlike the unsavory characters out there on the internet looking to steal them.