What Can You Do if People Keep Stealing Your Work?

If you're a content creator in any industry, I can almost guarantee that someone somewhere will steal your work. Unfortunately, it's pretty much inevitable now, especially with the advent of social media. The question is: what can you do if someone steals your work?

First thing I'd recommend is to actually identify if your work has been stolen. There's very little you can do if you're not aware that someone has stolen your work. One super quick and effective way to find out if your work is getting stolen or not is by doing a reverse image search on Google. I tend to a quick search of a few images every few months. Social media is probably the worst platform when it comes to content stealing. Unfortunately, in many cases, there aren't a lot of things you can do aside from performing takedown requests, which is a complete pain. In a recent video by Karl Taylor, he shows some pretty outlandish ways some people have stolen his content and even his likeness. It's incredible how far some will go just to fool people into thinking they're a professional company or creative. 

In all fairness, I've taken inspiration from Taylor too, because in my mind, he's a brilliant photographer. Having said that, there's a pretty distinct line between taking inspiration versus outright stealing content. 

Check out the full video linked above. 

Editorial Note:  Some of the claims Karl has made in his video are unsubstantiated and at times false. Much of the tutorial sales language is used across many photography tutorial companies including Fstoppers and is not unique to Karl Taylor or Fro Knows Photo. It should also be noted that the light beam photoshoot referenced in Karl's video was setup by Sony and not Jared Polin.

Usman Dawood's picture

Usman Dawood is a professional architectural photographer based in the UK.

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I wonder what he had to pay to license those Gary Numan and Sinead O'Connor song clips.

He shouldn't have to pay anything because it's under the fair use of commentary. He isn't using the full work as something that stands on it's own but rather comparing his art to their art. That should totally be a case of fair use.

Actually Patrick I don’t believe that is correct about the music. Also, We as photographers probably wouldn’t like someone cropping our photos to use without credit and approval. I write music in addition to being a photographer. I don’t like when either musicians or photographers don’t treat each other well.

I believe it’s fair use if it’s under 15 seconds? I could be completely

> believe it’s fair use if it’s under 15 seconds

That’s incorrect.

There’s NO statutory threshold to how much music (how many seconds) you can include in your media before it crosses into a copyright infringement action. Being permitted to appropriate a few bars of music is also an on-going myth that just won’t die!

It’s a case-by-case analysis and at the discretion of a federal judge (jury) to determine what constitutes infringement and what’s Fair Use.

Sampling a few seconds or “under 15-seconds” of a music clip, especially if it’s the “heart” (the main part) of a music’s sound recording, can be an infringement if the user does not perform one of copyright’s Fair Use (transformative) exceptions, including commenting or reviewing the music or using very short excerpts to make a point.

The rule is to use as little of the work as possible that’s within Fair Use; otherwise, you’ll need a (music synch and or other) license/s.

See: www dot copyright dot gov/help/faq/faq-fairuse.html#change

I just mean you can use the music and art under fair use when it's used as commentary. Not like you are using the full music as a soundtrack to your video. If CNN wants to run a story on Katy Perry losing her lawsuit from Flame, they can freely play those two songs (or at least snippets) to use as commentary on the issue. It's completely different than stealing or infringing on copyright.

Same thing goes with all other art. If a fake painting becomes newsworthy, you can show the two paintings side by side as free use. This is pretty much what Karl did. He referenced the inspiration of his photoshoot by showing the original art work which is a pretty fair use of the work.

There is a much stronger case of infringement on these youtubers who throw in social memes and copyrighted material every 10 seconds to make their videos more entertaining. That isn't commentary and they may be infringing on actual copyright.

The album art is surely fair use, but the music? Not necessary to make a point about the photo, probably not fair use

Patrick wrote “That [music] should TOTALLY [uppercase emphasis] be a case of fair use.”

Patrick, I’m not saying your analysis is incorrect; we can certainly speculate on legal outcomes. But you really need a court to rule definitively(!) on what constitutes a Fair Use exception based on the specific facts presented.

The conclusion of Karl Taylor’s video uses approx. three-seconds of Gary Numan’s “Cars” sound recording. I see that specific usage as being less Fair Use commentary and more of way for Karl to “esthetically” end his video. And to make his point about finding new photo inspirations from his music album covers, Karl should have dropped in a still image of an album cover (that he admires and that supports his concluding video commentary) rather than re-play the “Cars” music track!

Yes I believe you are correct, the time exception is a myth, and I’m not sure Karl Using the music is fair use at all.

I believe that it is often difficult to not be influenced by the way other people say things.

I have learned photography from many people online, and I am about to teach one small aspect of it. I have no idea how I am going to express all of the concepts I have learned without sounding like sone of them.

I am writing the script myself, but I imagine there will be places where it will sound like the people I learned from.

I don't know if the company I am going to teach for will allow me to credit all of my favorite teachers in tbe video. That would be cool though. Just say thanks and admit that my class is 90% them and 10% stuff I figured out on my own?

If it's something clearly said by someone else there's nothing wrong in saying, I adapted this from x. But the fundamentals of photography are the fundamentals, there's only so many things you can say.

Assuming an IDEA was actually stolen / copied, so what? It's only the same idea, not that the actual photo or any copyrighted work that's stolen and edited/modified. It's not unusual for different photographers to have similar styles of work. The same could be said for word usage or commentaries.

It's a stretch to say that Jared stole his "scripts". There a finite number of words in the English language and a finite number of ways to arrange them to get an idea across. I would have expected better from Karl.

Getting inspiration from someone else is not like stealing your photos. Many photographers learn and mimic other's ideas, nothing is wrong with that. To say that people "stole" your wording in their video is utter rubbish, it's plain English, very few ways to describe things.

Stealing your photos, that's a whole different thing and absolutely wrong on many levels. You should have stayed with that and leave the rest aside.

Hey guys, i'm selling this "I SHOOT JPEG" shirts. If anyone interested message me.

Ken Rockwell might sue you. :P

How about "I DRIBBLE JPEG"? 😁

All laundry machines are broken, but there are more on the other side of town.

This article needs to come down and not be promoting a video with such egregious statements. Fstoppers, please don't promote videos that are slanderous and incorrect, even if there is other good information contained in them.

I've heard this argument but half of Karl's video is correct. People are using his images without permission. Should we pull every video that isn't 100% factual through and through? I think the conversation this video is creating is more interesting than not having a conversation at all right? Karl Taylor is the one who really needs to vet his material and/or offer a follow up video post.

Ever since Karl's Hasselblad vs DSLR (Nikon if I remember correctly) videos, I don't believe a word he says.

Worms, Can. Open.

Popcorn, anyone?

It's becoming increasingly clear to me why I consume so little of the content of YouTube creators.

I always find it absolutely hilarious seeing "content creators" fighting on the internet over nonsense. If you do not want your work "stolen", DO NOT POST IT ON THE INTERNET!!!! It is literally as simple as that. I learned years ago that anything you post on the internet is forever there and anyone can access it, whether its 1 second later or 10 year later.

I give away RAW files so people can print them if they would like or analyze them. When I launched FroKnowsPhoto 9+ years ago my goal was to give give give and give. Just give it all away for FREE and not worry about the rest. It worked.

I've used some of those raw files. They helped me get my head out of my ass, and get better. Much appreciation here.

I can understand he basic premise of what you’re saying, but it’s dangerously close to victim blaming. It’s like saying “if you didn’t want to get your car stolen, you shouldn’t have parked it outside” without providing an alternative solution.

Unfortunately, this is the digital age, so the internet is how we consume a lot of our content. If I was to stop posting my photos online, how would you propose I share or promote them?

Rather than telling the victims they have to stop their behavior, it might be more productive to find ways to prevent the offenders from stealing. They are the problem, not the photographer. After all, the drug stores in Tokyo leave products on display outside the shops without any security, but I’ve never felt the urge to steal anything just because it’s out there and easy to grab without anyone noticing. If I want something, I pay for it, regardless of how easy it is to just take.

Just my thoughts, though. One does definitely need to take precautions went posting online, but shouldn’t stop doing it altogether.

Everyone’s a publisher and aggregator these days, but I agree the original content quality is pretty dismal of late.

Since so many notables are in here, can someone help me with a problem relevant to the alleged topic of this video? I'm broke as a joke, and a musical artist who shall remain nameless for now used a photo of mine on a tshirt. I did not give her permission to do so. I have no money to hire a lawyer in order to put any actual legal pressure on her. Only hollow threats. I have made none so far. The only contact she had with me was to show me a mockup of the shirt and asked my permission, which I told her I would give for a fee. I never heard from her again, and then weeks later the tshirt shows up on her website for $25.

What would you guys do?

On top of that, while waiting for her to reply I decided I was going to change my mind about the whole thing because the shot itself is an unintentional rip off of the famous Johnny Cash "giving the finger" photo by Jim Marshall. I was taking photos of her at a small venue where I am generally well known to the locals (but not to singer) and got too close for her comfort. She flipped me off as I took the photo. Looks cool. Happened organically, but seen by anyone in the know and obvious comparisons to the super famous photo would be the first response, not whether it's a cool photo or not. I have never even released the photo on social media. Only shown it to 3 or 4 people. I take lots of cool photos. I don't need something obviously unoriginal for likes to feel validated. I'm too lazy to care anymore. I just don't like someone else potentially making a profit on something I don't even want to make a profit on.

Assuming you registered your image (you did register, right?), then obtain the services of a lawyer who specializes in copyright. If you have not registered, then no lawyer will touch you, and you should get on with your life.

Copyright registration is only required in the United States. In the rest of the world - copyright comes into being (and can be defended) at the moment that the work is created.

Nicholas K wrote, “In the rest of the world - copyright comes into being (and can be defended) at the moment that the work is created.”

Actually, that’s the same in the US and all Berne Convention (international) countries: Upon affixing an original work of authorship (a photograph) on to a tangible medium of expression (on to film or a digital sensor) and the author includes a sufficient amount of creativity, the United States grants the author (photographer) an IMMEDIATE and AUTOMATIC copyright.

Differently though: If the photographer wants to ENFORCE his/her copyright against US-based infringers (assuming the unlicensed use is NOT within the scope of Fair Use/fair dealing), the photographer MUST register his/her copyright claim (or receive a rejection letter) with (from) the US Copyright Office (USCO).

In the US, you receive “presumptive proof” that you have a valid copyright (and all your information you included in your copyright registration application) will be deem valid if you register your work as unpublished or within five-years of first-publication. In your application, you’ll have to “certify” your copyright claim; if you knowingly lie to a material fact, you’re subject to a criminal fine up to US$2,500. Timely registering their copyright claims is how Americans prove their photography ownership and corresponding copyright to a US federal judge.

By timely registering our copyrights, either before the infringement occurs or within three-months of first-publication, US photographers can pursue enhanced money damages AND attorney fees against the infringer (statutory damages) vs. actual damages and disgorgement of profits (that tend to be low).

Though international photographers are NOT required to register their copyright claims with the USCO to pursue US-based infringers, they will ONLY be able to pursue actual money damages AND they can NOT recoup their attorney fees from the infringer, making it economically challenging (impossible???) to pursue US-based infringers without having a timely registered copyright in-hand.

If you’re located in the UK, EU, Canada, Australia/NZ, Japan, South America, or in other Berne countries and your photography is being infringed in your country, it could also be infringed in the US. If you want to pursue a US-based copyright infringers, you really, really need to have timely registered your copyright with the USCO: Read the following attorney link to understand why (just replace the word “corporation” with “photographer”): Donahue dot com/resources/publications/copyrights-registered-u-s/

What you're saying may be true of lawyers (I've never talked to one about this subject for photos, but have dealt with one for mechanical sound copyright), but it does not jive with the actual law. Even in the US, copyright comes into being the second the photo comes into being. Copyright is what can be proven as it has been explained to me. Are you saying that is not that case? In this case, proving this was my photo would be easier than handing money to a beggar.

You have to pay to have your work registered. This gives you the law of statute where you will receive the statutory amount of compensation. Without it, you will have to prove that they infringed on your work willingly which is often difficult. You will also have to prove how much money you lost from them infringing which is also incredibly difficult. Registering your work bypasses all of this and allows you to use the set infringement amounts or "statute"

It doesn't always work in other countries though. I recently had to sue a guy in the Netherlands and while I won the infringement lawsuit, the amount the courts awarded me was about $15,000 but the lawyers fees were $20,000. Then you also have to get the actual money from the person you won the lawsuit against which isn't always easy or possible if they themselves are broke.

With a business or artist though, as in your situation, register your image and tell them they are infringing on copyrighted work and you will offer them a settlement out of court. Set your price to half the statute and their lawyer will agree that settling will cost them a lot less than going to court for 1-2 years.

Patrick wrote, “Without it [a timely registered US copyright], you will have to prove that they infringed on your work WILLINGLY [uppercase emphasis] which is often difficult.

To be clear: Without your timely registered work, you’re ONLY eligible to pursue actual damages (typically the missed-out licensing fee) and, as Patrick referenced, the disgorgement of unlawful profits the infringer made that’s not attributed to actual damages, whether the work was infringed willfully or not.

In very rare cases where the infringement was used prominently on packaging or in an advertisement (both very expensive media buys), actual damages and profits lost could exceed the maximum statutory damages of $150,000. So, even if you missed your window to timely register your copyright claim, you’re still ENCOURAGE to immediately discuss the infringement with a copyright litigator. Just don’t ask social media and photography sites for legal advice.

Patrick wrote, “Then you also have to get the actual money from the person [in the Netherlands] you won the lawsuit against which isn't always easy or possible if they themselves are broke.”

That’s a great point: Before suing an infringer, you have to determine if sh/e is judgement-proof.

Patrick wrote, “…register your image and tell them they are infringing on copyrighted work and you will offer them a settlement out of court.”

That’s very true: Assuming your US-based infringer’s unlicensed use does not fall within Fair Use, having a timely registered copyright in-hand provides your copyright attorney with LEVERAGE to push the infringer to settle out of court. If the infringer doesn’t settle, and the matter proceeds to trial where the plaintiff photographer prevails, the infringer is now liable from $750 to $30,000 and up to $150,000 for willful infringement AND the photographer’s attorney fees AND legal costs (at the court’s discretion). To mitigate their financial and legal exposure, most all infringers will settle out of court and put the matter behind them.

Something like 95%+ of all US copyright infringement actions (where the plaintiff artist has a timely registered copyright) settle out of court, as it’s simply too expensive for infringers/defendants to cover their attorney fees.

Patrick: I searched the USCO’s Public Catalog and came across a few of your (Fstoppers) PA (film/video) registrations; however, I didn’t see any VA (photographs) registered under your name. Do you timely register your photo copyright claims? Am I mistaken?

I used to register images in batches a few times a month but under a different business name.

Dave Terry wrote, “What would you guys do …[when someone is selling one of your photographs on a t-shirt without permission and payment]?”

BEFORE posting my images on web and/or social media sites and BEFORE sharing (distributing) them (even for FREE), and BEFORE licensing or selling them, I timely register my images with the US Copyright Office (USCO) as an unpublished work, as that will provide my copyright litigator with leverage to push infringers to settle out of court.

Creative works timely registered as unpublished or within five years of first-publication grant the author (photographer) “presumptive proof” that s/he created the work and owns its corresponding copyright--that’s how you prove your copyright interests to a US federal judge (it’s NOT necessarily by having possession of a RAW file).

And BEFORE I grant any licenses and release my image to the licensee and to mitigate misunderstandings, I will formalize an agreement in writing without exception.

Even though you didn’t do either of the above, you may still have recourse against the alleged infringer who reproduced your photograph without payment (per your verbal agreement). I will assume that the use of your photograph on t-shirts is not within the scope of Fair Use.

I do NOT have any experience using the following copyright attorney links. You’ll have to do some due diligence when contacting them.

If you have not already done so, make screen captures of the infringing image t-shirts; check ETSY, all of her social media sites, Pinterest, etc. BEFORE reaching out to her.

1) I would first contact the alleged infringer and nicely(!) inquiry why she’s reproducing your image on her t-shirts without your formal permission (licensing agreement) and agreed payment schedule (a fee or royalties per t-shirt sold). Kindly remind her that you own the image’s copyright; you could indicate that you’re in the process of registering it with the USCO (it’ll cost you $35). Keep your email correspondences cordial and professional.

To be more aggressive, you could also file a DMCA “take-down notice” against the alleged infringer’s ISP, demanding that they expeditiously remove your image from her site. The infringer can also file a “counter-notice” to put your image back on her site. At this step, you’ll have to file suit in federal court to get your image permanently removed.

2) Creatives with limited income can contact the nationwide “Volunteer Lawyers For The Arts” for potentially free legal assistance: https://vlaa.org/get-help/other-vlas/. If you’re located in Texas, visit: http://talarts.org/ and http://artscounsel.org/. If you’re under their income threshold, you may qualify for free or lower fee legal counsel.

3) You can also contact The American Bar Association (Pro Bono Resources (For IP)): https://www.americanbar.org/groups/intellectual_property_law/resources/p...

4) Thomas Maddrey is a Dallas-based copyright attorney and former photographer who has assisted ASMP.org: https://maddreypllc.com/who-we-are/thomas-maddrey/. He may offer special pricing for photography counsel.

5) Richard Liebowitz is a NYC copyright litigator who typically takes infringement cases nationwide (with and without timely registration); his firm can register your photo copyright claim for you. The firm offers a “no fees unless they win: https://liebowitzlawfirm.com/. The following link reports on Liebowitz’ litigation law practice: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/has-man-sued-you-a-copyright-t...

CASE ACT: If my information has been helpful and if you have not already done so, please contact your congressional representatives and encourage them to support the CASE Act, the small-claims copyright court (tribunal).

The CASE Act addresses copyright enforcement for small and independent creators, like you, me, and others, who can't afford big budget legal fees associated with US Federal court legal actions. This small-claims venue will permit photographers and other creatives, who do NOT timely register their copyrights with the US Copyright Office, to get their day in court.

Plaintiff creatives will be able to pursue copyright infringers WITHOUT having to hire a copyright attorney!

There are many copyright detractors/haters who want to see the CASE Act fail miserably.

It takes two-minutes to fill-out the following on-line template letter that will automatically be sent to your representatives: https://www.ppa.com/smallclaims

Karl Taylor is a professional photographer, the kind that is hired and paid accordingly by serious brands. Additionally, he occasionally posts videos and does some seminars. On the other hand, pretty much everyone else who's *youtube-famous*, is invited to press events when new hardware is introduced/is sponsored, and regularly post stuff about Photo/Video is nothing but a youtuber, and wouldn't be hired for anything other than to shoot the neighbour's birthday. ALL OF THEM. As a Marketing Manager and Producer, I'd never hire ANY of the youtubers to shoot a Catalog or a TV commercial, because quite frankly, they don't have a clue. Youtubers and websiters are nothing but another marketing tool we have and use to address potential customers to sell them stuff. To think they are *professionals* is delusional.

I kind of like both because I'll take info from anyone. Now, my work has been steady for 20 years and my clients don't ask for fashion or fancy every day. So I do agree with you that there is a real side of the industry that gets clients calls regularly but quietly does its work and no one even cares about it because that's not what attract people on a web site. Doesn't mean it's not creative but just not what would attract anyone who wants instant results and/or very long term relationship with clients. I mean yes, I'll have pictures on billboards, cans of foods, catalogs online big name brand websites and so on but exposing that work on photo web sites has no interest. I think that this is the reason I often clash with people who don't get why I use Broncolor or why others use Profoto or brands on the more expensive end.

That's an important distinction to make...creating for YT is far and away different for the commercial world. There opportunities for some crossovers on lower level projects but shooting a TY video using a RED camera doesn't make one qualified for anything else.

I guess shooting for Rolling Stone well before I started YouTube doesn't count as being a Real Photographer.

It's this ignorant statements that are the problem. You don't personally know me and you've probably never done any research on what i've shot and whom I shot for. Starting at 15 when I got my first paying photo gig......

Any way, here https://jaredpolin.com/ This is a cross section of work. And doing "commercial" gigs doesn't make one more or less of a "photographer"

jared polin Hmmmm, I'm still waiting on the credit you claimed you'd give on a quote but after using it and getting "LIKES" you never replied to my messages.

what are you referring to?


If i was to use it but spell 'too' correctly does that then make it a different quote?

or I could post the original from his page.

Ah so both of you can’t spell, awesome.

I mean at least you haven’t been letting it get to you for 6 years that’s the main thing.

I take it you've never done any wrong lol

And yes it's been over but every year it pops up on fb so my photo friends and I get a laugh out of how he ignores what he says he'd do.

Well isn't this turning into a proper handbag fight.
Shame the really interesting articles don't get as much attention as copy/paste video links.


LMAO...Rob man...

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