Even if there are no legal repercussions for using someone else’s photo without permission, it is morally and ethically incorrect to do so. Through this blog post, we aim to clear the general misconception regarding the need for permission before using someone else’s photographs, especially in the case of children and cases where photos are going to be uploaded on social media sites. Additionally, we will also do a quick review of situations in which you may need to take permission even when you are taking or posting your own photographs. 

What To Do If Someone Uses Your Photo Without Permission?

If someone uses your photo without permission you can follow the following steps if you wish for them to remove them:

  • Contact the person and ask them to remove the photo
  • If the photo has been posted on social media, you can complain to the website
  • In the case of copyrighted images, you can ask for the copyrights to be respected or accredit the photo to you 
  • Consider a mediation service (especially in the case of a copyright issue)
  • Seek the guidance of a legal adviser

If the photo that someone used without permission is of a personal nature or it is an intimate photo that you do not wish to be published publicly, you can report the incident to cybercrime.

However, if you post pictures on social media and someone uses them without permission, you will have to review the terms and conditions of the particular website to learn whether any action can be taken or not. Even though the ownership of the photos does not change in this case, the right of use can change; depending on individual circumstances; including the purpose for which the photo was used.

Photographs that are taken in public places generally do not require the permission of the person(s) in the photo for usage or being published.  However, if the photos cause intimidation, harassment or distress to the person in the photos, they can prosecute the one who has taken and used their photos under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.

That said, images, artistic works, illustrations and photographs that are protected under a Copyright in the UK require the permission of the owner before they are published by anyone on the internet. This includes the following:

  • digital photos taken through a camera or a cell phone
  • images of diagrams and illustrations
  • Images created on photographic fil and then digitalised

Although going to court is an expensive option, there have been cases in which people have taken legal action against the use of their photos without their permission. If you are successful at the end of a legal battle, not only will the photos be removed but you may gain substantially through the financial settlement or court penalty against the guilty party.

If you have reason to believe that someone is using your photo in order to pretend to be you and has malicious or dangerous intentions, you can choose to report them to Action Fraud.

It is advisable for you to be careful about sharing your photos on social media to avoid having them copied without consent. You can limit your privacy settings to restrict unsolicited viewing, keep stronger passwords to avoid someone hacking into your accounts and make sure you have protection against malware. 

What To Do If Someone Uses Your Child’s Photo Without Permission?

While it is common for people to use photos taken in public places without seeking permission or the concern of any legal consequences; however, if you do not want your child’s photo to b used by anyone, you are well within your rights to ask them not to use it or remove the photo if it has been used.

While the best option, in this case, is to speak to the person who has used or posted the photo on the internet, if it is not possible to do so, you can contact the website or social media channels (or any other medium where the photo was used) asking them to have the photo removed. Such requests are generally taken positively with action taken in the favour of the complainant as usage of children’s photos without consent is considered an invasion of their privacy.

Are There Restrictions On Using My Own Photos On The Internet?

While you are free to use your own photos as you deem fit on the internet, you may be faced with certain restrictions or even objections in the case of the following situations:

  • If you post a picture of your workplace or an image related to the organisation you work for, you may need permission from your employer/organisation before sharing it publicly
  • If you post a photo that contains visuals or objects protected by copyright; such as artwork or illustration
  • Photos are taken for a third party (even if you are in those photos)
  • Someone else has exclusive rights to share the particular images

Even if your photos include friends and family who do not permit their photos to be posted on the internet, you will need their permission before doing so.

Despite regulations, a study quoted in a web article suggests that people are most likely to be photographed without consent while travelling in public transport. With the young demographic spending most of their time on social media websites, around 25% to 30% of 18-24 years olds take pictures of strangers without permission and then post them on the internet. 

Conclusion:

Even when legal action cannot be taken against someone who uses your photo without permission, you have the right to ask them not to do so, whether it is for their own usage or to post on the internet. The matter becomes serious when the photo involves a child or it is intimate or personal in nature and its display makes you uncomfortable. However, in the case of a photo being posted on social media websites without your consent, you must review their privacy guidelines as there may be a possibility that there is no restriction for others to use your photographs when you have posted them on the internet.

FAQs: What to do if someone uses your photo without permission?

Can I sue if someone uses my picture?

While you may be able to take legal action against someone who is using your picture in order to pretend to be you or for commercial purposes, if someone has used a photograph without consent you may not be able to sue them without reasonable cause.

Will uploading pictures without someone’s consent be a cybercrime?

Unless the pictures that are uploaded without consent are being used for defamation purposes, or they involve intimacy, it will not be considered a cybercrime

Can you sue someone for exposing you on social media?

Yes, you can sue someone for defamation through social media. However, you will need reasonable evidence and financial support for legal proceedings.

Can someone use my image without permission?

Unless the image is being used in line with the community guidelines of a website, someone else cannot use your image without permission.

Can you get in trouble for using someone’s pictures?

Yes, you can get into trouble for using someone’s pictures without their consent even if you are present in them.

References:

Control of your images online | Legal Choices

Copyright notice: digital images, photographs and the internet – GOV.UK

Photographers Rights In The UK – Paul David Smith Photography.

Help – someone else has posted a photo of my child on social media – UK Safer Internet Centre