How many times have I read that comment on Facebook or in a private message... sadly, too many!
They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and it is truly a great compliment for anyone when people see a design that they like and re-create it themselves, maybe adding in a little bit of their own personal flair! But when someone knowingly takes a photograph from your Facebook page or website and publishes it on their website or Facebook page as their own work it's more than a little annoying!
If this is something that has happened to you and you are unsure what you can do then here are a few simple steps that you can take:
- Firstly, check to make sure that it is without doubt your photograph, this is very important before you take any actions. You can check if someone is using an image of yours by adding one of your own pictures into Google Images. http://images.google.com, this will highlight everywhere that this image is being used on the internet!
To test this out, I used one of the images that is part of a Qualatex Wedding course that I teach on behalf of Pioneer Europe. Those who attend and learn how to create the designs are permitted to use all the images freely and are given a image disc as part of the course for this purpose, but this helps me to illustrate how Google Image search works, I simply uploaded one of my pictures on the search bar, you can see the camera on the right hand side, just click on that and it will guide you through adding your image... as you can see, it gave me 70 results showing me what websites are using this picture.
Or you can right click on any of your pictures that you have on your website or Facebook page, click on 'Copy Image Address', this will give you the URL of the image, you can then paste this into the Google Image search.
- Contact the offending website or Facebook page. Write a polite note or letter informing them that the photograph is your property and that you require them to remove it/them from their website/Facebook page. Keep your tone calm and professional, you will get better results. This is a very effective method and in most cases the person will remove any pictures.
- Sadly on occasions, you may find that your request provokes a negative response or that the owner of the website/Facebook page believe's that as is it's on the internet that it's 'free to use' and may try and threaten to sue you! Again, try to remain professional and follow the next step.
- Fill out a DMCA form (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) and submit it to the websites web host, they will remove the content quickly. However if it's not one of the bigger hosting companies you will need to find the hosting ISP, you can do this through http://whois.domaintools.com. I tested this tools with my own website and it gave me all the information that I needed!
- You can report a 'stolen' photograph to Facebook, by clicking report on the OPTIONs button, however, Facebook do recommend that you contact the person directly before taking any other actions.
- If you have registered your photographs with the copyright office you can sue for damages, if you feel that this is something that you want to do? This is something a photographer who sells their photographs would do to protect them from theft or misuse.
- You can seek legal advice, but ensure that you have records of all the steps that you have taken and copies of all the correspondence from both parties.
- To prevent this happening again... it's impossible, however there are a few things that you can do to help to prevent it!
Use Watermarks on all of your photographs - try the free editing tool on PicMonkey
With permission from Lily Tan, I have 'borrowed' one of her pictures from her Facebook page, Lily always adds her very distinctive company logo on all of her pictures making them very easily identifiable making it very hard for someone to pass off Lily's work as their own. All image companies do the same thing, just check out ISTOCKPHOTO's, they all have a huge white X across their images with ISTOCKphoto written across the centre. Adding your logo really does not ruin the look of your picture but will hopefully prevent others from using it as their own.
- Use low resolution images on your website, if the image is in a low resolution it is hard for the person taking the picture to do anything 'professional' with it. Did you know that when you upload photographs to Facebook and Twitter, they automatically reduce the size of the image that you upload.
There are a number of different technical ways to alter your images so that when someone does right click it and save it to their computer it changes on re-opening, I found a couple known as 'shrink wrapping an image' or 'slicing and dicing'... but only you can decide if it is worth the effort?
For me personally, I think that I will take a leaf out of Lily's book and create my own unique logo that I will add to all my images, I think that it looks professional and ensures that the original artist does not lose the credit for their amazing work.