As a photographer who constantly posts my work on social media, my blog and pretty much anywhere I can get it in front of eyeballs with my name and website on it, I am no stranger to having my photography taken and posted without attribution. On a monthly basis I do a reverse image search with Google and TinyEye to check my most popular images for unauthorised usage, also known as copyright infringement. I’ll identify the infringing works and, where possible, I contact the people doing the infringing and either ask them to credit me with a link to my website or to remove the work, depending on the site and usage.
Most people happily work with me, I don’t approach them aggressively, as many people just aren’t aware that it is wrong to take images from a Google Image search or something they found elsewhere on the internet and use them. For those that don’t comply, ignore me or don’t have a way of contacting them, I file a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) take down notice to have the images removed by either the host site (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google+ etc) or by the company hosting the website.
Imagine my surprise when I am contacted by a follower of my work that music artist and actor Chris “Ludacris” Bridges had taken my photo and posted it to his Instagram account without crediting me! At first I was pretty excited that my image had been shared by Ludacris, he has 2.2 million followers on Instagram, 16.7 million on Facebook and 9.5 million on Twitter and my photo had been cross posted to all of his accounts. Then I looked for the credit or link back to my Instagram account and it wasn’t there. I was a little annoyed, as I would have been more than happy for him to repost my image with credit and a link back, as I am with any account on Instagram.
Instagram doesn’t currently have an inbuilt system to share an image that you like with your followers, so the work around is to use apps to repost the photos, most of the time they will credit the photographer they are reposting. I sent Ludacris’s Facebook page a message as well as a direct message on Instagram and a few tweets on twitter, trying to somehow get the problem sorted before it got out of hand. So far I’ve had zero response to any of my messages. I posted a few comments on facebook and instagram, letting people know that it is my photo, at this point people’s woeful understanding of copyright law came out in force and I started getting abusive direct messages from his fans.
Apparently I should be “grateful” that my photo has been posted without credit because millions of people will see it, that’s great that they get to see it, but I get nothing out of that. A credit would put my name on it and potentially get me noticed for some paid work or licensing on my other images, at the very least it would have helped me grow my own audience. I was told that because I had posted the photo on a public website, it was free for everyone to post, it is the same as saying that if you park your car in a public car park, it’s free for anyone to use, clearly not true. I waited for a response for nearly 24 hours, in the end I just did what I did with every other unresponsive, unauthorised use of my images, I filed a DMCA complaint, the images will be removed pretty quickly by both Facebook and Instagram. I’m looking into further options legally as well.
I was disappointed as you would think that someone who makes a living from their own art, wouldn’t take the art of other people. Also he isn’t shy of taking legal action against those he feels have infringed his copyright (http://www.hiphopdx.com/index/news/id.22129/title.ludacris-sues-texas-couple-for-copyright-infringement-of-disturbing-tha-peace). I’m currently waiting for the DMCA to be enforced, that usually takes less than 48 hours.
If you have had your photos taken on Facebook you can file a DMCA notice using this form: https://www.facebook.com/help/contact/208282075858952
Or for Instagram you can use this one: https://help.instagram.com/contact/391888707564685