I like contributing to community groups with my photos, such as to Flickr photopools, and some more local groups. I do it mainly for feedback and improvements, and, quite honestly, I like it when people say I've taken a nice photo.

When posting to sites such as Flickr, I usually leave the copyright to all rights reserved, or on a few occasions I'll open it to the Creative Commons.

One thing that concerns me is people taking my pictures and using them for their own benefit without any recognition to me. This does seem to happen more often than I think it would, such as here or here.

I'm nowhere near a standard where I could be a professional photographer, but I do feel that if someone is using a photograph for which I put the time and effort in, then I should be recognised for it.

Has anything similar happened to you, or what steps would you take if it did? Some options I often think about would be:

  • Firmly ask the company to take the photo down
  • Firmly ask the company to attribute the photo properly
  • Send the company an invoice for a reasonable fee per picture
  • Send the company an invoice for an unreasonable fee

This hasn't happened to me, but I'd definitely like to be prepared should it ever happen. Would it be justifiable to charge different fees (if going down that route) for different media, such as TV/internet/print media etc?

If it's any use, I'm in the UK, so I'm more interested what the stance would be within UK law, but also just a general feeling as to the attitude towards using photographs without permission.


7 Answers 7


I think the best way to approach this is to start off with the assumption that it's a mistake. You'd be surprised how many people think posting a photo on flickr automatically places it in the public domain, even people who should know better.

First, politely request that the photo be (a) credited or (b) taken down. If it has been used in a commercial sense, you could also include an invoice for an amount you feel comfortable charging.

If that doesn't work, then try a firmer reply, including an extract from the part of the Flickr terms and conditions that have been breached, and mention that you will be taking legal advice if they do not comply.

At this point, if you've still had no joy, you could do one of two things: contact a lawyer and ask them to send a letter on your behalf, or (and this is cheaper) write about the breach in as many public forums as possible, e.g. on Twitter and Facebook, where there are plenty of people who will express outrage on your behalf and pass your message on. That might be enough for them to get the message.

Failing that, you would probably have to go to the small claims court, to claim for non-payment of your invoice.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I doubt that the "outrage" will be as large as you expect. Within "generation Facebook/Twitter/Instagram" the awareness of braching the law by sharing whatever is found in the internet is rather low IMHO. Apart from photographers I wouldn't expect too much. \$\endgroup\$
    – Gerhardh
    Commented Sep 15, 2017 at 9:54

I can't comment directly on the answer, but the "UK Copyright Service" is a trading name of a commercial entity:


There is no such thing as a "copyright service" in the uk. The "advice" from "Copyright Witness" is aimed at getting you to pay them money to "register copyright" with them. That's a meaningless concept in the UK as you do not need to "register" your copyright with anyone. You're better off with non-commercial sources of legal information.

When challenged, all copyright thieves claim that their use of your images is a "mistake". In UK law that's irrelevant. The issue is simply how much it will cost you to force them to pay. Using lawyers won't help as the value of the claim is unlikely to be large enough for you to be able to claim costs. So politely invoice them, and if that fails then fill out an N1, which switches the problem from you to them... they now have to decide if it's worth fighting you. Assuming you're right they will they pay up.

I have found this to be an easy-to-read sensible summary of this and a few other uk issues relating to photography.

Personally I chase up every infringement I discover by commercial organizations. When it's individuals I get them to take the stuff down or give me a credit if they're polite and apologetic and if I'm happy with what they've done to the image.

  • \$\begingroup\$ bitterwallet.com/… How BBC stole pictures but ended paying up for them! \$\endgroup\$
    – Stefano
    Commented May 21, 2012 at 12:40

Don't get legal advice from strangers on the internet.

  1. Find a lawyer who specializes in copyright infringement, preferably one that works for a percentage of the money you get from the infringer.

  2. Ask that lawyer what you have to do to protect yourself.

  3. Do what the lawyer say.

  4. When someone uses your picture without permission let the lawyer take care of it.

I don't know anything about UK law but I believe some of the advice in the other answers can get you into all sort of trouble (the worst being a long and expensive legal battle that will only give you a little bit of money even if you do win).


Your copyright office should provide good reference documents detailing the steps you should take to deal with infringement.

In the UK the Copyright Infringement fact sheet from UK Copyright Service is the one to follow.

For those in the US, the Copyright Office has a fairly basic reference on stopping infringement.. Also, for online violations under US jurisdiction, a DMCA Takedown Notice is an option.


There are a lot you can do right now:

  1. Do nothing (yes, that's option)
  2. Request attribution.
  3. Take the issue public.
  4. Ask for a usage fee (this may work if the other party is a company).
  5. Send a cease & desist letter.
  6. Issue a DMCA takedown notice.
  7. File a Small-claims suite.
  8. Sue the other party in federal court.
  9. Delegate legal issues to other party.

And some things to prevent this in future. I have a 4000-word long post in my blog with more details here: http://www.visualwatermark.com/help/

  • The first way to go should be to contact the website which is using your photo without consent. Also, remember to take a screenshot of the website with your photo on it for evidence before contacting them. Ask them to take it down or pay for its use. Some websites provide specific DMCA contacts to reach out to take down your copyrighted content.
  • If this does not work for you, then it's best to contact a lawyer who specializes in such stuff.
  • I would always suggest watermarking your photos before uploading them to photo-sharing websites.I recommend using Mass Watermark software to watermark your photos in bulk before sharing them online. Watermark adds an extra layer of protection to your photos.Disclaimer I'm the developer of this tool https://www.masswatermark.com

If this were in the US specifically it's generally not possible to get damages or only limited damages for a something that isn't part of a copyright registration.

It is usually quite easy to enforce a cease-and-desist as the technical copyright is now automatic.


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