It's been an incredibly frustrating last few weeks for me as a photographer. It goes beyond the 'normal' hustle and bustle of the busy holiday season (Christmas to a photographer is like April 15th to an accountant), and the growing pains of launching your first business. As each day unfolds, I am becoming more and more versed on copyright laws and just how easy it is for anyone to take your work just because they think it's pretty and shiny and want it.
I personally can't stand big obnoxious watermarks across images, but unfortunately it seems I'll be taking that route in 2007. In the last week alone I've been alerted to three of my images being used without my permission. And those are just the ones I know about - the ones that people who recognize my work when they're out there surfing around are then kind enough to send me a nice 'heads-up' note so I can investigate it myself further.
One image was used as a logo by a very large corporation who knows better. Let's just say they have teams of attorneys on staff in big fancy Metropolis office suites to prevent this kind of thing with their own work. I was approached about using my image. A price was set. An invoice was requested. And then lo and behold, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a very copyrighted photograph I'd taken - of a minor - sitting right there smiling back at me on their site anyway. I may be blonde. But I'm not that blonde. This one has yet to have the final curtain drop, even though I've received oral and written apologies regarding the 'misunderstanding'. But let's just say the registering of many images will be in my future as a result of all this. Stating an image is "copyrighted" is proving to no longer be just enough.
As much as I love Flickr, it's quickly becoming a stock art replacement "free-for-all". They have buried their little legal byline (that notes if an image is copyrighted with all rights reserved or Creative Commons licensed) in such tiny print at the bottom of the page (which requires scrolling past the comments), that no one bothers to look for it. Why scroll when you can right-click or print-screen? And honestly, I don't think anyone bothers to care about the legalese anyway. Including Flickr, because when I wrote to notify them of the problem several of us are facing in unnerving frequency as of late, I basically got a form letter "thank you, drive through" 10-words-or-less response in return a full week later. The average Flickr visitor seems to view their site as a nice collection of pretty pictures just there for the taking. And if individual photographers don't make them available for download, well screencapping will take care of that little 'issue' for them right quick. It's a no-win.
In the case of a Google video I found one of my newborn photos appearing in last week, the music artist was nice enough and offered to remove my image immediately from their creation. However, this was in his original note to me:
"...I was under the impression that I would be able to use your image under 'fair use' copyright rules as it only appears for less than one second in the video..."
Ummmm...no. Copyrighted is copyrighted. One second or ten. "All rights reserved" and "fair use" are not one and the same.
And in yet another instance... A photograph my husband took appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald Blog this week without credit or advance permission (since updated to include copyright credit and hyperlink). The site's author was incredibly nice and cooperative. However, when she wrote me she stated, "I downloaded it on the weekend and couldn't remember where I'd gotten it." This is someone publishing within the Sydney Morning Herald's website - screencapping photographs (because mine are not available for public download) - and then publishing them without even remembering where they'd been taken from.
How do you fight this? Where do you start? I'm honestly too tired to educate the world right now. Raising two toddlers is hard enough. And I have Christmas to get through first...
My motto this season?
Ho ho blow me -