Removing your images from unauthorised sites
If you operate your own website and have access to its internal controls then you may be able to switch on Hot Link Protection. Hot Linking is where people simple copy your image address and post it on their own page. This is easy for them to do and they don’t have to use their own web space to store the image, but whenever someone looks at the Hot Linked image on their site, it uses YOUR internet bandwidth. Hot Link Protection is a means of your website not allowing such links. If you have cPanel for controlling your site the Hot Link Protection can be found in the Security section. If not but you have access to the htaccess file, then it’s easy to enable Hot Link Protection in that. In my case over 25% of the stolen images were by Hot Linking. As soon as I switched on Protection, all of those images went blank. An easy way for me to take down a lot of images in one go.
For images that have been copied (rather than linked to), there is no such easy step. If the offender can’t be contacted, or if they ignore your instructions to remove the image, then it’s necessary to go higher up the chain. In the case of images being displayed on Facebook, for example, it may become necessary to report the offence to Facebook Administration for their intervention. Images in Blogspot blogs can be reported to Google Blogger, those on websites run by Weebly can be reported to Weebly, and so on. Most Hosting companies have a means of reporting abuse, and that is what Copyright Infringement is … abuse.
Reporting the unauthorised use of an image in this way will lead you into multiple choices about the ‘abuse’, and Copyright Infringement is often on the list. Ultimately you’ll be faced with the option to submit a DMCA (Digital Media Copyright Act) Take Down Notice. There are plenty of “are you really sure” questions along the way and the process looks quite scary, but if you’re confident that the image really is yours, and that the offender really doesn’t have your permission to be using it, then press on with the action. The daunting forms are actually fairly simple and consist of no more than who you are, which website and image you’re reporting (usually by supplying a link), proof that you own the original (a link to the image on your own website), a Statement as to why your reporting the copied image and some tick boxes certifying that you understand exactly what you’re doing. It all looks a lot harder than it is. In the case of Facebook I found they acted very efficiently and very fast. The account of an offender was taken down within 24 hours of me reporting it. Google have similar facilities and forms but are much slower. Allow the process to proceed in whatever way it does and eventually the copied image will be taken down.
There are some sites where it is difficult to find out who is next in the chain. I’ve come across Russian sites written in Arabic and with no discernible method of contact. I don’t want to give up on having my images taken down from such sites but am not sure yet as to what my next step should be. Rest assured, I’ll report back here when I make some progress.
I am not an expert either technically or legally. I am offering guidance based on my own experience in the hope that others may find it helpful. The information is being provided in good faith and without recourse.