Protecting Your Photographs From Internet Theft
In today's digital world publishing photos online is not safe. Unfortunately, if your work is good, digital theft is more of a "when" than an "if" type of situation. Copyright infringement is often regarded as harmless; however, it's a very serious issue that could have negative repercussions on both your business and livelihood.
If you've been victim to theft, don't sit back and let it happen. You have every right to fight the good fight and protect your name and assets. The following tips will help:
Make Sure You're Credited
There's a common misconception that all a publisher needs to do is credit the source. However, unless you've given written consent, this will not suffice. If you're happy for the thief to continue using the image, at the very least, make sure you take the credit. Check any outbound links to make sure they are redirecting to your website or social media profiles. Sometimes chasing the end tail is much tougher than it seems; therefore, even thieves that have good intentions may end up crediting the wrong source.
Prepare a DMCA Notice
If the website that published your image is American, prepare a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) notice. This law was enacted in 1998 to protect ISPs (Internet Service Providers) based in the United States from damages when they are hosting infringed materials without their knowledge. By sending a DMCA notice to the ISP that's hosting the domain (providing it's based in the US), you can have the infringed material removed—you must be able to prove that you're the owner.
Prepare a Cease and Desist
Send a cease and desist notice to the infringer, explaining that you are the owner of the published images and that they are not authorized to use them. Either request immediate payment for the image or tell them to remove it. If the publisher denies the request, seek professional legal help. Criminal lawyers (like those at Russo Lawyers) are often taken more seriously, especially if a potential lawsuit could arise. In addition, providing copyright notices and letters can prove that the infringer wilfully stole the images with the knowledge that they were committing a crime. This may entitle you to statutory damages, should the case be taken to court.
Going forward, learn from your mistakes. Watermarking your photos will serve as a viable deterrent, as will only making high-res images available after purchase. Whenever you publish photos online, make sure they've been registered for copyright. While this won't stop people from stealing them, it will boost your chance of success if you ever have to take legal action.