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What do I do when I find out my pictures have been used without permission?

After several photographs of mine were used this month, including for a website with thousands of followers and the Chamber of Tourism of a particular country I will not mention, and receiving dozens of emails about the same issue, I decided to create a procedure with some suggestions on how to proceed if we detect...

After several photographs of mine were used this month, including for a website with thousands of followers and the Chamber of Tourism of a particular country I will not mention, and receiving dozens of emails about the same issue, I decided to create a procedure with some suggestions on how to proceed if we detect that one of our images has been used without permission.


A ballerina from the Cuba National Ballet rests on a vintage sidecar. Havana (Cuba). Photo © KIKE CALVO

Below are ideas suggested, which may differ in each case. They serve only for a system that has worked in my case:

1. Always act with education and professionalism. The misuse may be caused by abuse, or ignorance. In either case, you ought to always show your work as professionals, using friendly language, being cordial and always consistent.

2. Obtain and document much information as possible:

  1. Find customer data.
  2. Make screenshots or create network places where your photo appears. Include the date on the image, if possible, and the absence of credit, if they did not mention your name in the byline.
  3. Inquire about the people responsible for Marketing and Advertising of the entity , particularly social networks, if any.
  4. Locate the person who is responsible for the Accounting Department.
  5. Locate the Facebook and Twitter accounts of the company.

3. If working with agencies, assure that no image was licensed by one of them or their subagents, if any. Go to a notary to lift a record, to a certain date, it concludes that the photo has been improperly used on a website , magazine or any other media. The Notary will snapshot or copy the custody Agreement. This is important, in the event that we need to present it to a judge. ( Step suggested by Agusti Pardo.)

4. Throw a warning message regarding the misuse to cyberspace.

  1. Twitter : ¨ The image ( post link short here) is my original work and will not be used without permission. Who should I send the notice to? @Company_using_your_photo @your_Tweeter_account¨ . If you have good relationships in social media, which is key to grow as photographers and artists, most certainly your friends and followers will RT your messages . This support is critical.
  2. Follow a similar procedure in Facebook .

It’s a good idea to mention in the tweet people or entities that may be known in the world of photography and communication, especially if you have a personal connection with any of them. You can also explore groups that may fight against unauthorized use of  images of photographers and artists.

5. Send an email to the person responsible for Marketing, with a copy to the Accounting Department. Share with them the situation. Explain how, like all the photographers and artists around the world, you make a living licensing your work. In a friendly and conciliatory tone, indicate to them your desire to send a bill for the unauthorized use, including a penalty for the unauthorized use. In your case, you can also add the absence of your byline, if it was also omitted.

6. Before you go ahead and contact the company, plan a coherent and rational solution. If possible, try to call and resolve the problem. Calling may prevent  misunderstandings, or the coldness we sometimes portray when we we type quick emails.

7. If after these initial steps, the answer is no what you expected, and it goes against your rights as author of the image, you can proceed by contacting an attorney who specializes in copyright law, or join an organization which has this kind of advice.

A classical Cuban Ballet ballerina fixing an Old American car. Havana (Cuba). Photo © KIKE CALVO
A classical Cuban Ballet ballerina fixing an Old American car. Havana (Cuba). Photo © KIKE CALVO


Always a bad deal is better than a war. My personal advice to you is to try and avoid any kind of confrontation, whenever possible. Never revile anyone in the process, or in your communications on Social Networks. Never utilize a language other than the politically correct of a professional. Earn your respect of offenders with education and knowledge.

Breathe. The more and more experience you gain in the professional field, these incidents will be repeated again and again. Think before you act. Never carry forth the rage accumulated with other cases, applying it to a specific abuse.

And of course, never fail to Dream: Do not allow the hazards in our paths, cloud the beauty of the profession or hobby we have chosen.

Working in this way, has transformed many of the offenders into my clients.

As always, I hope the information I shared on this article will help you become better professionals, where ethics and good work, are the weapons to take us forward in this difficult but exciting profession. If you believe this post may help other people, please share it on social media. And don’t forget to tag me @kikecalvo.

Follow Kike Calvo on FacebookTwitterWeb,  LinkedIn or Instagram.

Recommended readings:

Legal Handbook for Photographers: The Rights and Liabilities of Making Images (Legal Handbook for Photographers: The Rights & Liabilities of)

Photographer’s Survival Manual: A Legal Guide for Artists in the Digital Age (Lark Photography Book)

The Law (in Plain English) for Photographers (Third Edition)

Copyright Law for Artists, Photographers and Designers (Essential Guides)

The Professional Photographer’s Legal Handbook

Derechos de autor y propiedad intelectual en internet/ Copyrights and Intellectual Property in the Internet (Spanish Edition)

Responsabilidad Civil Por Infracciones Al Derecho De Autor (Spanish Edition)



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Meet the Author

Author Photo Kike Calvo
Award-winning photographer, journalist, and author Kike Calvo (pronounced key-keh) specializes in culture and environment. He has been on assignment in more than 90 countries, working on stories ranging from belugas in the Arctic to traditional Hmong costumes in Laos. Kike is pioneering in using small unmanned aerial systems to produce aerial photography as art, and as a tool for research and conservation. He is also known for his iconic photographic project, World of Dances, on the intersection of dance, nature, and architecture. His work has been published in National Geographic, New York Times, Time, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, New York Magazine, Rolling Stone, and Vanity Fair, among others. Kike teaches photography workshops and has been a guest lecturer at leading institutions like the School of Visual Arts and Yale University. He is a regular contributor to National Geographic blog Voices. He has authored nine books, including Drones for Conservation; So You Want to Create Maps Using Drones?; Staten Island: A Visual Journey to the Lighthouse at the End of the World; and Habitats, with forewords by David Doubilet and Jean-Michel Cousteau. Kike’s images have been exhibited around the world, and are represented by the National Geographic Image Collection. Kike was born in Spain and is based in New York. When he is not on assignment, he is making gazpacho following his grandmother’s Andalusian recipe. You can travel to Colombia with Kike: