What To Do If You Find That Your Photos Are Being Used By Scammers
What Should You Do?
If your photos are being used by scammers you have power!
First, it is important to understand how this happened.
You Probably Let Them Do It!
In today’s internet, you have to be in control of your privacy and who has access to your information.
Facebook, Instagram, Google, Tumblr, Picasa, Pintrest, all allow control over who can see your photos – take advantage of these controls and lock them down. If you don’t know, get your friends to help yo or Google it! Don’t just hope for the best!
When you post photos to a dating website, you have lost control, so be very careful about what you post. Once they are posted, the dating website operator has complete control of when, where, and how those photos are displayed – it’s in their Terms and Conditions agreement (just like every other website, platform, or app.)
Yes, you agreed to that!
The website, platform, or app is not liable for the misuse of your photos!*
What Do You Do After The Scammers Have Them?
You actually have power in this case, but most victims of impersonation do the wrong thing!
Most people who have had their photos stolen notify the website or platform about fake profiles and demand that they are taken down or removed. This is the wrong thing to do – because you are letting the website or platform make a decision for you.
Instead hit them with a nuke! File a copyright complaint.
In most of the world, you own your photos and have the right to control who can or cannot copy them.
When you notify a website about an abuse they are not protected, they are not immune from liability. They have to respond or you can sue the website for copyright abuse.
Therefore, if you see a stolen photo THAT YOU own, send a copyright complaint to the website.
If you are in the United States, we have a law called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. This allows you to force their removal if you did not place them there.
There are limitations, for example, when SCARS displays stolen photos to advise potential victims, this falls under the common “fair” use provisions because we present them for Crime Evidence Preservation and because we are a media outlet (when we act in this capacity). But a dating website or social media has no such right and you can force them to be removed and hold them liable if they refuse or reappear.
Each major platform has its own way to notify them about copyright infringement. You can do a Google search to find it, for example: “twitter copyright complaint” or use their internal search for “copyright complaint.”
Use their page, tools, or interface to file a complaint always first.
Before you file a complaint get organized. You will need proof that you own the photos – usually, this is the link to your original photos, typically on their platform – when they were first uploaded. Don’t try to do this from a PHONE – use a computer so you can capture links easily. If you don’t have one go ask the help of a friend or family member.
When you file a complaint, take screenshots of every page and form you fill in. If they offer an opinion to print or save your complaint do it. This is to enforce your rights later on if needed. Pay attention and get it done right.
They will take this seriously, and so should you – they have to – and they will respond.
They may ask questions, so pay attention for notifications. Respond to them.
If you have provided the proof needed, they will remove the photos and probably the offending profile too.
Keep all the information you provided, because if they were stolen once it will happen again. Once you have done it once, it is just a few minutes to do it again.
The Digital Media Copyright Act, otherwise known as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act or simply the DMCA, is a U.S. Federal copyright law that was meant to curb Internet piracy of digital media. The bill was passed in the U.S. Senate by unanimous decision on October 12, 1998 and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton seventeen days later.
Since that time, the DMCA has been implemented in many notable court cases. It is essentially the law that made it illegal to download copyrighted digital media such as music, movies, and software, and is what the RIAA and MPAA have used to combat piracy in the courts.
But it also applies to photos too!
So What Is the Digital Media Copyright Act?
So exactly what is the Digital Media Copyright Act and what’s all the commotion about? Well, the DMCA is still a heated topic today because of its use in the fight against online piracy and its effects on Internet users. But it can also help in the fight against online scammers that use photos to steal identities of others.
The DMCA is comprised of five titles and implements two treaties signed at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Geneva conference in 1996. The five titles are as follows:
- Title I: WIPO Copyright and Performances and Phonograms Treaties Implementation Act
- Title II: Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act
- Title III: Computer Maintenance Competition Assurance Act
- Title IV: Miscellaneous Provisions
- Title V: Vessel Hull Design Protection Act
Now that’s a lot of legal wordiness and doesn’t really explain the key points of this document. Allow us to translate this for you. We will list the important points made in this law doctrine and cite examples of how they have influenced activity on the Web.
The illegal file-sharing of copyrighted materials is probably the most widely known and openly discussed effect of the Digital Media Copyright Act. It is illegal to host, share, or download copyrighted works, including music, movies, books, software, etc. This is what we are focused on here.
Title II of the DMCA creates a safe harbor for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) against copyright liability if they meet the guidelines and block access to ”or remove” allegedly infringing material after receiving notification from the copyright holder. In other words, after you notify the ISP or Hosting company. Remember, there are limitations, but a scammer’s use of your photo seriously qualifies.
A safe harbor is a legal term that means that as long as the ISPs comply with the copyright holder’s request (and take down the material) then they will not be held legally accountable for the infringing material.
In summary, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act lays the groundwork for all Internet-related copyright law and is the basis that a lot of court cases and online activities are carried out on.
Sample DMCA Notice Letter
You would send this to the Dating Website Owner/Operator or Social MediaCompany (such as Facebook) and if that fails to their hosting company!
Look up the company contact information here: Use The WHOIS Search for their Domain name
You should send this by Registered Mail – yes in an envelope – so you have a record of it being sent and received.
Insert your information below:
SAMPLE DMCA TAKEDOWN NOTICE
My name is INSERT YOUR FULL LEGAL NAME and I am the legal owner of copyrighted material described below. A website that your company hosts (according to WHOIS information) is infringing on at least one copyright owned by my company.
A photo/image of myself was copied onto your servers without permission. The original PHOTO, to which we own the exclusive copyrights, can be found at:
PROVIDE YOUR WEBSITE or SOCIAL PROFILE URL
The unauthorized and infringing copy can be found at:
PROVIDE THE DATING WEBSITE URL – THE ACTUAL PAGE ADDRESS
This letter is official notification under Section 512(c) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (”DMCA”), and I seek the removal of the aforementioned infringing material from your servers. I request that you immediately notify the infringer of this notice and inform them of their duty to remove the infringing material immediately, and notify them to cease any further posting of infringing material to your server in the future.
Please also be advised that law requires you, as a service provider, to remove or disable access to the infringing materials upon receiving this notice. Under US law a service provider, such as yourself, enjoys immunity from a copyright lawsuit provided that you act with deliberate speed to investigate and rectify ongoing copyright infringement. If service providers do not investigate and remove or disable the infringing material this immunity is lost. Therefore, in order for you to remain immune from a copyright infringement action you will need to investigate and ultimately remove or otherwise disable the infringing material from your servers with all due speed should the direct infringer, your client, not comply immediately.
I am providing this notice in good faith and with the reasonable belief that my rights are being infringed. Under penalty of perjury I certify that the information contained in the notification is both true and accurate, and I have the authority to act on behalf of the owner of the copyright(s) involved.
Should you wish to discuss this with me please contact me directly.
City, State Zip
You would send this to each person involved: The website operator company, the legal contacts in WHOIS, and the hosting company. Don’t worry about notifying the scammer, it will not matter and there is nothing they can do about it.
This is how this works, and if they do not do as you direct, then you have a case for a lawsuit.
Remember, the scammers still have their copies of the photos, and those are not going to go away. This is why we maintain copies of the photos here, as a record of the fact that your identity has been stolen. We know it is embarrassing to see them here, and that you would want them removed also, but these photos are helping you make your case against the dating website, and against future reappearances of the photos. This is a permanent record that your identity has been stolen, and helps everyone involved identify that fact. If we have a photo of a minor child, please let us know and we will remove it.
Just remember, we all have a responsibility to help fight scammers. They are like cockroaches, and if we do nothing they only spread. It’s all about the money!