Before you proceed any further it is important to make sure that the other person or website cannot claim something called "Fair Use". In certain instances, a website may use your photo under the "Fair Use" clause. To understand more about "Fair Use", see here. For a simple checklist to follow to see if fair use applies to your photo, see here. Please note that in all instances of fair use, they may not alter your original work (including adding their own watermark) and they must provide credit to the original artist. 99 percent of issues where you found your photo on someone else's website do NOT fall under "Fair Use".
The first thing you need to do is gather evidence.
- Capture a screen shot showing the image on the offending page. This could be on Google+, Blogger page, etc.
- Capture the main URL to the page you found the infringing photo on.
- Click on the image to open it full screen, and make a copy of the direct URL found in the address bar if possible. If not, copy the URL of the page that contains the image.
- Depending on the Google service, follow back to the person's profile page and capture the direct URL to that page.
- Document their name or alias if you can find it listed.
- Take a complete Screen Capture of their entire profile if possible. Some have filled out location, phone numbers, etc. Capture this data if present.
Google has made an online DMCA form that allows you to report these incidences. On the whole, we find it works pretty quickly if filled out completely. Before following this next step, be sure that the offending website cannot claim that they used your photo in "Fair Use". Most can't, but if you are unsure of what "Fair Use" is, then click on the link at the top of the page.
Click this link to fill out the form. It is pretty straight forward, but leave nothing out. Simply choose the Google owned service where you found your work to get started. Like Google+, for example.
If you found your photo used in a YouTube video, follow this link as this process is different.
The above form should take care of this fairly quickly. But if after 2 weeks you find that nothing has been done, you will need to fill out an official DMCA Takedown Notice and send it to them in three forms. Fax, email, and direct snail mail. And actually, you will fax it twice to 2 different numbers.
Head to the top of the page and click the link for the DMCA Sample Letter. Fill it out completely and mail it to the following address.
Attn: Google Legal Support, DMCA Complaints
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, CA 94043 USA
Take a digital version of that letter (word doc, etc.) and turn it into a PDF. Save it for your records.
Next, do a direct copy and paste of the letter into an email and send it to the following email address. Do not send the PDF as an attachement. In fact, do not send attachments of any kind: DMCAfirstname.lastname@example.org
Turn around and fax it to:
(650) 963-3255, Attn: Google Legal Support, DMCA Complaints
AND - (650) 818-1806
The actual voice number to the Designated Agent should you choose to call and voice a complaint to a real person is: (650) 253-0000. That is the number on file at the Copyright Office but Google filed that document back in 2008. I am unsure if it will still get to the right people.
After following this third step, we suggest waiting 30 days before proceeding to step 4 and beyond.
Now it is time to notify the FBI. The FBI has a copyright/piracy task force set up for pursuing these matters. It used to be only for things like movies and music, but that has now been extended to include things like photographs and works of art.
The following link will take you to the specific page at the FBI where you can file a complaint. It is called the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). You will need all of the information that you gathered so far, as well as a complete outline of what you have done to notify Google up to this point.
This is not quite ready, but it is something I am actively trying to get put in place. I am seeking attorneys who are also photographers, to assist with sending a certified cease and desist letter on behalf of the photographer.
You will never be given the voluntary attorney's phone number and contact information. You will fill out an online form and include all of the details you have done up to this point. They will charge you a nominal fee to cover the costs of certification - I am thinking about $20 or less - and send a form letter with the pertinent information included.
It should never make it to this step, but if it does, then an actual lawsuit is going to have to be filed, and for that you need an attorney. At the top of this page, click "Legal" for a list of attorneys that we are currently recommending.