More than ever, there are thousands of digital photographers who spend much time, money and immersive creative effort on their art.
They spend this time massaging their captured pixels to perfection.
Once completed, many are eager to show their works through social media and other sources. As far as the photo’s copyright, most fail to do this and can lose big time!
Photographers, in our recent accelerated times, are provided many means to display their work through free and paid to host sites. Most prefer this method exclusively as opposed to the cost, time and effort needed to print, package and display their art in a public place.
This need to show their work by digital means is simple and easy to do, and with the instant response from global audiences is quite exhilarating and seductive.
One can reach thousands with a click of a button. All can now reach a global market audience online, to sell or draw creative attention to their creative endeavors.
Having all the social media resources available to us is wonderful. It’s great to have your artwork displayed online simply and without the stewardship of it, except for the creative process alone. Don’t be fooled, there’s more to taking a photograph than just pushing the button and adding a Photoshop action, and throwing it up on your favorite social media, or website.
Please understand, I’m not a lawyer but this is where it gets confusing. When you take the photograph, you are the intellectual property rights owner automatically. This is what throws people. If you ever need to defend your copyright, though, you need to have the legal paperwork stating you own if it.
Many digital photographers fail to secure a proper copyright before they publish their images online.
They failed to understand, that once you release your images online in any form without proper copyright procedure, that push the camera button copyright is compromised unless you have secured the proper documentation from the Library of Congress here in the United States. Here you can copyright thousands of images for an administration fee of $35 each time. http://www.copyright.gov/eco/.
This gives the photographer complete control over his photograph and affords the photographer complete power to defend his copyright when stolen off-line or in any other form or manipulation of that photograph. That said, one should carefully scan the small print on each of the social media sites you choose to post images just in case you’re not surrendering any of your rights by doing so.
Owning the copyright documentation and its registered number gives your photograph many protective powers.
Let’s say for instance you have a popular image in one of your social media outlets. There is a slight chance you may have that photo being used somewhere else without your permission or licensing right now. Someone might be using it commercially for some retail purpose. Perhaps it’s being used on someone’s blog, or in a story of literary content for illustrative purposes. These are clearly a violation of copyright.
But It’s most likely being used on other social networks and non-commercially on a persons profile page. An example would be: Sharing the pretty pictures I like, etc. If these images show your watermarks and contact information, that’s not the problem. The problem arises when an individual is using that image commercially to promote a product or service without your knowledge, and/or without properly licensing that image through you.
This is where gets interesting, I’ve been researching this matter for quite awhile and I’ve personally pursued copyright infringement simply and effectively. It seems you run into ignorance mostly by infringers other than out right fraud. You don’t need to pay lawyers big fees to do this.
If you suspect your photograph it’s being used online without your permission, the best way is to locate it through a Google image search. http://www.google.com/imghp
You simply upload a JPEG to the Google search engines. It will show you anywhere on the Internet where your images being used. Once you locate your suspected photograph on a website, you need to pursue what is known as a DMCA Takedown Notice. This is simple to do yourself, you don’t need a lawyer. There are plenty of free “how to” resources online. All you need to do is state that you own the copyright, and you need to submit this notice to the website host. They will usually remove it almost immediately, because they know the implications if they don’t.
Now the legal stuff
You will need an attorney to generate a letter demanding payment for damages and, or a fee for the usage of that image. You’d be surprised what damages can be collected by copyright infringement damages. Damages up to $150,000 per occurrence. That is only if you go through the above sated process. Being a professional, you should have legal representation of some kind. There are monthly legal services that provide legal letter generation with their packages at no additional charge. At this point, once the offender is notified, they can respond to the notice, or you can open the door to legal action if they choose not to. Remember, having the documentation from the Library of Congress makes all the difference.
The main point of all this is not to scare photographers from sharing their work. But as good stewards of your photography, and being truly serious about your photographs, you should protect them when you send them out into the world. Thats just my point of view.
Best of luck, Mark Jansen