What To Do When One of Your Pictures Shows Up on a Company’s Website Without Your Permission

A few months ago I posted a picture of a handbag on Instagram. I tagged the company that makes the bag on the photo and hashtagged the company’s name in my caption. To my delight, the company reposted the picture on their Instagram page and gave me credit for it.  Based on my experience with Instagram, that process has been accepted by me and others. I know in some cases that my pictures have been reposted without my knowledge and I was not given credit. It seems like with the social media platform, there are no clear rules or laws for how this all works. But I know at the end of the day, all  we want is credit, right?




Last night, I was browsing through the company’s online website because you know, I had the online shopping bug. To my surprise, I saw my same picture being used on the company’s website. At first, I was shocked, then flattered, and finally frustrated. The company never asked me if they could use the photo on their website nor did I give permission for them to do so. I purchased the product and was never “gifted” it. So I feel like the picture is my property unless someone wants to purchase it and use it.  To make it even more frustrating, the company did NOT credit whose picture it was on their website.


sezane website

sezane calvin bag scm


My experience with other retailers (when they want to use my pictures on their website) is that they ask me to use a unique hashtag relating to their company in the comments section of Instagram. By doing so, I agree to the terms and use of the photos by the company. Most of the  time, my photos show up the company’s website at the bottom of the product but not as the main picture for the product. But they always provide credit to who the picture belongs to. Usually my Instagram handle.

What I’m doing about it

At first, I thought I could let this go and not do anything about it as there aren’t laws on this or if there are, I don’t know about them. But then realized that this is not right, especially for Instagram users like me who should get credit for their work.  So this morning, I decided to email the company telling them about the situation, even showing my original Instagram photo, their Instagram repost, and what was on their website. I know I’m a small person in this social media world but I want to let companies do what is right, which is compensate the photographer or give them appropriate credit. I’ll keep you updated on what I hear back from them.


Within 24 hours of receiving my email, the company emailed me back and apologized for what had happened. They ensured me that what had happened was not “malevolent” and immediately added my Instagram handle in the product’s description as a way of adding attribution to the photo. In addition, they offered me an article of clothing of my choice as an apology….and I guess to let them use the photo on their website?

updated sezane

I posted my experience about this on my Instagram account. Most of the comments suggest that  it’s possibly illegal, the company could be sued, and that I should receive compensation for this. My friend even sent me this post by Sara F. Hawkins (http://sarafhawkins.com/instagram-copyright/)  that basically says that companies can be sued for doing something like this. But this is a French company, so can the US laws regarding using someone’s photo be the same in France?

I’m not a confrontational type of person to be demanding compensation or additional products from the company but feel that more should have been done by the company. I suggested that they first ask for permission from the photographer before putting it on their website. In addition, they should either compensate the photographer (similar to how they compensate for their in-house photographer or provide products that are comparable in value to the amount they pay their photographer).   For now, I am happy they updated their website to include an attribution to it, as the photo is clearly not their property or taken by one of their in-house photographers. And as one of my friends told me, although it is frustrating to have something like this happen, it is also a compliment.

Tell me your thoughts/experiences

What are your thoughts on social medial “resharing” pictures? Are there some clear rules on this? Have you experienced something similar? I would love to hear how you handled it and the outcome.




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