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My Image Has Been Stolen, What Do I Do?

Here are the four steps you can take if you find someone's using one of your photos without permission.

| General Photography

My Image Has Been Stolen, What Do I Do?: Copyright logo

There seems to be a crazy belief that anything posted online is free to use when actually, it's not. One of the most common things downloaded and used for other purposes, without permission of the rightsholder, are photographs which, as they're often just a right-click away from appearing on a desktop, can be quite easy to take. 

If you find yourself a victim of image theft, it's important you understand your rights. Copyright law does actually allow authors of work that's been stolen to claim damages when their rights have been abused but before you get to that point, there are a few other steps you can take. 


1. Take-Down Request

You can start by personally informing the image abuser about their wrongdoings and request them to delete the image. However, this method is only recommended when your image has been used for private purposes only. Many, especially private users, are completely unaware of their crime when sharing images and are often dumbfounded when they learn that they have broken the law.

However, if your politely written email requesting the deletion of the image is ignored or the person who took your images uses it commercially you have to be prepared to legally enforce your rights. There are common requirements, such as making sure that the author is always named and that licenses are always legally purchased, which people (established online companies in particular) should know they have to follow. 


2. Cease & Desist

The legal equivalent to a nicely written email is a cease-and-desist letter that informs the user that legal action can be taken if the image continues to be used. This is a quick and easy tactic you can use to state your rights and it doesn't even have to be sent by a lawyer. However, hiring a lawyer might be a wise idea as there are certain preconditions that have to be met and it can quickly become complicated. It also means that your letter has more authority which could make it more effective. 




3. Post-Licensing

If you don't have an issue with others using your images and just want to make sure that you're paid for each usage of your work, there is another option. You can sell a license for the use of your image, after they have started using it, allowing a once image rights abusers to become future customers. This is a great opportunity for you to profit from your work and generate new customers. 


4. Claim of Damages

You can always claim damages when your offer for a post-license is ignored or you have no intention to post license your work in the first place. There are three different grounds that justify claiming damages:

  1. Compensation based on the profit generated by the image user by the illegal use of the image.
  2. Compensation determined by the profits lost by the rightsowner.
  3. Compensation based on the original cost of purchasing a license or using official price lists that help determine the price of a license based on the image usage. 


About Author: Copytrack

This advice was written by Copytrack ( who believe that image users should always be informed of photo theft, regardless of whether it’s an email, a cease-and-desist letter or even giving them the opportunity to obtain a post-license. In no situation should image theft ever be ignored. It does not matter if photography is just your hobby as it's only when photographers start to stand up for their rights or point out copyright abuse that future photo theft can be prevented. In a situation where your images are used commercially, Copytrack strongly suggests that you take legal action and if necessary, claim for damages. 

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