Like many photographers, I enjoy sharing my pictures online. I use some pictures for this website but I also use popular online picture sharing sites like Flickr (which is a Yahoo site). I’ve been on Flickr now for a couple of years and its a great photo sharing site, except for one thing…people stealing my pictures then using them on their online Flickr profile and/or websites! Obviously this can happen on any site, someone can take a picture from this page and use it on another one just as they do on Flickr. I don’t mind if someone uses a picture of mine for an article as long as its not for profit and they give me proper credit with a link back to this site. But on Flickr due to the popularity and the large number of members, there tends to be more of blatant “stealing”.
By the way you can easily find out if people are stealing your images by using this method.
So what do I or other photographers do? First, of course we get upset, but I don’t as much after I figured out how to take the correct action. This leads me to what I do after I get upset, and that is to send a copyright violation notice to Yahoo, which owns Flickr. Its a short email with a few legal requirements that Yahoo needs to remove the images from their site(s). Yahoo’s exact requirement can be found here Copyright and Intellectual Property Policy. This of course relates to the U.S. site as well as a few other countries, but some countries will vary as to the requirements, check with yahoo in your country to find the correct link. (usually at the bottom of the flickr page)
Its almost on a monthly basis that I find my pictures stolen by other Flickr members and I contact yahoo with my Copyright Infringement email. This past week I had to do it twice. In one instance the other person actually removed my watermark! You can imagine how upset I was. After I did some research to get his name and address (I’m good at finding the actual people who think they can hide behind their computers), I proceeded to contact Yahoo to remove the images and in one case they also terminated his flickr membership.
If this happens to you, don’t worry it is not necessary to know who stole your pictures, its only necessary to know the link to the page or picture itself is on Flickr. From the Copyright and Intellectual Property Policy of Yahoo, they require the email to have certain specific information. I will share what I normally send them, which complies with the rules on their site I just mentioned. Below is a template I use for contacting Yahoo on a Copyright Infringement issue, feel free to use it, simply change the information in parentheses.
c/o Yahoo! Inc.
701 First Avenue
Sunnyvale, CA 94089
RE: Copyright Infringement Complaint
(place date here)
Flickr’s/Yahoo’s unauthorized use of my copyrighted material constitutes a violation of U.S. Copyright Law, and International Copyright Law under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
Infringing Flickr Web Page: (add link to the web page where the offending member has your picture)
Infringing Flickr user info: (add the Flickr members name and link photo stream)
Please immediately remove all access to the infringing material.
The stolen images can be found on my website/Flickr at the following web address: (add a link to your website or flickr photo stream)
I have a good faith belief that use of the copyrighted materials described above as allegedly infringing is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.
I swear, under penalty of perjury, that the information in the notification above is accurate and that I am the copyright owner or am authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.
City, State, Country
I then email it to email@example.com. Remember, that it is illegal to claim you are the copyright owner or can act on behalf of the owner if you actually do not do so, if you do it can be more costly than you think, so be sure your statements are correct. Since I have taken all my own pictures, I know I am the copyright owner this is why I include it on my letter above.
Remember, this works for the Flickr site or any website owned by Yahoo. If its another website on the Internet, then you will need to check that site for their requirements, but it’s normally very similar. However, for a common personal website, I often contact the hosting company for the copyright violation notice, especially if the website itself does not reply to my regular email.
Like many photographers I enjoy people viewing my pictures, but I don’t appreciate people using my images without permission, again by this I don’t mean when someone uses my images and gives me proper credit and links back to this site, that is ok and encouraged. What I mean by “without permission” is when they pass it as their own or use it for profit without compensating me. Especially if they are using it for profit, that will only cause any photographer to go further and take legal matters, which the copyright owner will always win.
I hope this information was helpful and next time someone uses your images without your permission, ask them to take it down, if that doesn’t do it, then you know what steps you need to get it done. By the way, Yahoo usually acts on it within 24-48 hours.