Using a reverse image search tool against some of my photos on flickr, I found that someone was using my copyrighted photo to promote an app in the Apple app store. See the image below from the app store. And here is a link to my space shuttle cockpit photo being used.
After finding my image being used, I searched the internet to find instructions on how to file a copyright complaint against an app in the Apple app store, but I could not find the information that I was needing. From having occasionally read Plagiarism Today, I know that filing a DCMA take down notice against an Apple Store App should be very simple and easy. Suing for damages due to the copyright infringement would probably require an intellectual property lawyer. I was not concerned about damages — I just wanted the developer to stop using my images, and I know this can be accomplished without using an attorney.
I went to Facebook to ask friends how to file a copyright complaint against the app, and friend Jeff Rawdon came through with the link that I needed to file the complaint.
Here are my instructions on filing the complaint against the app and my sample results of what happens after filing the complaint.
- Gather information about the infringing work — screenshots, links, etc. Also, gather links and information supporting your claim that you own the copyrighted material.
- Go to Apple’s link to file a copyright complaint.
- Fill in the form providing the information that you gathered.
- Wait for a response — see below for what happened in my case
The information to Apple in my complaint was short but I also included information about the Creative Commons license which I was afraid might complicate the claim. If you are unfamiliar with Creative Commons, see the licensing terms I frequently use. Trey Ratcliff uses these licensing terms on his beautiful travel photography, so this is not unusual. Despite the Creative Commons license, Trey is willing to sue if his images are used for commercial purposes. Back to my story and experience… Here is exactly what I filed with Apple in the copyright complaint:
From: Brett Morrison
Subject: App Store Violation of Copyright
Date: February 28, 2012 8:03:47 PM PST
Infringing App URL: http://itunes.apple.com/sn/
The Space Shuttle Cockpit photo used in the second screenshot on the “Space Shuttle Views” app is my photo. It was taken from Flickr http://flic.kr/p/8htErM
. My copyrighted photo is posted on Flickr with a Creative Commons License that is non-commercial. Creative Commons does not nullify my copyright. Since the App sells for $1.99 and my photo is being used to advertise the App, it is a clear violation of my copyright by using my image for commercial purposes.
Thank you for investigating.
I shortly received a message back from Apple:
Thanks for your message. We have contacted the developer of the application listed below. In the meantime, if you have any questions please contact email@example.com and please include APP18409 in the subject line.
Provider: Quantis, Inc.
App Title: Space Shuttle Views
Apple ID: 401110297
And as of March 2nd at around 3PM, I noticed that the App was no longer available in the App store. That felt certainly like a victory to me, but of course the developer has a chance to respond. The developer chose to contact me directly shortly after this and apologize. The app has returned to the App Store — minus my photo.
Here is the apology letter:
Dear Brett Morrison,
I’m a developer of the “Space Shuttle Views” app. The app is designed to use Flickr API program to search and display photos uploaded onto Flickr with Creative Commons License that is available for commercial use. However, because of the bug, the app mistake your photo for commercial-CCL, and I used it for the screenshot.
I’ve already removed the app and screenshots from the App Store. The latest bug-fixed version will be delivered soon to existing users through iTunes software update.
I’m sorry for the inconvenience.
Toshimori Itabashi, I accept your apology and wish you the best of luck with your app.
Since I had such difficulty figuring out how to file a copyright complaint against an app (it required turning to Facebook since Google was unable to help), I hope this information helps you if you also need to file a take down notice against a developer in the App Store.
Let me know in the comments if your experience is different or similar to mine in filing a complaint with Apple. Thanks!