How to get Facebook to remove a copyrighted image 

 December 3, 2014

By  Pascal Depuhl

Actually the title of this blog post should be:

How to get Facebook to remove a copyrighted image, in 10 not so easy steps, that are neither intuitive, nor user friendly and will take you some time to figure out

Say you’ve found a photo on Facebook that’s yours, but someone else is using with out your permission. That just happened to me a few weeks ago. Bitton Events, a local event company, had stolen a copyrighted image of an event, that I produced in 2013, without my permission. My requests to the company to please not use an image that displays work they had nothing to do with fell on deaf ears. I even wrote a review on their Facebook page, figuring this would maybe light a fire under their butt. However all that accomplished is that Bitton Events had Facebook remove my review (no wonder they have only 5 star reviews on Facebook, they have all others removed.) The event company that had actually light and provided sound for my event had even called Bitton Events and requested Bitton to stop using their work and deceiving people fraudulently in passing off someone elses work as their own.

How to get Facebook to remove an image of yours from where it does not belong

What do you do? Ok. Let’s back up just a bit – legally any photographer (amateur or professional) owns the copyright to any image he or she creates the second you click the shutter. You can register it with the US government’s copyright office, but that registration does not give you the copyright, it just records it in the Library of Congress. This registration does let you sue for damages, if it is made within 6 months of first publication, however this post is not about how and why you should register your images, but is to say that the copyright is yours, as soon as you create the image. Period.

Back to finding your image being used illegally on Facebook – oh btw this does not apply to any image you upload to Facebook, that Facebook wants to use. They can actually sell your image without any compensation to you, under the new Terms and Conditions.

FB IP Terms
Facebooks current terms let them use your content royalty free, i.E. without paying you.

Pretty nifty, huh? But that’s another story for another time, however it is the reason I watermark all my images on social media.

If you want to read a privacy lawyers opinion on how the new Facebook terms and conditions will affect all of us starting January 1st of next year read Michael Grothaus (@michaelgrothaus) interview on vice.com.

10 Steps to get Facebook to remove a copyrighted image

Here are the 10 not so easy steps, that are neither intuitive, nor user friendly and will take you some time to figure out that you need to take to report a federal copyright violation to Facebook:

  1. Click on the photo on Facebook and select ‘Report Photo’.
    This option is either in options underneath the image right next to [nextpage title=”next”]
    tag photo, share, like, ect. or it just says report photo.

    It's in a private hangar alright, but Bitton Events had nothing to do with this event.
    Bitton Events blatantly lies saying this is their event.
  2. Select “I think it shouldn’t be on Facebook.”
    That’s still pretty obvious. According to Facebook’s own Community Standards, they say: “Before sharing content on Facebook, please be sure you have the right to do so. We ask that you respect copyrights, trademarks, and other legal rights.” and “We take the safety of our members seriously and work to prevent attempts to compromise their privacy or security, including those that use fraud or deception. Additionally, we ask that you respect our members by not contacting them for commercial purposes without their consent.“However Facebook uses the honor system to have you decide, if you have the rights to use an image or not. It would be very easy for them to read the metadata, that your camera writes into every image it takes, where you can define the copyright holder, copyright status, contact information, ect.

    Facebook strips out Metadata including copyright info.
    Facebook strips out Metadata including copyright info.

    Then it would be a simple check of the copyright status in the image and who is posting it.  But Facebook (and most of the other social media companies) don’t just ignore this information in the image, they actually remove it from the image. Thanks Facebook. Anyway report photo will get you to a series of pop up windows on Facebook – here’s the first one:

    Why don't you want to see this photo
    Why don’t you want to see this photo? ‘Cause someone stole it!
  3. Select “Something else” (This is one of the least intuitive steps).
    OK can you figure out which of these steps will guide you to an intellectual property or copyright violation? Someone stealing my work annoys me, insults me and it’s a photo of mine I do not want on this Facebook page. I didn’t even click on “something else” the first time around and just figured I was in the wrong place to report someone stealing my work.You really need to get there by process of elimination and “something else” at least to me, sounds like something less bad than the other options and not the one that is actually breaking a federal law.

    What's wrong with this photo
    Something else. That’s what you need to select to report a violation of a federal law. This is annoying get’s it’s own radio button.

    This gets you to the next pop up …

  4. Select “I think it’s an unauthorized use of my intellectual property.
    No. I don’t think this is an unauthorized use of my intellectual property, I am positive that some Schmuck has stolen my work and is fraudulently trying to deceive others into believing they could have produced this work.

    What's wrong with this photo other
    I don’t think – I know someone – in this case Bitton Events – stole a copyrighted image that shows an event I produced. If that’s not fraud and deciet, I don’t know what is.

    Hit continue to get to one more pop-up

  5. What you can do.
    That’s nice. To get here, you had to find a couple of buried links, some of which make no sense whatsoever and you have to be pretty determined to continue. Facebook is not making this easy. But now you get Facebook’s suggestions on what you could do either you contact the person or page that’s using your image or can learn more about reporting intellectual property on Facebook. In a recent case I did contact Bitton Events an event company that blatantly stole a copyrighted image of an event that I had produced. You can read about how that unfolded Bitton Events posts stolen work online.

    Message or learn more
    Here’s what you can do. Gee Facebook thanks – it’s taken me 10 minutes to get to this point …
  6. The “learn more” link takes you to a help page on Facebook that talks about Intellectual property.
    Another long help page. It’s as Facebook is trying to dissuade you from reporting this violation. So you read through this, thinking that the next click will bring you to a place you can actually let someone know that you’ve been robbed!

    About Intellectual Property
    Why don’t you have to agree to this when you post an image that’s not yours?
  7. No! It just takes you to another help page on Facebook that talks about copyright:
    Seriously? I have to go through another page on copyright? Really? OK. There’s a bunch of links on this page (one of which – the one you think you’ll need) doesn’t work. Finally, as Facebook puts it, you may want to fill out this form. Well yes that’s what I’ve been trying to do since I clicked on report this image half an hour ago! Let’s see what happens. About Copyright
  8. Finally that get’s you to a place where you can start reporting the violation
    Well kind of – you need to select Copyright, Trademark or Other (I shudder to think where other is gonna take you), and then you have to select Continue with your copyright claim, a radio button which is not visible until you click on Copyright. Reporting a Violation
  9. Finally Facebook gives you the form gets you started
    This is a two page long form – much of the data could be pulled in from your Facebook profile, like your name for instance, but again it’s designed to make you work to protect your copyright. Copyright Report Form
  10. Eureka! Once you’re finished, you get a confirmation page with all the details of your claim.
    Facebook then follows up with an automated email that lists all the info you entered in your Copyright violation claim. Email Confirmation

A few hours later the image is removed from the offending page.
Facebook did really well here. The Copyright violation was rectified quickly, where the only thing that remains on Bitton Events facebook page is the following:

Success! Finally.

UPDATE: Fellow PPA photographer Ned Levi (@NSL_Photography) points out that you can skip directly to step 6 or click on the ‘help’ tab (it’s under the little arrow on the right side of the header) on any Facebook page and search for “report copyright violation”. So next time I’ll know where to start. 

The back story

You can read the back story of what prompted me to figure out how to have Facebook remove a copyrighted image from a company’s page: Bitton Events posts stolen photograph online

  • I really hope we never have to go through this whole procedure but I have bookmarked the article in case someone wants to use our images without our permission.

  • Hi ya,

    Thanks again lol. I found more of my images an I forgot the process. so thanks to you I got through it quickly.
    So thanks again


  • Janet,

    You’re welcome. Happy to help – although the process itself is not difficult – Facebook doesn’t make it intuitive to find all the right buttons.

  • Shari,

    Happy you enjoyed it. You’re right copyright violations are no laughing matter and Facebook does not make it easy to figure out how to ask them to take down a stolen image. I was even happier when FB took down the page within 24 hours – although I’m still getting a notice from Facebook every time I log in (for over half a year now) saying that a review I posted online on this companies page violated FB guidelines – even though it did not. Oh well. One more thing to laugh about.

  • Really well written – enjoyed the light humor on a serious subject and hope I never have to use it.

  • Wow, sorry to hear about your troubles – really not sure what you can do about this situation. It’s always tough when work – personal life gets intertwined like this. If you’re concerned about a photo of you being used without permission, I would advise asking a lawyer. All the best.

  • A not-so-friendly-to-me woman photographed me without permission. I was up with a sick family member all night and appeared so along with a totally black garment required for the occasion. I live in New York State. Since then I told her in a civil manner to please remove the photo and not to use it at all. How can I check on it and get rid of it if need be? She (married) also, in linkedin (through Bing), has a photo of her lover (…) There was an image that looked like what I was wearing at the unwanted “photoshoot”. I want to stay out of the “personal stuff” because I am technically employed by her lover and a clergyman – and love my job – and was working while she and lover for several months were using my workplace to meet and… I complained discreetly to the pastor due to carelessly opened and unlocked doors to the church in the dead of night- I gave out no names. WHAT ARE THE LAWS REGARDING MY SAYING THAT I DID NOT WANT THE PICTURE TO BE USED OR HAD IN NY STATE? Thank you for a response.

  • I had to file a DMCA takedown notice last year against another local photographer, who decided it was funny to take other people’s work, upload them to his profile and procede to bash them. Not shared, but intentionally uploaded.

    A week after sending in my notice, I got a reply back from Facebook that he filed a counter claim on my image, listing an incorrect address, and other fields filled out incorrectly.

    His deal was he was pissed because he felt threatened by our photography group because he felt that we were stealing work from him from models paying him to shoot them. It was really the models stopped going to him because he’s a creepy dick, and becuase he was creepy at one of our events he was thrown out and disinvited.

    He is the whole reason why I started registering my images religiously with the LoC.

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    Pascal Depuhl

    Miami product photographer, video producer, cinematographer and chief mindchanger at Photography by Depuhl I love to share the knowledge I've gained over the past two decades. Catching light in motion.