Image Stolen - Now What?

Sometimes, for whatever reason, artists find their work being used without permission. Recently this happened to a collaborative work I did with Helen McLean. Let me share with you how we handled it.


Randy posted this journal entry and I noticed that there was a picture of me on the invitation. “that’s odd” I thought.

Not knowing how it got there, my first stop was to check with Helen, who I had collaborated with on the image to find out if she had given permission for it’s use. I also asked Randy who had posted the journal, if he knew anything.

We all drew a blank but Randy very helpfully put us in touch with the organizer of the event.

Before we did anything else we thought about how this might have happened. The organizer was most probably provided with the image and had no idea we owned it. In fact, even the person who supplied it may have been unaware it was covered by copyright. We also realized that had we been asked, we almost certainly would have given permission for it’s use with a credit and link.

With all this in mind, we sent a polite email which presumed innocence and provided the appropriate evidence of ownership.


Hello David,

I’m writing to you regarding an image which appears on your site http://www.definitelysuperior.com/exhibitions.html and on your invitations. I have attached a screen shot of the site where it is shown and a copy of the invitation.

This image is of me, as taken by photographer Helen McLean. We have conjoined rights to the image and neither of us remembers giving permission for it to be used in this manner. I realize you may not have known this when it was published and used on your invitations. I have attached the full sized version (with an appropriate watermark and minus any post processing) to this email to verify I own the source copy.

Helen and I are happy for the image to be used if we are credited as photographer and model with a link to “http://www.redbubble.com/search/helenjocollab&#.... Otherwise, I am requesting that it be taken down and that the invitation be changed to remove it so that any more printed do not use this image.

Thank you very much for your assistance with this, and I look forward to your reply at your earliest convenience.

Jo O’Brien & Helen McLean


What Happened Next?

We got a lovely email back apologizing for the use of the image, explaining how it had come to appear on the site and with a promise to update the site to include a credit and link to our work. It had been an honest mistake that they were more than happy to correct.

What did we learn?

  1. You don’t need to be angry and demanding to work things out
  2. People can genuinely be unaware they are infringing copyright
  3. People can actually be reasonable, rational and helpful
  4. A negative can become a positive with the right attitude

Our image with a link to our other work is now out there on the internet, reaching a niche market and gaining exposure for our work.

Journal Comments

  • Jeff  Burns
  • Yuri Lev
  • adrian76
  • Marion Chapman
  • Natalie Perkins
  • jumpy
  • Jo O'Brien
  • Tee Brain Creative
  • Darren Stones
  • HenkStolk
  • Midori Furze