Does your book / website / blog contain your own images?
Photographer Jeremy Nicholl wrote a great blog post about his own experiences with copyright infringement and created a 10 point plan to follow. Anyone can register written words or images at the US Copyright office, and does not need to live in the States.
Jeremy lives in Moskau, Russia, but thank goodness registered his images in the USA – and it paid handsomely for him. He advises: “Register your images at the US Copyright Office. The country may be a Berne signatory, but in practice the USA has a dual copyright system: major protection and zero protection. Unregistered images get the latter: lacking the option for punitive damages and legal expenses it’s financially impractical to chase infringers, and they know it! Registered images carry the potential for $150,000 compensation per infringement plus legal costs: so what’s to think about?”
“Your small-time infringer may be a bigger player than you think. At a casual glance my infringer was a cuddly-looking blog: indeed its sister site was once caught heisting an image from Flickr, and when the owner complained people told him “lighten up, it’s just a blog”. But a few seconds research revealed that both sites are owned by one of the world’s largest media companies, which bought my infringer’s site a few years ago. The price? Ten million dollars. And that for a site so cheap that I caught it swiping images from iStock rather than pay the $1 asking price.” Read his great blog post (and some very useful comments) on his site jeremynicholl.com
Photographers no longer need to heavily blemish their work out of fear of theft on the internet. The technology exists to find commercial infringements. Two website tools will help you – for free:
You can find a preexisting copy of your image. Just select “Similar Images” to find other copies that may exist.
It is also a handy tool but if shows more international websites/blogs, rather than commercial US infringements through their software.
It is very important to have at least one noticeable watermark on the image. Add a “© and your photographer name” in font size 10 in the lower right or left corner, which is non-invasive but still states clearly the copyright.
Claims in US Courts:
Sure, your manuscript has copyright from the moment you put “pen to paper.” However, if you did not register your copyright officially – or after the infringement happened – you can only sue for “Actual Damages” – not so easy to demonstrate! Invest $35 in your book or photograph and obtain a registered copyright. You will then be able to command a higher claim from an infringer: you can collect “Statutory Damages” plus all your Attorney fees:
- If you have registered your work before infringement, you can collect Statutory Damages plus attorney fees.
- If you registered after infringement, but before filing suit, you can only sue for Actual Damages – which you have to demonstrate.
Necessary Content of Copyright Notices in Your Book:
- The symbol © or the word “Copyright”
- The year of first publication of the work
- The name of the owner or creator
Where to Register?
online to the Copyright Office, Canadian Intellectual Property Office
(fee Can $50)
online to the U.S. Copyright Office,
via the Library of Congress (fee US $ 35)
online UK Copyright Service
(online registration are £39.00 for 5 years or £64.00 for 10 years per work/package)
An attorney is not necessary at all to register your manuscript. You can register on-line (which is cheaper) or by snail mail. Copyright registrations become effective the day on which application and payment are received at the office, but it may take months until you receive the certificate.
Infringers might use “fair use” to their defense.
Are you familiar with the term fair use? Just because they provide attribution and/or a link back to the original doesn’t mean they are free and clear. Fair use has nothing to do with attribution.
A good example of fair use of an image to use online is product reviews. If you want to review a book, a new piece of technology, a food product or whatever widget, you will likely want to include a photo. Other reasons (e.g. for written content) could be for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research.
Fair use means one is allowed to infringe on someone’s copyright and you can’t do anything about it. If their use is covered by fair use, they even don’t have to provide attribution (although it would be nice). The question is:
- Why are they using the image/text?
- Did they transform the image/text?
- Use for commercial or non-profit purposes?
- How much of the image/text are they using?
- Effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work
Read more about fair use at the SocialMediaExaminer
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