Because you asked, these are real letters I have sent to people found using my photographs inappropriately, ranging from “The standard DMCA takedown” to “The repeat commercial offender payment demand letter.”
1. The standard DMCA takedown
I send about a dozen of these per week, usually to the web hosts of small pest control companies. Legally, these are supposed to be directed at the company running the web server, but I try to cc the site owner if I can find their email address.
This letter is a Notice of Infringement as authorized in § 512(c) of the U.S. Copyright Law under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The infringing material appears on the Service for which you are the designated agent.
The disputed content is a photograph of a bullet ant:
[link to infringing URL]
My original, copyright-protected work is here:
Please remove these files from your servers at your earliest convenience. Alternately, that image may be licensed for continued commercial use for US $95.
I have a good faith belief that the disputed use is not authorized by myself, the copyright owner. I hereby state, under penalty of perjury, that the above information in this email is accurate and that I am the copyright owner.
Thanks for your time,
[address, email, & phone contact]
2. The credit-me-please letter
I sometimes send a gentler notice to people running personal blogs and webpages asking for credit, rather than removal.
Hello. I am the photographer who took a number of the photographs you are using on your beekeeping blog, [blog title]. Although I appreciate that you like my photographs enough to share them, I require that non-commercial uses of my images be accompanied by an appropriate photo credit and a link back to the source image on my website. While I’m not generally concerned by non-commercial use of my work, uncredited uses like those on your blog are a source of downstream commercial infringements that can become a problem, and adding a simple credit helps prevent these.
The images in question are these:
[URL 1, URL 2, etc.]
My original work is here:
I would appreciate it if you could add a credit (“Image © Alex Wild”, or similar) to the photo caption, as well as a link back to my source image. If the images are not appropriately credited, I may send a takedown notice to your web host and the images will be removed automatically.
3. The let’s-work-something-out letter
A letter I sent just this morning.
Hello. I am the professional photographer who took the scorpion photograph that [company name] pest control is currently using in several places online:
The image also appears in the scrolling banner on the site’s homepage:
and as the header to the company facebook page, here:
My original photograph is here:
I don’t have a record of licensing this image to [company name] for commercial use. My regular fee that covers this sort of online marketing is $95. I request that you either remove the image from your various sites, or pay the license fee to continue using the image, or forward me any relevant paperwork showing that your company has legitimately licensed that image and I’m mistaken about this. If I don’t hear back from you within a week, I will issue takedown notices to your web hosts, and the images will be removed automatically.
I don’t mean to be harsh, but photography is how I make my living.
Thanks for your time,
4. The inexcusable commercial product infringement payment demand letter
Yes, this was an actual letter.
Hello. I am a professional insect photographer, and recently I was surprised and angered to discover that two of my copyright-protected images are being used to market [company name] products. This use is, to the best of my knowledge, without my permission and without payment of the requisite license fees for commercial use.
In particular, you have used my photograph of a rare, IUCN redlist-protected ant, Nothomyrmecia macrops, on the label of a pesticide product. On top of being a copyright violation, the use of a potentially endangered insect to sell an insect-killing product is both inappropriate and offensive.
The product in question is the [redacted]:
My copyright-protected image is the large yellow ant on the label. My original is here:
This image also appears in thumbnail size in the rotating banner on the [company name] website:
A second infringement appears in [company name] catalog, on page 40.
The image is a leafcutter ant carrying a leaf; my original file is
I have contacted an Intellectual Property attorney about representing me in this matter, but I have not yet signed a contract. Working through the legal system will make this whole issue much more expensive, and time-consuming, for both me and for [company name]. If possible I’d like to resolve this matter directly.
I propose the following options.
Option 1. [company name] removes the image from the label of the [product], and from associated catalog and web use, and pays a rate of 3x my usual commercial-use license fees. A product label is $[amount], so 3x = $[amount]. The small leafcutter ant can stay in the product catalog if the fee is paid. My usual small-size rate, interior print, is $[amount]. So, 3x = $[amount]. Thus, if you remove the ant from the label, and pay a total license fee of $[amount], I will consider the matter resolved.
Option 2. While I really, really do not wish to have my rare ant image used on a pesticide label, I recognize that removing the product from sale to rework the label might represent a significant cost for [company name]. Thus, I’d be ok with having it remain for an additional cost of US $[somewhat bigger amount].
Option 3 is that [company name] does nothing, and I contract an intellectual property attorney to retrieve my fees, plus damages and attorney fees, through the legal system.
As I make my living through photography, I take my copyright seriously. Thanks for your time,
5. The repeat commercial offender payment demand letter
In case they didn’t learn the first time. Distressingly, I have to send about 3 or 4 of these every year.
Hello. One year ago I found four of my images being used on your company website [URL] without my permission, without attribution, and without the requisite payment of my license fees for commercial use. The images were removed on my request, which I appreciate.
I was very surprised, then, to find three new images of mine on your website. Again, the images appear in a commercial context and without my permission, as though you hadn’t learned anything from last year’s exchange.
The images are these (see also attached screen capture):
My original, copyright-protected images are here:
As I make my living from photography, I cannot afford to be lenient with repeat infringements on the part of for-profit companies. Such infringements are illegal, they waste my time, and they devalue my work. Per the copyright infringement policy stated publicly on my website ( http://www.alexanderwild.com/Image-Use ), I have attached an invoice reflecting my commercial-use license fee of $95/image, plus a $50/image infringement fee, for a total of $285. You will pay this invoice in full within 14 days, and you will remove the images immediately from your website.
If you fail to respond to this letter, I will contact your web host with a formal takedown notice, and I may begin the process of recovering my fees, plus associated damages and legal costs, through the courts. I recommend you forward this notice to your attorney, who can advise you as to your legal situation, and to your web designer, who should be made aware of the problem.
As strict as I am about my photo copyrights, I don’t feel particular ownership over these letters. If you have encountered your own infringers, feel free to use these as templates. Consider them open source.
About the author: Alex Wild is an entomologist based out of Illinois who specializes in the evolutionary history of ants. In 2003 he founded a photography business as an aesthetic complement to his scientific work, and his natural history photographs appear in numerous museums, books, and media outlets. You can find more of his work on his website or by following him on Twitter. This article originally appeared here.