Every now and then I get a mail or a message from a photographer asking what can be done about someone who stole their images and uses them online. It is almost a weekly thing but going to court over copyright violation is not an easy thing. I have always been someone who stood up for my rights in my copyrighted images as well as the moral right to be acknowledged as the author of the work. Some of you might even know that I am running a court case in the Delhi high court against Roli Books, the publisher of my book ‘Street Food of India‘ for mutilating my work and claiming copyright in the book. However, going to court, not only in India, should really be the last resort and is only advised when you have a major case. Whenever possible I believe it is best to use other measures then get into the court system. After all, you never know when and how you’ll come out of it.
Intellectual property and Copyright protection
The thing is that this phenomenon of people that don’t even ask for permission and simply decide to grab our images from the web or other source and simply use them on their website is a major issue. The worst case is that sometimes these people, lets just call them for the thieves they are, even alter the images, cover the watermark and create a new watermark of their own pretending the image is actually their own. Now this can really piss me off but unless willing to take legal action there is very little one can do about it.
So what can you do when you find your work used by someone else online? Here is one thing you SHOULD do, but mind you that if you want to shoot, shoot don’t talk. If you intend to go after such copyright thieves you should get in touch with an intellectual property lawyer. Another thing to keep in mind that this thing is time consuming and unless you have someone to do this work for you you will be spending your days chasing ghosts instead of working.
How to send a Cease and Desist notice
So, this is what you do. First of all get on a website like http://who.is/ and find the registered owner of the infringing domain so that your mail goes to a person and that person knows that you know who he is. Send a letter of request/demand to remove the unauthorised images and never use them again or face legal action. This kind of letter is called Cease and Desist letter and is available on various places on the net. Feel free to use the one attached below.
It is important to do the following:
1. Mention the exact place where the image was originally published/created.
2. Stick to the facts without bringing in any emotions. Don’t say anything like “I am hurt/ disappointed/ amazed” etc. It has no value.
3. Be direct with what you demand/expect and give a time frame for that.
I am the proprietors of all copyright in a number of photographic works on the subject of ___________ (The “Work”). I have reserved all rights in the specific Work which was first expressed in material form on my website <YOUR WEBSITE> and specifically on <THE EXACT LINK TO THE PAGE WITH THE ORIGINAL IMAGE> on <DATE WHEN THE IMAGE WAS PUBLISHED ON YOUR WEBSITE>
It has come to my attention that your work entitled <THE INFRINGING WEBSITE WHERE THE IMAGE IS USED> uses identical images to my copyrighted Work. Some of the images containing watermark were also altered to remove the watermark and include a different signature which illegally deprives me of my moral right to be recognized as author of the work. Permission was neither asked nor granted to reproduce the Work and your Work therefore constitutes infringement of my rights. In terms of the Copyright Statutes, I am entitled to an injunction against your continued infringement, as well as to recover damages from you for the loss I have suffered as a result of your infringing conduct. In the circumstances, I demand that you immediately:
1. remove all infringing content and notify me in writing that you have done so;
2. immediately cease the use and distribution of my copyrighted material;
3. undertake in writing to desist from using any of my copyrighted Work in future without prior written authority from me.
If I have not received an affirmative response from you by the close of business on <TWO WEEKS FROM THE TIME OF YOUR LETTER> indicating that you have fully complied with these requirements, I will be forced take further action against you that will include, but will not be limited to: asking my lawyers to address this issue, reporting this to any ad programs you may have on electronic copies, and seeking proper copyright infringement litigation for any damages caused by this reproduction. This is written without prejudice to my rights, all of which are hereby expressly reserved.
<YOUR NAME AND CONTACT INFO>
Try this one and let me know how it worked. I’d say that in about 90% of the cases your image will be removed from the infringing website. In some cases you will get an apology while other times the image will simply be taken off which is actually good enough. Good luck.
Let’s call a thief by his real name
There are of course other ways to go about copyright thieves. For example we can all write a nice stinker to the infringing website. The image below is stolen by this copyright infringing website who is @LimoBroker on twitter and also here on Facebook. Not only that they lifted the image from my website but they also placed their own new watermark over mine and if this was not enough they claim copyright in all the material on their website!
This image of a Muslim bride originally published on my website on November 5th 2009 (click on the image for the original post) is very popular with copyright thieves and can be found in many places on the web.
The stolen image as used on an infringing website (Click on the image for the web page and feel free to mail them with some bad words)