Somebody Stole My Photos…And They Ended Up In A Book!

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Someone gave an author my photographs, and claimed that they belonged to them. The author then used my photos in their book. Who do I contact regarding copyright infringement? The author, the publisher, or the person who stole my photos? I previously sent the publisher an invoice for unauthorized use of my work. They refused to pay me and told me to contact the person who stole my photos.

Photoless Photographer

I am not an attorney so this is not legal advice.

That said, if they were my photos that were used without my permission, I would first contact my attorney and I would then have him/her contact all of the above. I might even contact the police regarding the original thief, depending on how the photos were stolen. For example, was it someone visiting your home?

The person who gave away or sold your photos may be guilty of selling stolen materials.

If the book is self-published, the publisher/publishing service is exempt from liability but you should alert them to what’s going on. A reputable publishing service will immediately remove the book from the market since a copyright claim may be pending. See:

The author of a self-published book is very likely liable since they are legally and financially responsible for the content in their book, including graphics.

If it’s a traditionally published book, the author and the publisher may both be liable.

You should really contact an attorney about all of this.

And, please keep me updated on the situation. 🙂


UPDATE: It is indeed a large traditional publisher so I told the photographer they probably swatted her initial email, hoping she would just go away, while also praying she wouldn’t talk to an attorney about the situation. I suspect they know they are likely liable for the copyright infringement (each stolen photo that was published may be one offense). Many cases are never prosecuted because the victims can’t imagine a large company lying to them about an important legal matter. Shouldn’t they have opened up a discussion with the photographer, and paid her fee? Shouldn’t they have advised her to hire an attorney? Don’t most companies do the “right thing?”


The fact is many companies and individuals will say or write just about anything to avoid being contacted by a lawyer later. They know if they can just get past the time-limit for the statute of limitations, they’ll be free and clear. For copyright infringement, the statute of limitations is only three years.

If the publisher continues to distribute the book, knowing it contains stolen images, it could cost them even more in the end:

“In a case where the copyright owner sustains the burden of proving, and the court finds, that infringement was committed willfully, the court in its discretion may increase the award of statutory damages to a sum of not more than $150,000.”

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