Help me get my back back.
September 18, 2010 9:40 AM   Subscribe

Facebook is showing a naked picture of my back (with a distinctive tattoo) on one of their banner ads. I did not authorize and do not like this. What can I do about it?

Back story: Several years ago I got a full back tattoo. At the time I had a very public online presence. I hosted some pictures (I took them myself) publicly on Flickr and I linked the pictures (and wrote my story about them) on my not-entirely-unknown blog. One of the pictures in particular went semi-viral and got linked and hotlinked all sorts of places.

Over the years my attitude about privacy has changed somewhat, and I have preferred to make the Flickr photos private (they're watermarked now too) and have taken down the blog (it's been almost 2 years since the photos have been publicly unavailable from sources I can control). I understand that once something is out there on the internet, it's there forever. I will constantly be seeing this photo show up in strange places that I have no control over, as well as dealing with people using the photo and pretending to be me (it has happened a few times now, but I've successfully gotten those persons banned from the sites they've used to host their impersonations).

I'm not cool with Facebook hosting an ad using a personal and identifiable photo of me that the advertiser has no right to use. I don't know who the advertiser is, but they must have stolen the picture and used it without my (or my tattoo artist's) permission. I only have a screenshot of the ad - a friend saw the banner and sent it to me (I am not even on Facebook anymore - a "deactivated" account). I am 100% positive that this spammy ad is NOT my tattoo artist or anybody affiliated with him or his business.

Is there anything I can do to get this picture removed from the banner ad? Who do I contact and what do I say? Also, how do I get over this? I blame myself every time I see that photo somewhere and I get embarrassed and irritated all over again. Also, I am an academic and a work professional now, and wish to keep this part of my life only available/visible to those I choose to let in...but I fear it may just be too late for that. So at least as much as I can keep private will do - and as much effort is as worthwhile doing...I've got other things to do and don't want to take up new causes. But if there's battles I can win, I'd like to win them and lessen the propagation and public presence of this photo.

I also realize that the answer to this might be some version of "Flag It And Move On", which I am prepared to accept if so. I don't know what my best course of action is here (both out in the world and in my annoyed head), which is why I am asking. Thanks for your help!
posted by anonymous to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Facebook has a form for this. Hopefully your friend grabbed the url of the picture.
posted by lee at 9:55 AM on September 18, 2010

Not knowing who the advertiser is will make this a bit more difficult. But in general, if it's a picture you took, you own the copyright for it and nobody else has a right to use it. If you find someone using it without your permission, you can send a DMCA takedown notice (an email with a bunch of legal language) and they generally have to comply.

This is an ad that appeared on Facebook? At one point in time there were unscrupulous advertisers abusing the Facebook API to display ads that automatically pulled photos from your friends. Did you see this banner on a friend's facebook account? Perhaps that's what is going on here.
posted by meta_eli at 9:56 AM on September 18, 2010

You say you took the picture yourself. In that case, they don't own the rights and you should be compensated for the use they have already made of it, even if they don't use it going forward. You'll need to be able to prove you took the picture.

On the other hand, is it possible that you allowed the tattoo artist to take a picture, and you're not able to distinguish them? If this is the case, and, if you signed a release at the time (this might be language buried in the artist's boilerplate liability release form, (See this one, for example, which includes it as an option) then its entirely possible the advertiser obtained the rights legitimately, probably through some agency intermediary between them and the artist. If this is what happened, you're out of luck.

To contact Facebook about this, it would help to track down the actual ad and advertiser, though. See FAQs here on reporting ad issues to Facebook.
posted by beagle at 9:56 AM on September 18, 2010

The only problem would be if you ever had that photo on your Facebook account. Could be a problem, check your terms of service.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:22 AM on September 18, 2010

What licensing options did you set on Flickr? It may be that you gave the advertiser permission to use the image in the way they did by choosing one of the more generous licensing options on Flickr. If that's the case, then your legal recourse is kind of nil.

Though, in my experience, Facebook is pretty likely to delete something if you report it as your intellectual property. And the advertiser is unlikely to really fight that if they didn't pay for the use of the image in the first place, so you'd probably win by default regardless of whether you did or didn't accidentally grant permission for use of the image.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:32 AM on September 18, 2010

What licensing options did you set on Flickr?

Yeah, this is the real question. Even though you can change the license or make photos private on flickr at any time, it's not retroactive -- if someone downloaded a copy while it was under the original license and that license allowed commercial use then they still have a right to use it today. Of course, it would have required considerable foresight to download and save a photo that you didn't plan to use for another 2 years in the future, but it's still theoretically possible. You should request deletion from facebook and/or the advertiser anyway, regardless of what their and your legal rights may or may not be, as it never hurts to ask.
posted by Rhomboid at 10:51 AM on September 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Here's the reality...

It was likely an affiliate marketer who just grabbed a photo off Flickr or Google Images. You shutting them down on FB won't stop them from using it, and depending on where they are located, you may not have any legal recourse against them. If you got it removed from FB, it will probably show up elsewhere.

I would just try to come to terms with your decision to let these sorts of photos of you be publicly available and the resulting consequences. It REALLY isn't worth the hassle to pursue this.
posted by Elminster24 at 11:02 AM on September 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

The section under "Infringement Notification" on the following page provides a decent template for a DMCA takedown letter.

More to the point, I'm sure Facebook has a protocol for this.

Finally, you might want to use to hunt down your images.
posted by darth_tedious at 11:02 AM on September 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Ugh. Spammy advertisers on facebook basically just scour the net for 'interesting' images to use with their ads. They do this all the time. I think it would be great if you actually went through the trouble of tracking them down and suing them, because they're not just doing this to you but just fucking up the internet in general.
posted by delmoi at 11:11 AM on September 18, 2010

I'd track down the advertiser--try to get a phone number and address--and get a lawyer friend to send a cease and desist right away. Call them up and complain. You're not endorsing their product or service, you're not associated with it, and they have no legal right to your photo. Advertising's not covered under fair use.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:40 PM on September 18, 2010

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