What to do if photos are being used without permission?
First, a designer/builder must verify without doubt it is their photo that is being used without their permission. This is pretty straightforward, it is either a picture of a pool the company designed and built, or it is not.
If the photo is being used without permission, contact the website with the pirated image(s). There should be a ‘contact us’ page, if not, use a domain search website (e.g. www.who.is) to look up the domain and IP owner information.
After obtaining this information, send a form letter to the domain owner stating the website
is using copyrighted materials and request the following to occur:
- Remove the said copyrighted image(s);
- Pay for rights for the photo(s); and
- Give credit for the photo(s).
A designer/builder can also contact the webhost to make them aware of the copyright material(s) that are being used, stating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Finally, legal action, which is not to be taken lightly, is another route. A simple letter from the designer’s/builder’s lawyer is usually enough.
There is a grey area here, however. Should a designer, contractor, builder, or subcontractor take their ‘own’ photo of a project that is not their work, this can be hard to find. The options provided above can be used to try to locate these images, in addition to having everyone working on-site sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) or confidentiality agreement (CA). In this author’s experience, however, these are almost impossible to enforce as today everyone has a digital camera on their phone.
- Occasionally look at competitor’s websites;
- Be wary if websites have photos that are seemingly out of place; and
- If work belonging to another designer/builder has potentially been pirated on another website, let them know as they may return the favour.