No. That's not okay.
Admittedly my knickers were in a twist. Recently, I discovered that a former customer who had declined a fair-price licensing agreement instead "misappropriated" images from my website...watermarked images no less.
After bemoaning the decline of the western civilization to supportive friends (and anyone else who would listen), I contacted the company who had unwittingly e-published the "liberated" photos and they quickly removed them from their site. But that got me thinking. I've followed the best practices hammered out by other experienced photo professionals and have been religious with my tags and meta data. So why this and why now?
I had my goodies out the Internet for all to see and they attracted attention. While we have no control over the character of the people interested, we can add and keep up with multiple layers of protection available via U.S. and international laws, industry watchdogs, software providers, and even the big guns of the Internet itself.
Have *that* conversation
State upfront and in writing how, where, and for what period of time your images can be used. Be clear and consistent across all proposals, agreements, and communications. See that the signed contract is returned before delivering any image files or prints.
As part of your workflow, create and use a template for watermarking, embedding IPTC headers and standardized meta data, and/or tagging all images before conversion for delivery. Add a notice of rights reserved (or the FBI anti-piracy seal and warning) to your website, blog, email footer, printed marketing materials, and social media sites. Register your copyright for multiple images with the U.S. Copyright office. Read the fine print on photo contest entry forms, micro stock agency submission agreements, and any agreement that promises exposure in return for using your pictures.
Plan regular check ups
You can use Google Images to search* and see where your photos are popping up online. Either drag and drop into the search box (Chrome or Firefox only), paste an url, or upload an image.
*currently supported in Chrome, Firefox, IE, Safari
Practice saying "no"
When you discover unauthorized use, address it as soon as possible. Just say "no" to shoot and burn (or shoot and hand over media card) requests.
Run with a 'good' crowd
Plenty of information is available on- and offline. Finding the best (reputable and credible and correct) resources however takes time. Industry leaders like the Professional Photographer's Association, American Society of Media Photographers, and American Photographic Artists follow (and often fuel) the discussion on Intellectual Property Rights while offering reliable information on their websites. Unless you are planning to read and commit to memory the entire DMCA (and even then), bookmark and use as reference.
Ultimately, we are the best and most committed advocates for protecting our creations. Keep an eye on your goodies.
Keywords: anti-piracy, image licensing, photographer protection, copyright, photographer's resources, intellectual property rights, dmca, photographer's rights, intellectual property theft
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