When I started out with this photography hobby I quite happily put up photos all over the web. I has snap happy and shutter button crazy and really got the most out of my DSLR. I quickly realised there is more than just pushing the shutter button and things like post image processing, image quality, composition and subject matter became important to me. I think it is at that stage that I became serious about this hobby. So as I got serious about photography the shutter count on my DSLR dropped as well as the images I posted online. This is not because I spend less time with my camera, but I now do a bit of research before I go out and capture landscapes and plan my shoots. I have a general idea on what I want to get so when I am out in the field I do not take the shot unless I have covered the basics of exposure and composition and more importantly I am prepared to go spend the time in POST before I press that shutter button.
However all this effort paid off and I started getting compliments on the images I put out there. I started using sites like FlickR and DeviantArt to get some critique from the rest of the photography world and that’s when I got struck by a bit of reality. In today’s digital world if you create content there is going to come a time that you get ripped off or your images are going to be used without your approval or any credit to you. So after all the effort you put into the image some nana takes your creation and you might not even know about it. Now I suppose that is a risk you need to take if you want put your images out there, but there are a few things you can do to mitigate the risk. There are also a few things you should know about copyright and your rights on works you produce.
Under New Zealand copyright you are automatically protected without the need to register the work. There are avenues to register creative works and it makes it easier , but for me just knowing I have legal protection is enough for now. Some exclusions apply, but read more on it from the CopyRight Council. What I found handy recently is to register my work with a Creative Commons license. If you are like me and just still a enthusiast or hobbyist you want the exposure on some of your work, this gives you an option to let others use it legally while you still get the credit.
The grey area where the legalities comes in is with international sites like Facebook where you might get caught out by the fine print. Although you own the rights to it you do allow the evil Facebook people to use your work without compensation or credit once you accept their terms and conditions. This issue is not unique to them, but you might face similar issues on FREE social media or other Free web sites or services. I got so upset with this issue I removed all my images from Facebook recently and also closed my page.
However removing your online content is not really the answer so what options do you have?
Meta data is all that camera info and details you used to ignore in your editing software. It captures details about the time and date, camera, lens, shutter speed, iso, f-stop, geo location (if you have a GPS option) and embeds the data in the image. You can do yourself a favour and set a lot of this info in your camera so it is embedded in the image the second you capture the image.
When you post images to a file or a website make sure that by the very least you export the copyright and contact info with the image. Now don’t give out your home address details, but a website or e-mail address will do. This is going to come in handy later when I show you how to search for your work online. I use Lighroom for image processing and posting directly into services like Facebook or FlickR so if there are images that you do not want to contain location data you can set up a separate collection or publishing service. Search engines does give results based on meta data so your image should contain your name or business details and always contact details.
Every image I put out now will have a watermark with my name and the website it was posted on originally. It is very much up to you how the watermark looks or where it is located. Some people have the watermark posted over the whole image, but I prefer it a bit more elegantly like something in the corner. I know you also get software that places it in the image, but invisible to the naked eye. For the sites where I sell images I will offer the image without a watermark or however the client wants it on whatever surface they choose. It really depends if they buy a print or buy rights to use the image. I do not sell the rights to the image , but rather the use of it.
Now there is something to be said for the quality and resolution of the images you post. Many people will say you should not post full or high resolution copies of your images, but rather post samples. If I see an image that is low quality or poor resolution I just skip to the next image because the low quality probably did not draw my attention to the subject matter or the content. That’s just me, but I am a bit of a pixel peep and I want all the emotion and effect to come through in the image. If you are what you eat then it can also be said you are what you display.
Finding your work through searches
So now that I have given you some insights into copyright and tools on how to protect your images how do you go about hunting down the thugs. I do not know of a tool or software package that can do this so it is a bit of a manual process.
Search for it with a search engine. On the image you posted simply right click the image and choose copy image location in windows or two finger tap on Mac and stick it in your search engine. You want to search by image. If you use Chrome you can simply use the search for this image option. Not perfect, but you should see results for sites you posted the image to or links to them, but also those ones that might need some investigation into.
Another handy webtool is Tineye.com. You can upload your image or url and search for it. This is where that meta data will come in quite handy.
So what do you do when you find any of your work used illegally? Well that is pretty much up to you ,but here are some options.
Make contact with the offending party. I have to believe that a lot of people are ignorant or blissfully unaware they are breaking copyright laws by reposting or printing out images and using them in some manner. You need to inform them of the violation and the images copyright status. You want it in writing and you want to be very specific about the image and draw their attention to the violation. I would not be aggressive, but be informative and firm giving them information about the image you believe that is used in the violation and your copyright status whether it be a Creative Commons license or any other. Make sure you state your terms for using the image and set a deadline for negotiations. You could just be looking for the credit or acknowledgement or you could get compensation from the use of your work.
Should you and the offending party not come to an agreement request the removal of the image. At this stage you could start considering legal options.
Most websites have a feature that you may request removal of an image citing copyright violation. It is a process you just need to follow and you would need follow their specific instructions.
You can also submit a request to search engines to remove results from searches that violates copyright of your image. Here is the one for Google
What I would not recommend, is to make threats or an attempt to publicly shame the offending party. The latter can work, but is not advised. If I look how Apple handled the issue with the clock interface with Swiss Rail I tend to think both parties came out winners and the only losers was the tabloids
Now you know 🙂
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