So What Can You Do When a Company Steals Your Photograph and Uses It For An Advertisement on Facebook? Apparently Not Much
A few weeks ago Veronica Belmont alerted me to a photograph that I’d taken of her that was being used as an advertisement on Facebook (see above). Veronica wasn’t very happy with her likeness being used to promote the company Wireless Emporium and also pointed out that my photograph (which is not licensed for commercial use) was also being used without authorization.
At first I wondered if this was just part of some sort of Facebook rights grab. I’d heard that Facebook can use your photos in advertisements unless you specifically opt out of this — but the thing about this photo was that neither Veronica or I had actually ever uploaded the photo to Facebook. (By the way, if you want to opt out of Facebook using your photos for advertisements you can do that here like I did.)
So I concluded that the only way for this photo to get into a Facebook advert would be for someone to steal the photo and make the advert and upload it and buy space to promote it on Facebook.
Of course the first suspect that I thought of was the company that was actually being promoted in the advert, “Wireless Emporium.” After a few tweets about the advert, one of the company’s representatives Greg Daurio, who seems like a very nice guy, got in touch with both Veronica and I. We traded a lot of back and forth emails and he ultimately provided me the following statement below on their position on this unauthorized photo use:
“About two weeks ago we here at Wireless Emporium noticed a bit of chatter on Twitter regarding a Facebook ad that was promoting our company. Unfortunately, the chatter was of the negative variety, as the model whose photo was used in the ad (Veronica) and the photographer who took the picture (Thomas) hadn’t given permission for that image to be used.
In terms of people power, Wireless Emporium is a relatively small company with less than 30 employees. In order to stay competitive, we outsource a portion of our SEO efforts to professional firms. While we do our due diligence to make sure we only do business with reputable firms, unfortunately, one of the firms we contracted wasn’t living up to their end of the bargain.
After doing some investigating, we concluded that this firm tried to leverage the popularity of Veronica in the tech community to grow our brand awareness without her permission and without consulting us before moving forward with the ad. Unfortunately we have no concrete evidence that this firm indeed was the one responsible for the rogue Facebook ad. Nonetheless, within 4 days of finding out about the ad, we terminated all business relationships with this SEO firm based on our internal investigation.
We are extremely apologetic to both Thomas and Veronica and appreciate their patience and understanding while we investigated the matter internally. We are also thankful that this was brought to our attention. It is extremely important to everyone here at Wireless Emporium that we grow our business in a moral and ethical way. And when we discover that one of our partners isn’t following those same guidelines, it is important that we act swiftly and accordingly.
Lastly, we here at Wireless Emporium would like to thank Thomas and Veronica for allowing our voice to be heard on this matter. They certainly didn’t have to do that. We wish both the best of luck moving forward.”
I don’t know very many people at Facebook, but I did put a Facebook message into a fairly senior person there to see if he might be able to help but never heard back.
As far as I’m aware there is no real mechanism for a photographer to use to get Facebook to tell you who paid for an advert illegally using your image. I don’t know the name of the alleged SEO company that stole the photo and I’m not sure that there is ever any way that I will know. Such is life on the web for photographers.
Anyone have any thoughts or advice on a situation like this?