What to do if Someone Steals Your Photos
The past few months, I’ve had a few friends that have had images stolen and used by companies to make money. Yep. That really happened… For example, a friend of mine who is a food blogger had an image stolen from his blog and then USED by a company for their own monetary gain. Let me repeat: My friend NEVER GOT PAID or even a mention for their hard work.
Now, you’re probably thinking that it’s mostly the super small companies that do this… NOPE. There’s been quite a few cases where very large brands, chain stores and even media outlets have stolen the images from all different kinds of bloggers probably thinking they can get away with it.
NO! THIS IS NOT OK.
While my friend was freaking out about the stolen images, he came across @PixsyHQ on Twitter and they offered him advice and ultimately the help he needed. Overall, he got the company that stole his images to pay him for his work and promise to never lift another image of his again.
Now, I have personally been so impressed by their service that I wanted to tell you about it because STEALING IS NOT OK.
Below is some legal stuff from Pixsy that you should know so if you ever run into this, you’ll be much better prepared! Also, you should check them out and sniff around their webpage to see if it’s right for you
The Rise Of The Blog
The term “weblog” was coined in 1997. Today, shortened to “blog”, they have become a big part of online culture. We’ve come a long way since LiveJournal. In less than ten years (1999 – 2006) the number of blogs grew from just 23 to 50 million. By the end of 2010, this number had grown to over 152 million.
There is no arguing that blogging today is a popular form of expression and something of a modern phenomenon. Blog authors around the globe take time to craft their own content. Covering topics ranging from politics to travel, beauty to health, music to movies. In fact, if you can name it, there is probably a blog about it!
What Is Copyright?
The first important thing to know about copyright is that it is assigned to you by law at the point of creation in a tangible form. As a blogger, your words are protected as soon as you put pen to paper, or on your digital device. So if you snap an image for your blog, you own the copyright to that image. The only exception to this is when you are writing for or taking the image under contract to someone else, ie- if you work for them.
Do You Have To Register Copyright?
It’s also important to note that your work is protected with or without registration. There are some benefits to registering your copyright though. If you are a freelance writer or if content creation (even for your own personal blog) is a big part of what you do, registration means you’re covered for statutory damages and attorneys fees if a legal dispute does occur.
In being aware of your rights, it’s also important that you respect the rights of other bloggers and creatives! If you’ve written a great post but borrow someone else’s image without their express permission then you may be violating their copyright.
The blogging community is very strong, and in general, very respectful. However, these situations can occur and it’s best practice to audit your blog and to keep a log of any images and licenses you use. Also be careful when using images made available under Creative Commons. It’s also important to correctly attribute any images you use. Credit where credit is due.
Remember though, that posting with credit is not ok unless you have a license to use the image! Although ideas are not covered by copyright, if you’ve found yourself inspired by someone else’s blog or website, then it’s polite to link to them from your post.
Using an active protection service such as Pixsy means you can easily monitor your images for unauthorized use. Today, blogging can be more than a hobby. Taking steps to protect your content helps to reinforce your brand. It also sets a precedent amongst the rest of your online community.
Fashion blogger, Georgia, who runs Mapped Out Blog successfully claimed compensation using the Pixsy resolution service after we found her image being used without her permission. She wrote a post about the experience. She said, “I thought I probably wouldn’t have much of a problem with my images being used until I logged in and saw just how many of my images were being used on other websites! Thankfully, Pixsy makes it super easy to get compensation for these images”.
Know The Law
In short, ignorance of the law is not a defence. It’s important to take time to know and understand your rights and the rights of others. There are a lot of great online resources, including the Pixsy Academy, where you can find easy to access information about both creating and using online content.
*Legal Terms and explanations reprinted with permission from Pixsy.
taraustralis View All
An Aussie girl gone walkabout in the great big world!
I’m disappointed with Pixsy so far… great for identifying use of images, but for me a complete let down in terms of obtaining compensation. Each of two images submitted was in use on the website of someone acting commercially – in the USA I believe – I thought that would be straightforward for Pixsy but they took 11 and 16 months to finally advise in each case they weren’t chasing further. 😦 They will tell you that you can get hundreds of dollars for each image use but in my experience it seems if the offending party isn’t cooperative then Pixsy just discontinue unless they think they will get substantial sums. One of my images has been used hundreds of times …. one of the main offending occurrences with blogs is where other websites copy the entire blog or portions of it, and then pick up ad revenue off their own page hits. I’m not sure how much Pixsy would consider they would be able to make from those kind of sites to make it worthwhile pursuing.
I’ve not tried any alternatives to Pixsy …. as I am not sure how they compare. The thing that attracted me to Pixsy was the “free” model… though with hindsight I’m wondering if that was the right choice.
Hey Dave, this is disappointing for us. We never promise “hundreds of dollars” for each image randomly, we assess each use based on a set of image licensing criteria and absolutely, some of these can be quite substantial. If we make the decision to discontinue a case it’s because a lawyer has advised us that we are unlikely to win or will incur more costs continuing than we are able to recover. As we work on a no win no fee model, we absorb all of the time, effort, energy, and cost, but in a situation where we are going to actively lose money to continue a case, we have to close it.
This usually happens when the infringer is totally non-cooperative which is why long delays occur too. It doesn’t cost anything to submit a case, get our advice and have us put together a claim, which we then pursue. We absorb all the risk once we engage in legal proceedings too but we cannot do this is in every single instance, it depends on the merits and value of the case. A photographer out on their own would have to make the same decision using their own lawyer only it would cost them hundreds of dollars to even get to that point.
We only discontinue when it’s simply not feasible for us to continue. We won’t accept a case unless we think we can win, but sadly we cannot win them all. We have successfully resolved over 40,000 cases since 2014. It gets super complicated with hosted content and hotlinking etc. Proving a commercial use is not straightforward especially when the infringer fights back or the image isn’t registered. I hope this sheds some more light on the process. We do really appreciate this type of feedback though and I hope you are able to successfuly resolve cases in the future, whichever route you choose to take.
Hannah, Community Manager, Pixsy
Hi Hannah, thanks for the reply. I felt with the article above quoting another blog saying “Thankfully, Pixsy makes it super easy to get compensation for these images” it is important to highlight an alternate point of view as a user of the service, i.e. that it is not necessarily “super easy”.
I totally understand the business model, and indeed that no business is going choose to undertake activities that cause a loss if they can help it. In terms of feedback to the communications process, I think Pixsy could perhaps look to explain things a bit better in this type of situation, as the overall impression I got from the communications I received from Pixsy was that the offending parties, who are storing and using my images on their own websites, simply ignored you, and then you gave up. e.g. was a response received, did they argue they had permission? etc. Maybe Pixsy just doesn’t want to get into that… but it is highly frustrating when the case is discontinued as the offending party is clearly using the images, and its not as though they are being used in some remote country; it is in the USA.
Out of interest, what percentage of submitted cases actually end in compensation?
Stealing photos suck. I am really easy and they can take my photo anytime as long as they ask me first. But those thieves have no manner.