copyright infringement

You Might Be A Thief: The Common Practice of Copyright Infringement

Here’s a startling reality - you’re probably guilty of copyright infringement or at minimum, know someone who is.  

Today, I want to talk you about Copyright - something that most of us don’t know much about and hopefully offer a bit of education for both photographers and everyone else.*

copyright infringement photographers

What is Copyright?

"Under the Federal Copyright Act of 1976, photographs are protected by copyright from the moment of creation.” That means that at the moment that shutter clicks - whether it’s on your phone or a $3000 camera, you own that photo - pretty cool right?

If you reproduce an image that you did not create, whether on social media, your website, or physical print, and you do not have permission from the owner - it is theft.  

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How does that apply to me? 

Whether you’re a photographer or not, you may have very easily committed this crime or have had it committed against you without realizing it.

Like me, most of you probably haven’t read Instagram’s Terms of Use.  However, I’d like to highlight a very interesting section for you.  Under the section, Rights, #4 it reads - 

"You represent and warrant that: (i) you own the Content posted by you on or through the Service or otherwise have the right to grant the rights and licenses set forth in these Terms of Use; (ii) the posting and use of your Content on or through the Service does not violate, misappropriate or infringe on the rights of any third party, including, without limitation, privacy rights, publicity rights, copyrights, trademark and/or other intellectual property rights; (iii) you agree to pay for all royalties, fees, and any other monies owed by reason of Content you post on or through the Service; and (iv) you have the legal right and capacity to enter into these Terms of Use in your jurisdiction.”

Have you ever seen a photo on Instagram, Pinterest, or even Google images - saved it and posted it on your website or your Instagram account? That’s theft. Maybe you gave credit to the original photographer? Still theft.  If you don’t have permission, it is stolen and you've violated Instagram's terms of use. Side note: It’s even harder to find the original on websites like Pinterest.

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Alright, you’ve convinced me, I’m a thief.  What do I do if I’m not a photographer who can create their own images?

  1. Hire a photographer to do some branding photos for you.
  2. If you see a photo you want to use, ASK for it.  Many photographers want the exposure and are more than willing to let you use their image.  Personally, if I have worked with vendors at a wedding, I am more than happy to share those images with them.  It helps all of us in the wedding industry. 
  3. Expect to pay - if you ask for an image, they may let you use it, but if you’re a business trying to sell something and you want free images for advertising, that may not happen.  If you’re making money off of someone else’s work, they need to be paid too.
  4. Use stock photography (not google images) - there are many stock photography websites out there - some even free.  


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Someone has stolen my images - HALP! What do I do?

  1. Screenshot the image for your records.
  2. They may not realize what they’ve done is illegal.  Take a moment to be flattered that they like your work, but then educate them. DM or email them letting them know that they are violating copyright law - reference the terms of use if necessary.
  3. Ask for payment (you set the price) or for them to remove the photo. As photographers, we make our living off of our photographs and we can’t afford to live on “exposure”… but that’s another topic…

If it gets really intense, there are more aggressive routes. offers some great guidance HERE.

Have anything you think I should add? Have any experience with this yourself? Let me know in the comments below!

*I’m not a lawyer, but would encourage you to reach out to one if you’d like a deeper understanding of copyright laws.

All images from our Minimalist Styled Shoot