This past week, I was surprised to find two of my original photos posted on TripAdvisor’s website. They were uploaded as the main images for both both Fargo locations of Extreme Pita and Lakes Country Buffet, located in Fergus Falls. I also found that one of my photos was being used as the main image for Brass Lantern, Alexandria, MN on Yelp. Ironically, the photo uploaded for Extreme Pita featured pita I baked in my own kitchen and the photo for Lakes Country Buffet was actually taken at a different restaurant.
These photos were used without my permission, did not link to my blog, or provide me with compensation, even though they were used to promote the restaurants. To edit a restaurant listing on these sites, one has to have set up an account and register their business, but anyone can upload photos. I’m not sure who uploaded mine, but guess it may have been someone associated with the restaurants. Otherwise, I’m not sure why a random individual would take the time to upload photos from my blog, especially considering they didn’t feature the correct restaurants.
I immediately requested that TripAdvisor and Yelp remove them by filing a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) notification. Tripadvisor removed the photos within 24 hours of the next business day but ignored my requests to send me confirmations the issues were resolved. Yelp was slower to respond, taking about a week to remove the photo, but they did send me an email confirmation.
Keep in mind that the other party can send you a counter-notice if they feel they were not infringing. You can read more about this process on the links to the Electronic Freedom Foundation’s website, below. In my experience submitting DMCA notifications, I’ve only received one counter notification from an individual bold enough to claim they had the right to use my photos however they wished because I published them on my blog. A simple reply put an end to this nonsense and it was promptly removed. In my experience, companies take these requests seriously, as they are liable if they do not enforce copyright law.
One could add a watermark to their photos, which may prevent them from being stolen. I choose not to. Watermark or not, you still have a right to protect your photos.
To send a DMCA notification to TripAdvisor, simply email it to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Include the following text and customize it to your individual case. Keep the paragraphs separated and marked.
a.) Describe the work you claim is infringed and provide a link to the source where the work is taken without permission.
b.) Provide a link to your own website to show the work is your own.
c.) Include your contact information such as a phone number and email address. Some companies may ask for your home address.
d.) Include the statement,”I have a good faith belief that the material that is claimed as copyright infringement is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.”
e.) Include the statement, “I swear, under penalty of perjury, that the information in the notification is accurate and I am the copyright owner, or am authorized to act on behalf of the owner, of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.”
f.) Provide your electronic signature by typing your name as you would normally sign it.
There are a several ways to file a notification with Yelp. First, you can send them a message on this Contact page. The word space is limited, but if you condense some of the the DMCA notification above, you can fit in the whole request. I received the fastest response when I created a Yelp account and flagged the offending photo as inappropriate, explaining the issue in the space provided. Yelp sent me an email response and removed the photo. The email confirmation was sent from email@example.com and made not mention of not responding to the email address, so you could give this a try. Finally, you could contact your local Yelp Community Manager on Twitter. For Minneapolis-St. Paul, this is Annie D’Souza @YelpMSP. She responded to my direct Tweet quickly, while the individual managing the Yelp headquarters account did not respond.