Have Your Photos Been Stolen? Take Action to Enforce Your Copyrights

Graphic of the copyright symbol and enforcing your copyrights text by Marla Meier.

It’s happening every day, all day, all around the world! Thousands of images are being stolen from photographers. People are taking photos from just about anywhere on the web – from your website, Google images search, Social Media sites, photo hosting sites such as Flickr, and from websites where you approved the use of your images.

These photo thieves could care less if your images have the proper watermark (copyright notice), are on pages with copyright information posted, or are on pages with links to your Terms of Use. They either don’t read it, don’t understand it (Hey, it’s on the web, it must be free to use!) or just plain ignore it. Some people may be deemed innocent through ignorance of the law, but that ignorance can add up to hefty fines. Then there are those dishonest abusers who take copyright infringement to the extreme. They use web crawlers that can extract every image from your site! WOW! That could be a lot of images they are stealing!

There is only one way in which your copyrights cannot be abused. Don’t post them online! In the digital age of communication, that’s really not an option when you want to get your name out there and have your images seen.

Beyond placing the proper copyright on each image (Learn more from Margo Taussig Pinkerton, aka – TBC, The Barefoot Contessa in © is for Copyright) and registering them with the U.S. Copyright Office, there is still more you can do if your images have already been downloaded – “stolen”.

It will take some due diligence and patience on your part, but the results can be well worth it, so hang in there during the process. It might help to remember that by enforcing your own copyrights, you are actually helping to encourage other photographers to do the same.

How to Track Your Images – Find Who is Using Your Copyrights

There are various ways to track down those that are using your images:
Google Search by Image, Google Reverse Search, companies like Digimarc and TinEye, through Firefox or Chrome add-ons, or check with your SEO company to see if they can do the search for you. There are pros and cons to all of them, so do some looking around and see what will work best for you.

WHAT IS YOUR LINE OF DEFENSE? HOW DO YOU ENFORCE YOUR STOLEN COPYRIGHTS?


FIRST: Block the thief from future downloads.

You want to block the ‘photolifter’ from downloading any future images by adding their IP address or domain name into the Firewall within your website.

If you need to get an IP address for the abuser’s website, do a Google Search for: “website URL name” and IP address.

It is possible that the offender has many sub-domains under the top level domain name, so again, do a search to find out what the top level domain address is, so all sub-domains will also be blocked. Your website server should be able to help you with this if you’re not familiar with the process.

Conduct a WHOIS search and save this information: the server’s name, location, phone number and abuse email address.

If you know how to block a website’s IP address or domain name within a Firewall on the server side of your website, that’s great, but if not, just contact your server and they can either do it for you or convey the steps needed in order for you to accomplish the task. The offending website will no longer be able to steal photos from your website.

Now you have a new tool of defense and will be ready for the next photo crook.

BUT, this is only the first step. It only blocks the offenders from future downloads, but does not remove images already present on the thieves’ website/s.

Image looking up inside an old observation tower at Sapelo Island, Georgia by Marla Meier.

Put your full legal copyright on your images.
Looking up inside an old observation tower at Sapelo Island, Georgia.


SECOND STEP: SEND AN OFFICIAL TAKEDOWN REQUEST

Now you need to have your ducks in a row here and do some homework. Does it take up your precious time, yes, but all those efforts can remove your images from the abusers site.

Note: Typically these items will be required by most countries and/or the server.

Steps 1-4 need to be done for each image found
and usually in this order (unless there are overwhelming numbers, just start the process by sending examples of about 10 images and explaining to them that there are say, 100 images found, and plead that all be removed). If you think you may want to seek legal advice at some point later, do this process for every image. Be forewarned – legal action is one expensive venture!

Save the information in an apply-titled word.doc folder.

1. Copy/paste the URL address of the offending website where your image or images are seen.

2. Take a screen shot of the page it is on (hold down the Ctrl / Print Scrn buttons on your keyboard at the same time). Paste it into a New File in your image editing program and label it accordingly.

3. Copy/paste the URL of just the image from your site – such as, http://www.apogeephoto.com/dec2013/Meier_photos/fireworks-stars.jpg.

4. Copy/paste the URL where the image resides within your website – such as (this one is within an article), http://www.apogeephoto.com/dec2013/10-tips-for-photographing-fireworks.shtml.

5. Find the offending websites’ Terms of Use or Privacy pages. If they have anything regarding the use of other people’s images and copyrights, then perform another screen shot and follow the steps in #2.

6. Find all contact information and check to see if they have an abuse@ email address. Copy all of the information.

7. Include the server’s name, location, phone number and abuse email address.

8. Send an email takedown request to the server and offending website to remove your images.

This is where it can get a bit tricky and you may have to do more research. But again, if you want the images removed from the copyright infringer’s site, then you’re going to have to do the homework.

Your takedown notice request procedures can vary from country to country according to their takedown notice legislation or according to the offending server’s requirements, so you will either need to do a Google search in order to find the details and sample letters or contact the server. IMPORTANT: The rights holder will then need to follow those procedures EXACTLY in order for the server to take action – get your images removed.

The United States has adopted the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
(Proper U.S. takedown notice example is below.)

Europe enforces copyrights through the EUCD (European Union Copyright Directive).
The EUCD does not have a standardized format. Check with abuser’s website server and then follow their EXACT requirements.

 
And be aware that not all countries have takedown notice legislation.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:
American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP)
Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works
Canada’s Copyright Laws – The Copyright Modernization Act (Bill C-11)
Here is a great resource for Protecting Intellectual Property Rights in a Globalized Market.


WHAT TO INCLUDE IN UNITED STATES DMCA TAKEDOWN NOTICES

There is no guarantee they will comply, but it is also quite likely that they will. This is not the time to rant and rave, just follow the protocol.

Note: Be sure you understand what “fair use” of an image means before you send a request.


The DMCA takedown notice email will need to include the following:
1. In writing
2. Must have an electronic signature
3. Must have the content that infringes upon your intellectual property rights
4. Include accurate contact information
5. Complaint must be stated in “good faith”
6. Must state: “under penalty of perjury, that the information contained in the notification is accurate”

ATTENTION: You are not free to copy this article or these images, however,
FEEL FREE to copy and use the example DMCA email takedown notice.

~~ EXAMPLE FORMAT FOR UNITED STATES DMCA TAKEDOWN NOTICE ~~

Send To: abuse@ (the server) AND abuse@ (the offending website)
Subject: Copyright Violation, DMCA notice
Attachments: Screen shot of offenders Terms of Use or Privacy Policy; screen shots of pages on which your image/s are found

(Body of the Email)

Re: Copyright Claim Sender Information

Rights Owner (include Rights Agent if necessary):
Name of your company
Website URL
Your address
Your phone number
Your email address

To: Server of abuser
Name
Address
Phone number
Abuse email address
Website

Abuser – it’s possible that the name, address and phone number may not be accessible
Name
Address
Phone number
Abuse email address
Website

cc: Any person or company of relevance (could be a publisher’s website)

bcc: Legal counsel – copyright expert

To Whom It May Concern,

The website in question (include their URL) which is hosted in your servers/network is illegally using original content without the explicit licensing or permission from the creator / copyright holder or its copyright agent at (include your URL).

The material which I contend belongs to(your company name) appears illegally on the Service are the following: photographs taken from our (whatever applies – website, blogs, and/or locations that have published our photographs with our permission) as follows:

(Optional) Every page on (your company name) has copyright information on it with a link to our Terms of Use (Link to the page) at the bottom of the page.

(Title of image if there is one)
· appears at the website addresses:
http://offenders website /apogeephoto.com*dec2013*Meier_photos*fireworks-stars.jpg/
· And can be found via the search tool at these specific locations:
Example – image only location: http://www.apogeephoto.com/dec2013/Meier_photos/fireworks-stars.jpg 
· For a direct link to our images:
Example – location where you image appears within your website: 
http://www.apogeephoto.com/dec2013/10-tips-for-photographing-fireworks.shtml

I have a good faith belief that the use of the materials that appears on the service is not authorized by the copyright owners, its agents, or by operation of law.

The information in this notice is accurate, and as the copyright owner, I declare under the perjury laws that this notification is true and correct.

This letter is official notification under the provisions of Section 512© of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to effect removal of the above-reported infringements. I request that you immediately issue a cancellation message as specified in RFC 1036 for the specified postings and prevent the infringer, who is identified by it web address, from posting the infringing content to your servers in the future. Please be advised that the law requires you, as a service provider, to “expeditiously remove or disable access to” the infringing content upon receipt of this notice. Non-compliance may result in a loss of immunity for liability under the DMCA.

Should you require any further information regarding this matter, please contact me by email at: Your email address

I await your response.

Signed,

ELECTRONIC SIGNATURE HERE

Your name
Your title

Will the crooks or server take my photos off of their website?

It is of course possible that the infringer may refuse or counter the notice, and an ISP may decline the request. Now of course at this point you can choose to fork over a lot of money and seek the services of a ‘reputable’ copyright lawyer. Be careful here too – scams have occurred. Contact photography organizations or a photographer whom you trust who can lead you to a legitimate, qualified lawyer.

HOW CAN YOU HELP?

Don’t stop now! Be an advocate. You can get the word out to all you know through your website, blog, Social Media, chat rooms, camera and photography clubs, and ….. Teach what you have learned to others. We can all take a step towards protecting not just our copyrights, but the copyrights of all photographers and artists.

by Marla Meier
Article and photos: © 2014 Marla Meier. All rights reserved.

All written content (and most images) in these articles are copyrighted by the authors. Copyrighted material from Apogee Photo Mag should not be used elsewhere without seeking the authors permission.

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