A Tale of a Stolen Photo

My original image - I have since added a large center watermark as it continues to be used

At the end of 2013 I wrote about my experience using a Chinese-made LED light bar on the front of our 4Runner.  What I didn't realize was one of the images I captured for the review, and was subsequently used as a centerfold in the January issue of Toyota Cruisers and Trucks Magazine, would be used on a Chinese LED light bar manufacturer's website.

Finding My Image Being Used
I will, on occasion, perform a Google search of a selection of my images.  I run Google Chrome on my computer and installed the 'Search by Image' extension for the browser.  This allows me to right click on any image and search for other instances where the image is used on the internet, all by selecting the 'Search Google with this image' in the pop-out window.

I have removed the version of the stolen image because it continues to be used

On March 31, 2013 I decided it had been a while since my last search, so I spent my lunch our browsing the internet for my photos (I know that sounds a bit vain).  In doing so, I came across one of my LED light bar images being used on a Chinese LED light bar manufacturers website.  I immediately noticed the image had been cropped to remove my watermark, which I placed along the right-side of the image.  Not only had the company used my image without a licensing agreement in place, but they had cropped the image to remove all recognition of the photographer that took the image - Me!

In an effort to document the copyright infringement, I exported their webpage as a pdf file (which you can see here).  I wanted to have evidence of their violation before I contacted them about the image.  This is not the first time I have confronted someone about using my images without my permission, but it was the first retail business that was promoting their products with one.  I felt it was best to document everything, just in case.

My Email to the Company
After exporting their webpage as a pdf I drafted an email to the company explaining that I discovered their use of my photo without my permission.

From: Beau Johnston
Date: 2014-03-31
To: dreamerlighting@gmail.com
Subject: Image Use

Good afternoon.  After a recent image search, I discovered one of my photographs was being used on your website without my permission.  The page is question is for the "50" inches 300W watts CREE LED Offroad Lights Bar,4x4 part" found here: http://www.ledoffroadlights.net/sell-50_inches_300w_watts_cree_led_offroad_lights_bar_4x4_part-676167.html#.UznTJvldWHh 

The photograph in question can be found here: http://www.ledoffroadlights.net/photo/ledoffroadlights/editor/20131214133459_98210.jpg

It is clear the image has been cropped to remove my watermark.

I would like you to remove my image from your website, as you have not been licensed to use the image.

Thank you for your time.

Beau Johnston

The Company's Response
From: dreamerlighting [mailto:dreamerlighting@gmail.com] 
Sent: Monday, March 31, 2014 10:16 PM
To: Beau Johnston
Subject: Re: Image Use

Good afternoon. Beau Johnston,
Thank you for your kind notification. Yes, you are right. The image is from somewhere else internet. We download it and used it without your permision.Sorry about it. The image is really pretty good, Dear Beau Johnston. We can delete it directly and change it to our image. On the other way, we can link this image to your website or Blog so that you have a qualify link to your business website or blog. How do you think about it?
By the way,50" CURVED LED light bar,USA CREE, Only US$370/PC now. MOQ:10PCS
Best regards.
David CHAN
China Dreamer Lighting Co.,ltd
Address: Jiangsha Industrial Zone, Huangshi East Road, Baiyun, Guangzhou, China
Tel:86 0137 5189 3778
Fax:86 020 82287446
Email: ledoffroadlights@163.com
Skype: careking1981
Msn: davidguangzhou@hotmail.com
Important NOTE:If there is anything about the important information (payment,account and so on) to be changed, I will confirm with you by phone and fax.If there is only email,but no phone or fax,Please dont make any reaction.

What I did Next
After I got David's response, and read his comment about knowingly using my image without my permission, I filed a complaint with Google to see if I could remove their website from searches.  I filled out their 'Report alleged copyright infringement' form and explained how the company had used my image without permission and provided an example of where the photo was located on Living Overland.  I then did an image search on the other photos used on the webpage to see if any one else.  While most of the images popped up on ebay.com and amazon, I discovered one image (the Jeep rock buggy) had been posted on Pirate4X4.com by a user named 'MUCHADO'.  I have contacted MUCHADO about the image but have not heard anything back.

I then brought the problem up on facebook, where a couple of my professional photographer friends suggested I send the company an invoice for using the image.  So I  proceeded to draft an invoice, to send to David Chan, for using my image on his website, and asked that he immediately remove the image from the website.

From: Beau Johnston
Date: 2014-04-01
To: dreamerlighting@gmail.com
Subject: Re: Image Use


Thank you for being honest about using my photograph without my permission.  Please note, I have contacted the owners of the other images you have used on the webpage to inform them of your illegal use of their images.  I have also filed a complaint with Google, where I informed them of your illegal use of copyrighted material.  I have printed copies of your website, to show the use of my copyrighted image, and will be passing them, along with your email, to my attorney.

I have attached an invoice for the use of my image, to date.  I ask that you pay the invoice and suspend all use of the image, effective immediately.

Beau Johnston
So What's Next?
As of April 2, 2014, I have not heard anything back from Mr. Chan. and my image is still being used on their website.  In all other instances of my finding my image being used, the person/blog/website have all apologized and immediately removed the image from use.  I guess I am at a point where I need some additional guidance on what my next step should be.  I performed a domain name search and found the website domain was purchased through GoDaddy.com and I have thought about contacting them to see if they can put pressure on Mr. Chan to remove the image.

***Update April 2 10:30am MST***
After my initial search, I decided to search the other images in that series and discovered yet another one being used.  This time by an Australian company.  Another image found being used and another email sent.

Original image from the review

Image being used on another website
***Update April 2 11:45am MST***
I just checked the original website and all of the images have been removed!!  You can see the change here: updated pdf file.  I still have not received a reply to my latest email to Mr. Chan.

***Update April 2 6:30pm MST***
The Australian company responded to my email and have removed the photo.  They have also asked for my rates to possibly license my photo.

***Update April 4 12:00pm MST***
I continued going through the images I have posted on this blog, along with my photography website, and found one more image being used without my permission.  This time the image is being used to promote a subdivision in Meridian, Idaho.

I have emailed the real estate company, asking that my photograph be removed.  This time I worded the email a little different; we will see if that plays any affect on how the company responds.

Good morning Trey,
After a recent image search, I discovered one of my photographs may be being used on your website without a license agreement in place.  The page is question is for the Copper Basin Subdivision, found here: http://www.buildidaho.com/idaho_subdivisions/ada_county/meridian-_northeast/copper_basin_subdivision/ 
The photograph in question can be found here: http://www.buildidaho.com/Documents%20and%20Settings/54/Site%20Documents/Subdivision%20Logos/Meridian%20Idaho/Copper-Basin-Idaho-Homes.jpg 
Can you verify if a license agreement is in place.  I do not have record of BuildIdaho.com paying to license the image. 
Thank you for your time.

Beau Johnston