How can you protect your photographs through copyright?
The dawn of the internet has paved the way for photographers to display their masterpieces in ways they previously thought was impossible. However, the advent of the new technological era also brought allowed people to steal photographs and not credit the owners or photographers for their usage.
It is understandably a big rain on any photographer’s parade to learn that hundreds of people and potential clients have seen their photographs and their display of skills, but they may never know who originally took those photos. While the entire experience could make you feel helpless, there are actions you can take to assert your intellectual property rights and protect your photos.
How Do Copyrights Work for Photos?
The first step you need to take in protecting your photos is to know just how copyrights work for online photographs and images. Knowledge is, indeed, power, and being aware of your rights under the law would help you fight for your property.
The law states that as long as your works are protected by copyright, anyone who wants to display, sell, reproduce, or distribute your photograph needs to have your consent to do so. However, if you were under a work for hire contract, the person or company who hired your services would own the photos.
Should You Register Your Photos Formally with the Copyright Office?
Technically, you don’t have to do this, but it is a great idea anyway. It provides solid proof that the images and photos are really yours. This peace of mind is absolutely worth the minimal cost of registering your works with your local copyright office.
For only $55 you are allowed register up to 750 images, and you could avoid being deceived not only by photo thieves but also by people and companies who partner with you. Richard Reinsdorf learned this lesson the hard way when he sued Sketchers for using his images outside their contract. However, his claim for damages totalling to $250 million was denied because he didn’t register his art with the copyright office. Bummer, I know.
What Should You Do In Case Your Images Are Stolen?
Seeing your work stolen is really unfortunate, but if you know who is using, distributing, or selling your photographs without your consent, you can easily make it right. Here are some actions you can take to assert your ownership:
Emailing the Website
If you have spotted a website that uses your works without your consent, the first step should be to write them an email. You can ask them to take down the stolen images unless they credit you or pay you a licensing fee. In some instances, the webmaster may not even know that the photos are stolen. It’s possible that the photos were bought from someone else claiming the images as their own!
In this case, then you will also discover some valuable information on who’s distributing your photographs and stealing the money that should’ve been yours! Give the site owner at least a week to respond and take action, and if he or she didn’t, then it’s high time to proceed to step two in our copyrights protection plan for photographers.
Nevertheless, if you don’t mind how your photos are being used, then you can ask them to at least credit you for the photos and have them add a link to your website—which could actually benefit you. When they credit you, and a lot of people see your photos, it could result in more traffic, higher sales and better search engine rankings for your online photography portfolio.
Filing a DMCA Takedown Notice
If you have given the website owner or webmaster ample time to respond, but they have still not rectified the situation, the next step is to file a DMCA takedown notice. Websites have a web hosting company. Those said companies don’t want illegal content uploaded on their servers. Illegal content includes videos, images, music, or any material which are uploaded and used without the owner’s permission. So, if the website owner has ignored you, you can contact their host instead. Here’s how you do it:
Get Evidence of the Copyright infringement
The first step is to get viable evidence of copyright infringement. All you will need here is just a screenshot of the website that uses your photographs. Don’t forget to keep backup copies of those screenshots, just in case you would need to pursue more serious actions later.
Find the Website’s Host
You would need to submit the DMCA notice promptly to the web site’s server or host. But before that, you need to find out who the host is. A lot of websites use services like Cloudflare, and that conceals who their host is. Nevertheless, you could still send an abuse notice to Cloudflare, so they can attempt to notify the webmaster or the host.
Find the Copyright Agent
As soon as you find out who the web host is, you would also need to look for the copyright agent. He or she handles infringement cases and issues for the host. While you can usually find the agent by going through their terms and conditions pages, the quickest and easiest way is perhaps to look into the directory of copyright.gov agents.
Write Your Takedown Notice
Your letter needs to have these information and pertinent data to be a valid takedown notice:
- Affix your signature to recognize you as the copyright owner
- Include your work that has been infringed upon
- Provide screenshots, the webpage and any information pertinent to the copyright infringement
- Include your contact details
- Lastly, add in a statement that the data and information you have submitted are accurate and true.
How Can You Prevent Copyright Infringement on Your Photos?
If you would like to avoid infringement or unauthorized usage easily, then a watermark is a great strategy to try. A lot of photo thieves would not want to grab a photo with a large and noticeable watermark since they would be compelled to pay a fee for the image so they can use it for a variety of purposes. Watermarking is an easy and cost-effective strategy that needs to be a part of each photographer’s arsenal in protecting their intellectual property.
WaterMarquee is an efficient online image watermarking tool. We hope you can try it out.