You’re having a great day, birds are chirping, sun is shining, life is good… Until you come across someone, or something, using one of your images without even the courtesy of credit. I’ve had enough, and I’m sure if you’re reading this, you’ve also had enough, so I’m going to show you how to get stolen and uncredited content removed from instagram.
Before going the thermal detonator route, it’s best to have some kind of consistently enforceable policy that prevents other businesses or content aggregators from using your work without attribution. I’ve written about this before, but in most cases what happens is someone (not my lovely clients) will take one of my images and use it to promote a business or build an audience via content aggregator (hub) account. They will then monetize that account, ergo, profiting off of my/our work without even the courtesy of a credit. I literally had a conversation with an “influencer” friend of mine with around 250k followers in the architectural products industry. He’s a designer and only promotes his own content, but he mentioned that he can get between five and ten thousand dollars for the right post and product, and it happens somewhat regularly. Yeah, ain’t nobody going to steal my images for that!
Keep in mind that it’s not just hub accounts that do this, but sometimes full fledged legitimate publications. I try to reach out to correct omissions of credit before doing a takedown, but in many cases the images have been there for weeks and the damage is done. The shelf life of these posts is just hours in many cases, so it’s important that credit is involved right from the start. I digress…let’s get the stolen work taken off of the platform.
Step One: Find Instagram’s Cleverly Hidden Copyright Infringement Page
For some reason (who are we kidding, we know exactly the reason) Instagram makes it rather difficult to begin this process. Buried in their help pages is something that looks like this:
The current link for this page can be found here, but in my experience these links and pages are re-written and changed very often, so your best bet may be to search for “instagram copyright infringement” and find it that way. It’s usually within the first two or three results.
From there, you’ll want to click on the “How do I report copyright infringement on Instagram” dropdown, which will bring you to this screen:
Once there, you’ll have to, yep, you guess it, fill out that form that I highlighted in red. That form can be found, at the time of writing, by clicking here, so feel free to bookmark (I know I have).
The form is, thankfully, quite self-explanatory but what I find extremely difficult to reconcile with is the fact that you must submit an absurd amount of personal information to have Instagram take your post down. This includes, but is not limited to:
-Personal phone number
-Personal e-mail address
Etc, etc. All of this information is then turned over to the infringing party for some reason. I don’t know about you, but I’m not too keen on that, so what I personally do is supply my PO Box and a google voice number. I also have a ‘burner’ email address connected to my domain that I send all spam, email promotional nonsense, etc, sent to, so they don’t get my full business email.
After forking over the personal information, Instagram will ask you to certify that you are the rights owner, and provide a link to the content on your own website, YouTube channel, blog, etc. It’s pretty straightforward from there on out.
So what then?
In my experience it has taken a few hours to a day to have the infringing content removed. I am assuming there is an automated process in place and once everything is verified, Instagram pulls the content down. I have gotten some very angry emails from larger hub accounts demanding to know why I had them remove the post and asking what my problem was. These accounts (with 750k+ followers) are probably pissed because they got caught with their hand in the cookie pot and are clearly running my images alongside sponsored content. Not. Cool. I’m not sure if Instagram has a strike program in place but I have a feeling the account owner gets a warning and after so much reporting of stolen content, their account will be closed.
While a bit of a nuclear option, the Instagram takedown, once you get used to it, is a relatively straightforward process. It’s sad that it happens enough that I’m “used to” using it, but that is the world we live in. For smaller local companies and potential clients within one or two degrees of separation of you, I’d recommend emailing them and politely explaining the situation and asking for credit or payment. I’ve built a few bridges this way (instead of burning them!) but honestly, when a major hub account that is clearly monetized steals your stuff without A. asking or B. giving credit, hell with it – take ’em down and don’t feel bad for a second. Good luck out there!