Copyrights ©, Author's Rights & Watermarks
I decided to write this article to share a few important items I’ve learned across the years which have helped me plenty as a professional photographer and as a businessman.
Some may feel that none of this apply to them, but it does, for is about protecting our photos from any theft, the concept used to create our work and any unauthorized use which rightfully so we are entitled to be compensated. If any of us ends up in court and the judge sees that our image that was stolen and infringed upon didn’t have any watermarks he/she may feel that we actually don’t care much about our images and were not as diligent. I treat my images the same as when my children were small… keeping an eye on them and knowing where they were while protecting them.
Remember this, who Owns The © Rules
Copyright=© Applies to any artistic creation, painting, photos, writings, art work, music and TV shows.
Most of us got into photography or the creative field by different ways but the constant is that we all LOVE taking photos and MOST tend to give those wonderful creations away since they don’t have a clue of the value of their creation. Here I am not referring to prints given to family members etc. But more like a dentist telling his clients to come over and the doctor will take care of their mouths just for fun or a chef at a top 5 star restaurant telling folks come and eat for FREE.
With the arrival of digital cameras, apps and smart phones now everybody is a photographer or at least that is what many think since is much easier and less costly than worrying about film, processing, the waiting days or months before been able to see the results and of course the most important element should be the talent which, for a new generation, it doesn’t matter now we have cameras where people can check the back screen and keep shooting 20,000 more images until one looks ok, photoshop or the many apps turning images into a Caravaggio painting. It’s is as simple as point, shoot, post and VOILA I am too Cartier-Bresson.
But there is a lot more to do after the shutter was clicked and that comes with having a solid understanding of the importance of our photos. Sadly less than 5% of those people posting their work on-line or any SM, besides having 1,000 likes, have any knowledge of the real value of an image.
The best and most powerful tool we as artist have is the ownership of our © photos. The moment we snap the image automatically is ours unless it was done as a work-for-hired which in the photo industry is a dirty word for it will strip you out of your own soul. Work-for-Hired is when there is a contract between two parties and the photographer transfer his/her © or ownership to another person or entity.
Each time we place our creation on social media we are sharing it with thousands and perhaps millions of people all over the planet faster than the time we spent taking a shower. My advice to anyone posting images online or social media is to protect your images at all cost by attaching the photographer's name and © on your photos. And if any of you ever take a news worthy image or related to a high profile case by all means don’t place it online without a watermark. You want to be found, and if it doesn’t have your © and name and someone steals it, it can branch out like a wild fire and be use across the planet while others are making money out of your photo.
Some of you may say:
A. Why do it when is a stupid thing to do since anybody can steal it.
B. Anybody can erase/photoshop your watermark in seconds.
C. I’d never do that for it takes away from my beautiful photo, it looks ugly and viewers won’t like it.
D. A photo client may not like it...I don’t like it.
E. Is too much work going after those people later.
A photo with a © on it has an owner, a history and a home. As I wrote previously, unless the creator/photographer is doing any work for hired. If it comes to giving up your © make sure that a large amount is been paid, as in more than 20,000 € or 100,000 € , depending how unique the image is.
The best and most powerful tool we as artist have is the © which as I wrote is yours the moment you take the photo. But if you actually register your images with the copyrights office it goes even further. All you need to do is get online and go to the U.S. Copyright Office to register your work and you will have full legal protection from the moment you filed it, until the death of the artist plus 70 years later which will give your heirs plenty of time to capitalized on your idea, vison, creation, talent and hard work. A typical registration fee used to be 60€ for single images or as a bundled or photo story but that changed recently so make sure to read the new rules.
When your images have been registered then you will have more teeth and protection from the law and most Intellectual Property attorney will help you without charging you anything upfront and payment is contingent until all is settled. Without first registering your image most attorneys, unless you pay them a hefty fees, will not represent you at all for you didn’t do your own work first, meaning it wasn’t that important for you.
If there is a clear proof that someone went to the labor of removing or cropping your ©, watermark, any metadata, your name or anything linking you as the rightful owner then you are entitled to compensation for statutory damages, attorneys fees against the infringers + attorney fees. The court will award any statutory damages and the artist doesn't even need to show any specific loss at all.
If the court finds that a person/client/company/magazine maliciously and willfully committed the infringement it can send the damages all the way to the sky up to 150,000€ per infringement which is not as common but it happens up to been rewarded millions. What is not uncommon is for an artist to be rewarded by the court 30,000-50,000€ per © abuses. So if ten (10) of your photos had been infringed upon that is a great chunk of cash.
How is this for our protection: (b) REMOVAL OR ALTERATION OF COPYRIGHT MANAGEMENT INFORMATION. Section 1202 of the U.S. Copyright Act makes it illegal for anybody to remove the watermark from your image so that it can hide or obscure the illegal usage. The monetary fines start at no less than 3,000€ all the way to 25,000€ + + attorneys' fees & any damages per any infringement.
Who Is causing the Damage & Illegal Usage of our Images:
1. If is a Mum&Pop small biz or a young student chances are that they didn't know much about how © actually works and they probably thought that is ok to grab it and use it. To folks like that is best to send a strong cease and desist letter and educate them as how their wrong doing, even if done quite innocently, is affecting and causing you financial damage. You will see how fast they poo and get it resolve without going any further. (Take screen shoot for proof)
2. If the abuse is been done by a large company, adv agency or a magazine, then right away take a screen shoot of the web page showing how they had been using your image and also as a proof for it maybe there today but deleted from their website next day. If possible try to find out how long it has been there. Then find the proper contact at their PR/HR/Communication/AD/DirofPH dept and send a serious letter mentioning that your work is © and registered as well and that the letter requires an immediate cease and desist for their illegal usage and that a failure to remove it would substantially improves your case for showing willful infringement and potential statutory damages rise from 30,000€ for unwillingly ALL THE WAY TO 150,000€ for a “HAHAHAHA we knew we were stealing your work but didn’t know you were that smart.” Also include the amount of compensation you feel entitled too. If you are not sure how much to charge then contact a local pro photographer or any professional business organization, or an online photo network of professionals and ask for tips. But honestly, once the infringer is a top company or high profile person at get an I.P. attorney for is not that simply to navigated and you have a strong case with much $$$$ to gain.
3. If your work was stolen and is been use on a blog, you can send a note and a bill. Personally, if the blog doesn’t have much following and zero advs I treat it as a Mum&Pop shop and do send them a note asking how take it down, also how they obtained and why they felt entitled to grab it. If is not removed in one day a bill is send afterwards. You can also find out who is hosting their website so they can take your violated images right away. If the service provider doesn't remove or block the abuser or do anything at all then you can go after them too but most likely they will listen and act fast.
Remember this, A photo Used Is A Photo Pay For.
And don't steal photos off the web/SM/magazines. Otherwise you can get greedy and play the lottery but the law is against you. Don't whine if you get caught
Manuello Paganelli © May 16, 2018
Los Angeles CA