Sunday, February 22, 2009
Stolen Photographs - Battling Copyright Theft
Get Your Money Back
About 20 years ago, when I lived in the UK, I came home in the middle of the day to find that my house had been burgled. A few items had been taken, along with some cash, glass had been broken in a kitchen window and the house was in some disarray. The biggest problem, though, was the complete sense of violation that I was left with - and this seems to be a dominant theme amongst victims of this particular crime.
How dare they come into my home and help themselves to my property! What gives them the right to think that they can treat me this way? These were just a few of the things I said about it - and by and large, they served no real purpose, other than to help me vent my rage. I never got my items back and the thieves were never caught - even though I voiced my view to the Police that they may have been living across the street from me.
Over the last few months, I have been using Google Analytics to track visitors to both my main website and this blog. I can see how many visitors I get in a day (not nearly enough!), where they come from (all over the world) and what keywords they use to search Google - which results in a visit to either of my websites. One particular keyword - the name of a UK-based comedian whose photograph I took about 2 years ago and have on my main website - kept coming up over recent weeks. The first time it appeared, I took little notice but after 3 shows, my interested was aroused. So, I did my own Google (Images) search on the name - and right there in front of my eyes was a link to the website of a London-based theatrical management agency, with my photograph on it.
First things first: I own the copyright of that photograph. I have never been approached by anyone to seek permission for it's use on that website (or any other). It is being used on 3 separate pages - the home page, the "list of artists" page and the page appertaining to the person themselves. When I downloaded the image and looked at the metadata, I saw that all the information that I had included - my copyright info, my contact address and a statement that unauthorized usage was illegal - had been "stripped" out of the image.
This morning, I emailed the owner of the management agency, informing him that it is a criminal offence (in the UK) to do what he did, and enclosed a copy of my invoice for 1 year's usage (back-dated from January 1st 2008) for use of the image on 3 sections of his website. I used my photo agent's pricing calculator to arrive at a total amount owing of €2260 (about £2000 and $2900), to be paid in 7 days. I told him that if he didn't remove the illegally used images, I would send him another invoice for this year's usage (2009 - 2010) next week. I also copied the email to my union official (National Union of Journalists).
I then made screen shots of the places where my photo is shown on the management company website, and also copied the website page to my desktop. I made notes of the name and address of the company and the date that I saw the photographs displayed. Then, I printed all the screen shots out, with hard copies of my letter and invoice and, tomorrow, I will post them to the management company by registered post.
If anyone is interested in reading more about how to address this problem - David Hoffman has written an excellent article about how he recouped £27000 by tracking down the illegal use of just a small sample of his photography - with two night's work.
Unauthorized usage of copyrighted photography - no matter insignificant that usage may appear - is theft. Photography is my livelihood and I can't afford for anyone just to come along, take my property and use it for their own aims without so much as a "May I?" I feel as violated by this "theft" as I did when my house was burgled all those years ago.
Click here to read part II of this item
stock photography photography freelance photography Life