I wrote about copyright in general as it concerns photography back in November 2010 but I am going to add a bit more to this topic. What are some of the things you can do if you find your photos have been used with out your permission? Or, how can you, as a user of photography, know whether you can publish or put a photographer’s images on the web?
A while back I signed up for Google Alerts – a tool made by Google, that will alert you by e-mail if an image of yours appears somewhere on the web. It won’t find everything and it will come up with legitimate uses of your photos as well, so you may have to weed through the items it finds or ignore them. A few months ago it found a blog using several of my photos – and of course I knew nothing about this. The blog owner had probably just copied the images off my client’s website. At least they had included my credit!
The first step is to contact the site owner. One way to do this is by doing a “who is” search. Network Solutions is one site that can do this for you – http://www.networksolutions.com/whois/index.jsp.
It will usually tell you who the site administrator is including an e-mail address and maybe an address and phone number. It’s kind of interesting to do this for your own website. Once you have the e-mail address you need to contact the person and ask them if they paid for this usage. First find out if it’s legitimate usage.
You have to use your common sense in these matters, the site may be so small that the chance of making any money is slim to none. Did they include your credit? Always let people know in a nice way that you are flattered that they like your images and you would be happy to discuss the normal fee for this kind of usage. You should have these numbers in mind. One of the best software to use to assist you in this is FotoQuote.
If the offending party refuses to respond you can send what’s called a DMCA letter to their web host asking them to remove the material. DMCA refers to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act passed in 1998 – find out more on Wikipedia. You can find sample DMCA letters on the web by doing a search – Plagiarism Today has some good sample letters – http://www.plagiarismtoday.com/stock-letters/
My thoughts are, that at the very least, photographers need to educate the public that photography is NOT FREE! This kind of thinking is rampant lately. It’s fine if a photographer wants to do some pro bono work but it should be out of choice!
Since I don’t want to rip off someone else’s writing – copying and pasting, I am going to include two links here for your further reading enjoyment on the topic of using images without permission. These articles might offer a little guidance to people who are inexperienced with the use and purchasing of photography rights or licensing.
Basically, you can’t claim that you didn’t know better when taking someone else’s work, it’s still plagiarism.
http://www.whichstockagency.com/en/33/page/1/opinion/534/full – ©Which Stock Agency
Now that you’ve read those . . . in instances when you’re not sure what you should do, next to calling a copyright and intellectual property lawyer, I have found that getting involved with discussions with others in my field has been extremely helpful. Be part of LinkedIn and join the various groups that apply to your specialty. I have asked several questions of some of the groups I am in and have found all my experiences to be completely positive so far. I got a lot of the information in this blog from my discussions on LinkedIn. There are helpful people out there. It’s really important for creative people to stick together and support each other so that everyone is charging a fair price for their work and therefore everyone is making a good living.
Photographers should be embedding their copyright information in their photos using Photoshop’s File>Info (for example) and photography users should assume they need to talk to the photographer first to protect themselves. A photographer has the most protection, of course if he or she registers their images with the U.S. Copyright Office – http://www.copyright.gov/