Is Facebook the New Breeding Ground for Copyright Infringement?

Copyright Infringement and Facebook seem to be going hand in hand lately on the internet. In the last few days I have seen several stories about Facebook users posting professional shots without giving the photographer proper credit. Russell Ord, a talented ocean and surf photographer had a run-in recently with a Facebook page and had a few choice words.

Just one look at Russell's portfolio and you can quickly see that this photographer was made for the deep blue ocean. His surf photography is stunning to say the least and enjoyed by many people, including one particular Facebook page: World Wide Wave. The only problem was that World Wide Wave wasn't giving proper credit to any of the photos that they were posting. This made Russell and a few other photographers that visit the page understandably upset.

Russell sat down with and recalled his initial reaction to his photos being used without his permission. Obviously he wasn't too pleased with his photos being used, but after several attempts to reach out to the page and asking for proper credit he was actually banned from the page. How's that for a nice slap on the face? Apparently the Facebook page WWW was administered by several people, most of whom have been removed since this debacle.


Russell explains that giving proper credit is extremely easy on Facebook. All pages need to do is simply share the photo from the original source and the crediting is automatic. After a few days the page has admitted their mistake, and has started to share the photos or at least give proper credit to photographers.

World Wide Wave isn't the only recent photo thieves. If you have been anywhere around the internet recently then you have probably heard by now about the massive meltdown by Amy's Baking Company Bakery Boutique & Bistro after a rather exposing episode of Kitchen Nightmares. What does this have to do with Facebook? After being hounded down on Yelp and Reddit, angry food lovers started pouring negative comments on their Facebook page which, yes you guessed it, has copyright infringed images overflowing in their photostream. If you quickly go through the albums you can quickly see Facebook users crying foul at the business for using stolen images.

Copyright Infringement on social networking sites like Facebook, Tumblr and Pinterest seems to be a common practice for its users. Question is, how do we as photographers, especially those who make a living solely on photography, protect our images? Are larger watermarks, copyright statements or simply stop publishing on social media answers?

What are your thoughts on copyright infringement on social media, and have you seen any other Facebook pages using non-credited images?

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David Noels's picture

Very difficult situation. I urge students (I also teach photography) to be aware of the "dangers" of posting images on their social media. Surprisingly their approach to copyright and securing their own creativity and value is the opposite of what the pro's are trying to achieve. It seems they don't care that much. This is reflected in the increasing (deliberate) use and abuse of photos on social media platforms and other web oriented media.
If this younger generation doesn't care that much, which direction will copyrighting go then ?

Tobias Solem's picture

Perhaps you should inform them of the value of their work?

Alice Wonder's picture

Hello, I sometimes upload images I enjoy to facebook. I do try to give credit if i even know the source, often I don't. I don't do it as a commercial entity, it's more akin to back in school (80s) when I would take a herpetology magazine to school to show my friends the pretty Australian snake picture.

Me personally, a lot of my images I upload to wikicommons under a public domain declaration so that others are free to use them if they want to, even for commercial, and when I do something for commercial purposes I either purchase stock images or find verifiable public domain or creative commons.

However that isn't always the case with a lot of people, I'm not sure what can be done about it really as it is civil matter not criminal. Watermark your photos is all I can suggest, and use reverse image searches to find where they are being used.

Daniel Lowe's picture

Please don't upload photos that you didn't create yourself. Period.

Thank you.

ajmills's picture

There are many, many such pages that use photos without permission. One example of such a page is which posts photos from other photographers. Some are credited, but these are far and few between. A friend ( has had several of his photos used without permission - he has complained and has been blocked by the page admin, so he can no longer check.

Mitch Labuda's picture

The social networking sites have DMCA take down processes. If we use them and not engage in wheel spinning with the infringers we get the works down. It's nothing new and or unique to facebook.

Jon Wright's picture

I recently asked a FB page what the trick was to have my photos shared on their page. This is the response I received back from them. Please not #1 images without watermarks are given priority. This is terrible for us photographers, watermarking our images are the only way we can ensure our brand and our work is recognised in the event someone else decides to use our photo as "their cover photo". I'm in the process of replying to this facebook page and educate them how this will affect the digital photograph community.

Note here's the priority of how the posts are chosen:
1 - priority is given to images that are not watermarked as we link the post back to your facebook page.
2 - posts have to be related to the Gold Coast
3 - posts such as animals, beaches are considered highly engaging and are therefore given a priority.

Hope this helps.

A.G. Photography's picture

THIS is why copyright infringement is so rampant on Facebook, Google, Pintrest etc:

ALL contact information that was ever on your photographs is being STRIPPED
as soon as you upload it to Facebook etc. It then becomes an Orphan

...and after that Good Luck finding out who is using it.

Now that Facebook is allowing users to make ANY PHOTO a profile photo...the
copyright infringements will be even more rampant. Once your file name
is stripped and replaced, and all your metadata is GONE it is the luck
of the draw to find out who and where someone is using your images.

Want an example even further? read this post from another message board:

""Hello all, im a newby in photo editing and was looking for the right
software for what i enjoy doing. I usually create banners for people
using vista print and at times need a good software that will help with
fuzzy pics (low pixels) and also to remove the blocks behind a selected
from say google images.
Of course id prefer a free software if its out there but if not i dont
mind paying for one that would help with what i need it to do.
To go into further details about the fuzzy pics, when i save say a image
from google images, its nice and clear but when i upload it onto vista
print banner editor, its comes out fuzzy especially when you start to
enlarge it. I do have a free image converter i use but seems like it
doesnt help when converting from say 800 pixels to 2000 pixels as it
still remains fuzzy.

Any additional help on this would be greatly appreciated.""

THAT is stealing! Every photo you find on Google was made by another person,
on their time, gas, and money. You have no right to steal it.

A.G. Photography's picture

Stop sharing photos, and share links. Share links to your websites.

James Busse's picture

i prefer to watermark as many as i can. its kind of ridiculous but this is the world we're coming to. people will take what they can regardless what you say or do. If someone doesnt want to share my image because it's watermarked then they can pay me for the use of an unwatermaked one.

MarkFore's picture

As a photographer who works in-house for a fairly large clothing brand I see my images all over the Internet, reposts like wild fire. I don't get bent out of shape over it, I get stoked on the fact that people liked my image so much that they are willing to share with others. I use this momentum when talking with art directors for freelance gigs and it works well. I don't care if everyone knows that I took the image, just the people that count and get me more work, so i can keep on doing what I love.

Laken's picture

Honestly I say that's it's kind of a double-edged sword. Like music. I remember when Youtube started pulling singers' videos off the web because of copyrights. Guess what, those singers' sales started diminishing because copyrights made it hard to get the word out about them or for them to be discovered. Now Youtube has laid off the whole copyright infringement and artists are now posting more on their site again.

A lot of photographers never see their stuff circulated on the web, much less "stolen", because they are too scared to put it out there. They hoard their work on their personal websites that get maybe 1000 views a month and that's it. I think crying foul because your images are being shared is pretty self-centered. As an artist I think I would take a simple joy in the fact that my work was noticed by someone or made an impact enough on a person that they felt the need to post it on their facebook/twitter/tumblr. Yes I would feel slight distress that my "baby" was somewhere unexpected, but people are enjoying it, and in teh end that's why I do what I do, so people aside from myself can look at it, go oh that's nice, and then go on with their lives. But once again therein lies the difference between professionals and people who do it because they simply enjoy it. If you're worried about seeing your work stolen then just keep it under lock and key in your basement for your own personal viewing pleasure.

Brendan Cherry's picture

It depends. I've experienced cases where people (the infringer) went as far as to tell people how they took the photo in the comments and thanking everyone that they liked it despite the fact they just copied it from another site. The original image did have a watermark but it had been doctored and replaced with the copiers watermark! Could not believe the lengths this person had gone to claim they had taken those photos

Sheila Smart's picture

The last time a large US company used one of my images without a license on their Facebook page cost them $8,500 in damages, uncontested.

Stefan's picture

facebook does actually have an online form to report copyright infringement. It is fairly well hidden, start here: then you'll find this contact form linked:

John Pesina's picture

Personally I shoot a lot of events here in Austin, and while that may not be looked on as a one of the more respectable fields in photography, it's how this market works, and it's how I make a living. People here screen cap and use photos all the time without permission, and once in a while they link back to me.

Now you could say the linking back makes it okay, but honestly it doesn't. I've put the time and effort into creating a store that people can buy from. This store gives them properly sized digital photos, including Facebook size, with a license. The price for a Facebook size is $3. If someone can't use paypal to fork over 3 bucks for a photo, that they didn't create and want to use, then I don't care if they link back to me. The only people who will see that photo are their friends who also won't pay 3 bucks for a photo, and thinks it's okay to use whatever they want because they don't respect the amount of work it takes to create the photo to begin with.

So linking to me isn't catch all that makes it okay, and it shouldn't be for anyone else. What we do is a business, and every dollar counts. That is of course unless you don't like to eat, pay rent, or do photography full time.

Steve Thornton's picture

BFW - Big Fat Watermark - plus a © (Photographers Name Here)

Natalie Lawrence's picture

This is happening to me at the moment. Someone stole a fashion image of mine from a model networking web site and used it in a flyer. I didn't know about it until the model in the image was sent the flyer.
All my messages to the people who have uploaded the flyer has gone unanswered, so I found the Copyright Infringement Form on Facebook. I had to put the link for every upload of this flyer, which turned out to be hundreds of links. Very time-consuming but the result was that almost all of the images featuring my photo have been taken down.
What Facebook should do is temporarily shut down accounts that infringe the copyright of others. Whilst Facebook cannot do anything to prevent people uploaded material they shouldn't, they should put in measures to make people seriously consider doing it again. Just taking it down from an account without warning is embarrassing and probably a bit weird to experience at first, but disabling the account would be a more effective warning.

Daniel Lowe's picture

Good article. Several of the "Dubai" photographers (Daniel Cheong, Beno Saradvic, Ghost Ridr), had their awesome photos stolen by the Dubai facebook group, with no credits, no permission.

They had to go through quite a struggle with Facebook to get the images removed. Facebook badly needs a button that says, "this is my photo, and it's being used without permission"

Be wary of hiring a film D.o.P, also.. IBM recently hired a video guy, his entire reel was stolen from other people's work. The clients can't tell... only the community can police itself, IMO.

Scott Stuart's picture

Other than snapshots, I don't post photos to Facebook. Everything else is linked to my sites. I also have a google alert for any of my images. Facebook is no place for sharing images. It's just a place where old high school classmates can find you... ;]

jafabrit's picture

when I discovered reverse image search I was floored by what I found, images that normal searches did not find. I have deleted my flickr page, deleted many of my images on picasa albums, and on my blog, and on fb. Will be doing things a LOT differently from now.

John Pfeiffer's picture

I understand the implications of using someones intellectual properties for profit, either monetary or otherwise, but does this also apply to the example where i find a photo online, and post it on my page because its a favorite institution or item of mine? Just because i like it? Or do i at that point have to locate and credit a photographer even for that use?