Can you sue if your photo is misused online? It's a question many people are asking these days, with the free availability of personal data online.
And with the MTV show "Catfish" showcasing stories of catfishing -- i.e., creating fake profiles and false identities for fraudulent purposes -- it's opening people's eyes to how easy it is to lift a photo off Facebook, or any other website for that matter.
What can you do, if your photo is lifted and used without your permission? Here are some potential courses of action:
Contact the photo-sharing company. There is usually a way to get in touch with the photo sharing website, whether it's by email or phone. They're the ones in the best position to take down your photo. However, they may not take down a photo unless there's a major legal violation. So if it's just someone reposting a photo of you that you don't like, the website likely won't do much. But if the photo contains nudity, depicts a minor or contains something illegal, the photo-sharing company might be more willing to take down your photo.
Contact the police. If its a case of someone using your identity, file a police report. That police report can be used to send to the website, in order to have your photo taken down. Of course, most online photo sharing sites only require you to send your ID in order to have a fake profile taken down.
Get a subpoena. You can't get things like the IP address of the poster unless you have a subpoena. Sometimes, if the photo is legitimate but merely offensive to you, the subpoena is the only option you have. Depending on how serious the situation is, you may even be able to sue the person for invasion of invasion of privacy, especially if your likeness is used for commercial purposes without your consent.
You can also try to sue for defamation. But in order for there to be such a claim, the photo needs to expressly state something false.
The problem with these lawsuits is that they aren't always the best option. Lawsuits are costly and you might not always recover from the person you are suing, if they don't have deep pockets.
Talk to a lawyer to discuss your options or have a look at our related resources below.