November 2, 2017

Kain Jones

What can you do if a brand is using your images on Instagram?

Photo: Jakob Owens

In social media terms, Instagram is the home of photos. As a photographer, maybe you use Instagram to experiment, maybe you give people a behind-the-scenes peek into your professional shoots, maybe it’s strictly for happy snaps of your pets. Whatever the purpose, it’s a platform where your content can really resonate with users, and a powerful lace to assemble an audience.

Problem is, brands also love an audience, and Instagram has become an incredibly popular advertising platform. It’s even owned by Facebook. Running a successful Instagram account means frequent posting, and without widespread knowledge of copyright law, and limited legitimate avenues for sourcing original content, this can mean the unauthorized use of images.

So, if you spot a piece of your work on a brand’s account, and you haven’t approved it, what are your options?

1. You can report the infringement to Instagram.

If you’re keen to go down this road, you can submit a claim of copyright infringement to Instagram. You can do this whether you’re actually using Instagram or not. Before you do this, Instagram recommends reaching out directly to the account that you believe has infringed your copyright directly. Which might not give you a lot of hope in the official process that will follow. If you want to give this a go, once you’ve tried reaching out to the offending party directly, here’s the form you can use to lodge a report.

Oh, and just as you take correct usage of your own content seriously, Instagram is serious about misreporting, so don’t even think about it:

Please note that submitting a report of intellectual property infringement is a serious matter with legal consequences. Intentionally submitting misleading or otherwise fraudulent reports of infringement may lead to termination of accounts as well as liability for damages under section 512(f) of the United States Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) or similar laws in other countries.

2. You can go after each brand yourself.

If you have a lot of patience, a lot of free time, and a fairly thick skin, this is a good option. If you’re going to pursue this option, before you begin, make sure you know what you want. Do you want money? Do you want them to take the post down? Remember that people have already seen it by the time you’re alerted to what’s happened, so it’s already done a marketing job for the brand. When you ask for money, don’t mess around. Know what you want them to pay you, and how you want to be paid.

You may not get the opportunity to send a formal invoice, so be prepared to ask for money through a platform like PayPal or Venmo, so that you can send them a link. Bear in mind that if the company doesn’t comply with your terms, or stump up your fee, you may have a harder time getting compensation if you end up escalating through legal channels, like Pixsy.

Here’s what happened when one photographer took a brand to task:

3. You can chalk it up to ‘exposure’ and move on.

It might not be a surprise to learn that this isn’t an approach that we feel very happy about. As a company who fight for the rights of photographers, we know how hard you work to build a career in photography, and we know the value that photographers bring to brands. Our mission is to help photographers get the fees that they deserve. And no-one who has created work which is good enough for a brand to want to use deserves to be paid in exposure, aka not paid.

Think there’s not much in it? How would you feel if your work was sold for $90,000?

4. We can help.

Whether you’re an amateur or a professional photographer, we can help you to keep your images safe. Once you sign up for a Pixsy account (free for everyone except very high volume users), we’ll import your images and our reverse search engine will check for online matches. You can then review these, and make sure that you’ve authorized each use of your images.

Our users tell us that this part of the process seems pretty magical, but we think that the real magic happens when you find an unauthorized use of one of your images. You can flag each instance in our system, and we’ll act on your behalf, or use our automatic ‘takedown’ service to send a notice to the site owner.

Sound like a satisfying way to deal with image thieves? We thought so. Get started with Pixsy.

Kain Jones

With a background in arts, law, and business, Kain leads the team at Pixsy on the collective mission. He brings his years of experience from working in Australia and Europe to drive Pixsy forward with new products, features, and into new markets. Kain is driven to make copyright enforcement accessible, affordable and uncomplicated for creatives worldwide.

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