Have you ever wanted to share a funny photo with a friend, so you Google an image and use any one that you find? Well, be careful not to take it too far. The internet and editing software makes it easy to use any photo and remove any logo. So what should you do when someone uses photos from your website to claim as their own? One LawnSite user had it happen to them and they went to the forums for some advice.

RonWin: I was looking on Google to see where I was listed as a lawn care provider and saw that one of my competitors is advertising with their main picture as one of my mowing jobs. I contacted the owner, and he said that his website wasn’t currently up and that it was Google who must have messed it up. So I just sent an email to Google about this matter so that they will hopefully take the photo down and maybe even list his company lower on the totem pole.

Xener: We are a marketing consultant for a landscape supply company who had this happen to them recently. The pictures used on the supply company’s website were their own and they found the infringement when another company used the images. They called the other company and the other company essentially laughed it off. So they had to have a lawyer draft a letter and it still took them a long time to remove (most) of the photos. Intentional copyright infringement can carry a huge civil liability, but most people know it costs money to sue and most people won’t do it. The people who illegally used his photos didn’t seem to have any concept or just didn’t care — they also used the gopher image and a sound clip from the movie “Caddyshack” on their website, and I’m sure they didn’t have permission for that.

HEMTT: Since it’s a picture they took, you can send them a cease and desist. If they took a picture of a property you work on, but the photo was by a third party or themselves, you don’t have much standing. Is it deception? Sure. But it isn’t criminal, just stupid.

Chathampm: Turn it into a positive. Write a blog post about lawn care companies being deceptive and link it to your picture on his website. You will probably get pretty good traffic to your site and Google will associate his company as a bad company. Just make sure you link the keywords to his site. This is just what I would do, but I would also find some way you can prove it is your photo, such as trucks, etc.

PaperCutter: No. If your site has any decent domain authority with Google and you link to your competitor, you’ll have given them a nice, high-quality backlink that will help their ranking. Your goal should always be 1) get people to your site, 2) keep people on your site, 3) convert them to leads. If your reader clicks the link to your competitor’s site, congratulations. You’ve done the online equivalent of a shopkeeper telling a customer, “Dude, you need to look at this,” walking the customer across the street to the competition. Contact them if they ignore you, contact their hosting provider to report a copyright violation and the provider will likely take down the page. If you start playing games, there are just too many ways it can get stupid. Besides, if I was looking for a service and read a post where someone was whining about a competitor, I’d click off that site.

Xener: I agree with not linking to or talking about a competitor on your site. It adds no value for your website visitors, and your focus on the site needs to be converting leads. As an FYI though, you can link to other places on your site that you don’t want to be associated with by Google by using the rel=”nofollow” attribute on the link. That tells Google you’re not affiliated with the site that you’re linking to and your page rank, etc., shouldn’t be transferred across these links.

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