The Internet has become the wild wild west of copyright infringement, and the fact that so many photos are illegally republished around without permission and/or attribution makes enforcement tough for the photographers behind them. If you’ve ever shared your images on the Web, there’s one big-name place they could show up for sale without your permission: Amazon.com.
Austin, Texas-based photographer Beverly Guhl found this out recently when she stumbled upon several Amazon listings for a copyrighted headshot she took of actor Marco Perella.
“I was shocked because I did not license the use of this image to anyone,” Guhl tells PetaPixel. “When I did a search of Marco’s name I saw that several sellers had my image listed.”
The original portrait can be found on Guhl’s online portfolio with a clear copyright notice:
Digging further, Guhl discovered that one of the sellers of her image on Amazon has over 2.7 million listings for posters and prints, and in each of the items’ descriptions, the seller claims that “All images are sourced from the public domain.”
“These are celebrity photos, album covers, rock stars, sports images and sports team logos, and more,” Guhl says. “It is a brazen theft, and Amazon is enabling them to get away with this.”
A quick Google Images search for “Marco Perella” shows Guhl’s photos as one of the top results:
The image Google discovered is being hosted by a website called HDpicsnwall.com:
The website’s “About” page reads: “Here we collect best and nice hd wallpapers of different resolution. All HD wallpapers are free for download.”
So instead of grabbing copyrighted photos from photographers’ websites, it seems that the Amazon seller may have harvested photos from other websites that illegally offer copyrighted photos for free. The seller then described the photos as “public domain” and began selling prints and products on Amazon.
Guhl has submitted a copyright infringement notice to Amazon to alert them of this seller, but the problem goes well beyond a single seller. Back in December 2014, we shared another case in which a National Geographic photographer had a hard time getting Amazon to remove products with his photos illegally printed on them.
“I am sure more photographers would appreciate knowing about their work being sold on Amazon,” Guhl says. “I did try to impress on Amazon that this seller is infringing on the copyright of thousands of professional photographers. Since I could only complain about my own work I fear some grunt might just have the seller delete my work from Amazon.”
“If they do not shut this guy down then they are in cahoots with the seller, in my humble opinon,” continues Guhl, “and this is just not right.”
Update on 8/2/16: Guhl has received a response from Amazon, which removed the items that violated Guhl’s copyright. Here’s a quote from the email:
Based on the information in your complaint, we removed the items at the end of this email.
We respect the intellectual property rights of others. We require that sellers on our site do the same.