I don’t want to rant. Nope, not gonna do it. But in the spirit of Halloween I want to address a scary problem for blogger’s everywhere. Copyright infringement.
I am a professional blogger, freelance writer, and photographer. As such I spent a lot of time, effort, and money to do what I love. In return, I may be paid by a company or brand to give my honest opinion of a product. I spend long days using these products and writing about them. Countless hours are spent photographing and editing horse shows, events, or products for my reviews and for marketing campaigns. Attending conferences and paying for my equipment. This is a profession and as such I receive payment in return for my work.
However, today alone two other bloggers I know had their photos stolen by companies and used for their own marketing campaigns. The watermarks were removed, no credit was given, and more- no payment was made. These bloggers were not asked if it was okay to share their content, signed no commercial license, and more- by removing the watermark it appears they knew what they were doing was wrong. Yet they still did it.
I’ve come across this a few times personally and professionally. Sometimes it’s ignorance. In today’s society where everything is available at the click of a button, we are used to immediate gratification. But here is the thing. Everything I write or photograph is mine. I own the copyright. Period. Taking quotes, repurposing my content, or taking a screenshot of my photographs without buying them is illegal.
There are a few ways to deal with this problem, and often it is done on a case by case basis.
I prefer the direct approach and giving people the benefit of the doubt. Write a notice to the perpetrator outlining the details of the copyright infringement. Have photographic evidence backin you up, i.e. a screenshot of the violation. Provide an itemized invoice that includes a penalty fee that they must pay. By law the minimum fine an infringer will be forced to pay if it goes to court is $200.
The onus is then on the guilty party. You found out about the infringement and notified them in writing, asking them to remove it. Will they apologize and pay the fee? Will they fight it?
Contact a Third-Party
If you haven’t received a satisfactory response, or blatant disregard to your initial approach what are the next steps? If your material is posted to YouTube, Instagram, etc. you may contact the platform directly and provide a complaint.
Use Social Media
This is my least favorite approach, but I will allow that in some instances it may be necessary. I am NOT a fan of bullying. But if you have tried your best to deal with the situation privately to no avail, you may threaten or proceed with releasing the information on social media to publicly shame them. Tell your friends, spread the word about these poor business practices. Note: this is a last resort in my mind. Sometimes individuals will claim ignorance and try to fix the problem. On the other hand, some websites will purposely hack and pull content from blogs or social media for their own sites without any credit, notice, or permission.
Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is a group of laws that protect copyrighted content on digital formats such as text, video, and photos. This is well known for the DMCA Takedown Notice.
I hope to never have to pull out the big guns, but the sad reality is that I probably will at some point. In a world where technology is gaining the upper hand, the rules are changing.
According to Purdue University, the penalties for copyright infringement are such:
|“Copyright infringement is the act of violating any of a copyright owner’s exclusive rights granted by the federal Copyright Act. There are three elements that must be in place in order for the infringement to occur.|
The legal penalties for copyright infringement are:
The bottom line is if you didn’t create it, receive permission, or buy it- it’s stealing. Don’t be a pirate or you’ll have to walk the plank. You will be caught.
Here is an amazing infographic “What to Do If Your Photographs Are Stolen” by KeriLynn Engel
Do you have experience with copyright infringement?