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What To Do When Your Photo Gets Stolen

As you guys might have seen this week, one of my images was published inside one of the biggest newspapers in Switzerland called 20 Minuten. I was made aware of this by one of my followers who tagged me in one of his Insta-stories (thank you @galleryannis!). When I first saw it, I was both shocked and excited - shocked because I never gave them permission to publish my photo and I never sent them a high resolution file, but also excited because being featured in a big publication is always exciting...

Source: 20 Minuten (E-Paper)

So how did they manage to get a decently sized photo to publish inside their newspaper? I assumed they just saved it straight off Instagram and a high resolution file was not needed to print in their newspapers. I then checked if I was credited for it and fortunately the source of the image was stated correctly at the end of the article.. (Phew!)

I then did further research on Google and read that this newspaper is "distributed to commuters at over 150 train stations across the country ... and it had a readership of an estimated 782,000 (in 2004) and a circulation of 494,368 copies (in 2010) making it the most read daily paper in the country"!

Source: @marcorama

I will talk about the actual content and meaning of the article in my next blog post but for now let's focus on how I dealt with the situation. First, I enlisted a German-speaking friend of mine (thanks @stefankunz!) to help me decipher the 20 Minuten website to find an e-mail address or some sort of contact details (since the website was in German and I did not speak a word of it!). Once we found some contact details, I quickly wrote an email to them.

In my opinion, it is always best to go for the polite/respectful approach when it comes to these sorts of things. You never know it could be an honest mistake on their end and you don't want to come off as an aggressive person or else they probably won't reply or even cooperate with you.

This is the email I wrote to them on Thursday August 30th 2018:

"Hi 20 Minuten,

My name is Demas Rusli (@demas on Instagram) and I just saw that in the 30 August 2018 issue of your newspaper (page 24), you have used my photo without my permission and also without licensing it from me - see image attached.

This is the original image that I posted on Instagram:

I appreciate the feature and the credit but usually for newspaper image licensing such as this, my rate is $X.

It would be great if you can respond to this email and let me know your thoughts on this.

Thank you, looking forward to your response!

Regards, Demas Rusli"

A question I have been getting a lot recently is 'how much should I be charging if this happens to me or if a newspaper/publication approaches me to feature one of my images?'. This is the exact question I was asking myself at the time, and it was not until one of my friend's (thanks @oakandink!) DM's that I was pointed in the right direction. He suggested that I use the Getty Images Licensing Calculator to determine how much I should charge as a base rate. I filled in the criteria I needed into the calculator and then I was able to have a better indication of how much I should charge.

Now it was just a waiting game and wait I did.. because 3 days later I got a response from the newspaper saying:

"Dear Demas,

I'm sorry about that! Its always hard to get in contact through Instagram. Please send me an invoice of $X to the following address:


Thank you and best regards,

[someone who works at 20 Minuten]"

So I guess the moral of the story is, 1. Don't get overly frustrated if this ever happens to you, 2. Make contact with the newspaper/publishing source and write to them politely and respectfully, 3. Be patient, and 4. Hopefully you will be able to work out a deal that suits both parties. - This also applies to smaller things like if your image gets shared on Instagram without proper credit in the caption. I usually just comment on the post and ask if they could please credit me in the caption (95% of the time it is an honest mistake and the account fixes the caption).

I hope this will help you guys if something similar happens, comment your thoughts below (Note: You will need to subscribe to this blog if you want to make a comment). Stay tuned for the next blog post where I talk about the actual contents of the newspaper article and my thoughts on it...

Thank you so much to all of you who messaged me on Instagram, really appreciate your support and suggestions! Special shoutout to @marcorama who has kindly volunteered to send me a copy of the newspaper! Thank you Marco!


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