It’s a sinking feeling knowing that someone has stolen an image you worked so hard to create. Not only do their actions mean that they aren’t giving you credit for your image, but it also means that you might be losing money as a result. After all, why would people pay for your image if someone else is sharing it for free?
Battling copyright infringement is a serious undertaking, one that just a few years ago required photographers to engage in a long, time-consuming process with many complicated steps - the old school way, if you will. And though going old school can get you positive results, the new school way is far more efficient and much more effective. Let’s explore both.
The Old School Way
There are many steps that you have to tackle when going about this the old school way, which is difficult (to say the least) for many photographers who work long hours and long days. Here’s the process…
Find the Images
Actually finding your images is perhaps the most laborious task using the old school method. You very well might spend hours and hours and find no instances in which your images have been used by others. That’s because your image might have been altered, for example, by being added to another image, like a poster or a collage. What’s more, the size of the file and its orientation can impact the results you get when searching for your photos online. In short, finding your images could be a full-time job in and of itself.
Prepare Proper Communication
If you’re able to find one of your images being used by someone else, you’ll need to spend time preparing the proper communication. Though your first instinct might be to pen a scathing letter demanding that the offender take your image down, staying calm and inviting them to do the right thing will typically work much better in your favor. But how do you do that?
You can write or email the person, asking that they simply give you credit as the creator of the image. Going this route, you’re able to clarify that the work is yours but give the person an option of continuing to use your work, so long as you’re given the credit due to you. You might also send correspondence asking that the person pay you your typical license fee. Again, you’re giving the person the option of continuing to use your image, but you’re also looking out for your bottom line by asking that they pay the appropriate fee.
Though taking the “high road” will usually work, sometimes you have to take it to the next level.
Contact the Violator and Demand That They Cease and Desist
The next step in the old school method is to send the violator a takedown notice. Essentially, a takedown notice is a notification that the image in question is copyrighted material and that you request the publisher to take the image down. At this point, you’re no longer playing nice, and have entered the realm of taking legal action against the violator.
Takedown notices typically need to be drafted by attorneys such that the language is consistent with copyright law. Obviously, hiring an attorney means not just more of your time spent on tracking down and dealing with copyright violators, but it also means expending a significant amount of money paying an attorney to draft the documents.
Escalate to the Hosting Service or Platform
If the person using your image refuses to acknowledge the takedown notice, the next step is to contact the hosting service or platform. In this case, hosting providers are given what’s called “safe harbor” for the content that’s hosted on their platform. In other words, in exchange for having limited liability for the content of sites that they host, hosting services must disable or remove content on their service that is a violation of copyright, and do so in a timely manner. Doing so means that the person violating your copyright can no longer use your image on that particular platform, but it still isn’t a guarantee that they won’t continue using your image elsewhere.
Hire a Lawyer
Using the old school method, the final recourse is to hire an attorney and file a lawsuit against the person that’s violating your copyright. Naturally, this should be the last action you take because of the expense involved in having an attorney pursue the issue. But, this action doesn’t always end in getting a settlement that’s worth the time and money. On the one hand, the image use might fall under Fair Use, wherein someone can use your image without your consent under certain circumstances, such as for educational purposes or to critique the image. On the other hand, unless you registered the image in question, you might only be able to sue for actual damages, which might be limited to your licensing fees. In that case, the time and money spent on an attorney would hardly be worth it.
The New School Way
As long and as complicated as the old school way of dealing with copyright infringement is, the new school way is short, sweet, and to the point.
The new school way - Copypants - takes all the actions listed above, from finding the image all the way to hiring an attorney and puts it into an affordable package for photographers. With Copypants, there’s no wasting hours and hours of your precious time tracking down copyright violators. There’s no having to compose legal documents, no nasty phone calls with people that have ripped off your images. You don’t have to hire an attorney either - it’s all done for you!
All you have to do is create an account with Copypants, give them access to your online images, and they take it from there. They search for your images, and when one is found, they notify you so you can choose between several actions. Just like in the old school method, you can contact the violator and ask that you’re given credit or you can ask that they pay your license fee. You also have the option of issuing a takedown notice if the violator doesn’t seem interested in the first two options. Even better, your membership with Copypants means you’ve got their team of attorneys at the ready to do all the hard work for you.
The beauty of the new school Copypants method of taking action against copyright infringement is that it can all be done with just a few clicks of the mouse. Copypants has managed to take a long, drawn-out process and put it in a highly user-friendly package that protects your images, but does not require a ton of time or money on your part. That being the case, there’s really no reason to continue using the old school way of battling copyright infringement. Go new school so you can get back to work and focus on what’s important - continuing to create incredible images!