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 What to do when you find your image being used without authorization?

- For stock photographers and illustrators - 

Article by: Paul Hakimata |

Article image in home: © Dmitry Knorre -


For those photographers and illustrators who are  exclusive with their stock agency this will be a fairly easier task; you simply contact your stock agency, provide them with the site were your image is being used, and they should take care of it. As I am a non-exclusive photographer and license my work through many different agencies I am not sure exactly about the ins-and-outs on how this works.
 For those photographers and illustrators who are non-exclusive  and are represented by a variety of stock agencies the task will be a bit more difficult. It is only logical that stock agencies are less involved to help a non-exclusive photographer or illustrator. After all, how do you know what agency should help you? Here I will describe what I have done to get images taken down from websites and also how to get damages paid by those who illegally have used my images.
 Watermarked images found: 
The first thing to do is to identify who posted the watermarked image. On many non-commercial websites you can find a “contact us” link, or there is a webmaster email posted. On blogs you might be able to find a contact of the author. Sometimes you need to dig a little deeper by searching the web to find contact details. Once you find this contact I would send them a “DMCA Notice of Copyright Infringement” (Find it here: PDF ) by email. This letter has the legal lingo needed and is modelled after a letter that I once found online, I think once posted by Yahoo! I have added a line where I give them the option to purchase a license to the image through a referral link. This line is added because many users of pirated images are not aware that taking an image from the web is actually copyright infringement, so I feel it is partly our duty to educate them. The letter then also describes that if the image is not licensed the image should be removed immediately. If you cannot find any contact information then you need to find out to whom the website is registered through e.g. Who Is .Through there you can send the notice to the website owner and/or host. There are a few websites that offer standardized online DMCA forms to be filled out, e.g.: Blogger ,Wordpress or Facebook.
If you find your image used on a commercial website, e.g a website selling products where your image is used directly to promote products, or even if your image is being sold, I use a different type of DMCA Notice of Copyright Infringement. This is a form that I found online as well and is an actual letter used by Getty Images (See PDF ) to claim damages to be paid in case a proof of purchase and type of license cannot be provided. I modeled my own letter after this one, and also adjust the pricing of damages claimed.
 Non-watermarked images found: 
Unfortunately it is very difficult to determine of your images have been pirated if your found image does not have a watermark on it, when you Royalty-Free licenses to your images. For this it is crucial to understand each license under which your images are available. Only then it becomes slightly easier to find out of your images is being used illegally. When I determine that my images like this are also being used illegally or without the correct license I use the above methods to get those taken down or to claim damages paid.
 Key in all communication is that you remain professional and accurate. As proof, make sure you have screenshots of the sites where you find your images. Make sure you follow up on notices send in a timely manner.

Note: I am not a lawyer. This post does NOT constitute legal advice. Any action you take (or do not take) as a result of reading this post is entirely your own responsability.


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