I recently found that my photograph of a Pearlscale Butterfly fish was being used for retail sales on Getahugetank.com without my permission. It had been taken from my Flickr Portfolio. This happens from time to time and when it does, my lawyer or I contact the culprit to notify them that they are using my photo without permission and that they must stop using the photo without permission or pay for its use. Usually, people are polite, apologize and remove the photo from their site. But this is what happened with Getahugetank.com. In response to my lawyer’s call, the representative first said that he was not connected to the company and the people from that company were friends who were on vacation for the next few months with calls only being forwarded to him so he could not do anything about the photograph. When challenged on how orders for fish would be processed over the next months, he then said that he would provide information on how my attorney could go get these guys. When my lawyer laughed that he didn’t sound like a good friend, he said that he wasn’t taking the photo down from his site and that there was nothing she could do about it. He then hung up and within minutes called her back screaming that it was his picture, and the lawyer could “go do whatever you have to do but I’m not taking it down and you can even come to my house and kill my first born and I won’t take it down!” He then hung up again.
So here’s what my lawyer and I did. We filed a Digital Millennium Copyright Act Complaint with the appropriate web hosting company requesting the removal of the copyrighted material effective immediately. This is easy to do and does not require you to have a copyrighted photograph, only the true ownership of the photograph, although I do have a copyright. I used DMCA.com to guide me through the process. Within 4 days, I received a response from the Getahugetank.com ‘s representative stating, “I paid for the photo I dont [sic] think I am at fault but I took it down anyways...” When I went to verify that it had been removed, I found that it still was present on two pages of the website. So his representation that it had been removed from the website was false. Using DMCA.com, I resent the Complaint to the web hosting company and to him stating that my photograph was still on the site and listing the URL’s where the infringing content was located. About two days later, the content was fully removed from the site.
I understand that people use photographs for their own personal purposes all the time. Students need them for book reports. Nature lovers want a photograph for their room. I have no problem with that. But when a business takes a photograph for a business purpose without permission or compensation it is a misappropriation. It is wrong.
I was taught that when you do something wrong you apologize and take steps to correct your mistake. Apparently these are not the values at Getahugetank.com. So this is a company I would never do business with. Ask yourself: Is this a company you want to be dealing with if something goes wrong in your interaction? In any event, know that if someone takes your photograph and puts it on their website you can fight back and have it removed.