What Happens When Someone Steals Your Photo on Instagram?

If you spend enough time in this field, your images are going to be stolen at some point, quite possibly on Instagram. What do you do at that point? This video follows a photographer as he discusses a recent case of his own.

Coming to you from Brendan van Son, this great video discusses what happened to him when he found a brand using his image for commercial gain on Instagram and what he did about it. Personally, I think he makes a great point when distinguishing between having your images taken without permission for commercial purposes versus things like feature accounts. There are a lot of feature accounts on Instagram run by people who are simply passionate about sharing photos with a common theme, such as those all taken within a certain city or the like. I've had my photos shared by Ohio accounts a bunch, and it never bothers me, because I know these accounts aren't gaining anything monetary from my images, and it puts my photos in front of more eyes who appreciate my work. On the other hand, if an account wants to commercialize my work, they should expect to pay. Check out the video above for more on the topic. 

Lead image by Lisa Fotios.

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12 Comments

" There are a lot of feature accounts on Instagram run by people who are simply passionate about sharing photos with a common theme, such as those all taken within a certain city or the like."

If they can spend time collecting & posting the images they can take the time to credit the creator. If they are passionate about it that passion should extend to respecting the authors of the thing they enjoy so much.

I wonder how many of these people are also trying to obtain a large amount of followers to then leverage those users and be an "Influencer" Yes, it could be just to share. But if someone asks you if you want to share something with your group and oh by the way here is something you might like......

As cynical as it sounds, I agree. I would imagine there would be a very small percentage of "sharers" who have no interest in building a big following that they could later leverage for profit.

A bit of a double-edged sword, I suppose. People want to get their images seen but by allowing other, more popular accounts to share your work to that end it means they are likely profiting off of your work.

Moot point for me, I think, my stuff is mediocre at best and I don't use Instagram. :D

Alex Cooke's picture

I should clarify that the ones who have featured me do credit me; my point was that I don’t mind them reposting my work when it’s credited and not commercialized.

Igor Warzocha's picture

Fair enough but you don't know if it's not going to be a part of a commercial profile in the future - it's eaaaaasy to edit a caption :PP

I doubt you'll be monitoring each post+account on a regular basis

That's fair enough and it is your choice as to what degree you allow re-posting of your work but I have to believe that a lot of these accounts are trying to build up a following so they can one day become profitable. They are doing that by using other people's work & I doubt they are going to become generous in the future and start splitting revenue with the creators they've made money off of.

Jeff Walsh's picture

If it's a company or someone using it to make money than you can take action and possibly pursue monetary compensation. Otherwise, don't waste your effort or time as it gets you nothing. At most send a message asking to be credited or take it down. At this point in social media it's just part of the game.

Dylan Bishop's picture

I usually shame the ones who don’t credit the photog or the model. What a bunch of low energy dirtbags.

Ivan Lantsov's picture

the backwards hat thing, not a good look now

Andy Day's picture

I'm genuinely shocked that a photographer would let Starbucks use a photo on their Instagram as long as it wasn't marketing something directly. Actually can't summon the words.

I actually think he did a good job summarizing the issue, but yeah, this is where I diverge with him as well. I generally don't pay much attention to the "feature" accounts (which probably warrants an entirely separate discussion), but I absolutely draw the line at businesses using my images in any form without compensation. It doesn't matter whether it's a blatant advertisement (his criteria) or if the business plays it off as a "feature". They benefit either way because in order to be effective on social media you have to stay active, and to stay active you need content. It doesn't matter if they're not promoting a specific product... just the action of posting content promotes their business, period.

Another way I look at it is this: if the person posting your image is getting paid to do it, they don't get to use it for free. I've used that line on many non-profits who use their status as a defense. Once I explain it that way, they always concede.

Andy Day wrote, “I'm genuinely shocked that a photographer would let Starbucks use a photo on their Instagram as long as it wasn't marketing something directly…”

This seems to be an on-going problem with many photographers who post to YouTube: They tend to lack sound business skills & basic legal comprehension.

Brendan van Son’s procedure to get his Instagram image removed from an unlicensed third-party entity is more formerly known as the DMCA “take-down” notice. All working professionals should have knowledge about this “take-down” procedure and other IP matters that affect works published in US media.

I searched the US Copyright Office’s Public Catalog, but didn’t see any creative works registered under his name, making it challenging for him to pursue money damages against US-based (commercial) entities who exploit his images/videos without a license (notwithstanding Fair Use exceptions).

Brendan van Son might be Canadian. Nevertheless, he, other Canadians, EU and other international photographers, and especially American photographers really need to “timely” register their copyright claims with the USCO if they ever want to pursue money damages against US-based infringers: https://donahue.com/resources/publications/copyrights-registered-u-s/ (just change the word “companies” to “photographers”).