PostingAnatomy of a Copyright Violation
Every photographer who ever published a picture on the web probably can sing a song about this, the dreaded copyright violation.
However, since this happens very often, its important to know when to react, when to ignore and when to make some money out of it. Over the years, I've made a lot of money with copyright violations, but it never was my favorite and while I have a pretty lax policy and ignore minor cases, I absolutely dread to be told by the infringer that "its my fault" that he/she violated my copyright or "that no such thing as copyright exist". Before I document such a case, I recommend these two great resources:
Copyright - Defined and Explained by Seth Resnick:
Help! I've Been Infringed! by the Photo Attorney:
I am based in Tokyo, and while we have Copyright here, we don't have such thing as "Copyright Registration" as in the USA. If you are US based, its absolutely recommended to register your images as part of your workflow, because if you get infringed, you can claim also statutory damages and attorneys' fees and not just the actual damages and profits suffered from the infringement.
One day I received email from a random person congratulating me on my great idea of inventing the (predating even Strobist) Flash Helmet as he just saw in a [Asian Country] magazine. I thanked him, but then wondered...what magazine? I haven't licensed the pictures to any magazine in [Asian Country], so I asked him if he can send me a picture of the magazine for me to look at.
Interesting, while this is a nice little article and my name is even written correctly, I haven't gotten any request for these images. It took me a little while to find out who is responsible for this and wrote a letter like this:
While I am flattered that my site gets mentioned in a [Asian Country]
magazine, I am surprised and very, very unhappy that you as a content
creator (who should know better) violated my copyright and printed a
picture from my site WITHOUT MY PERMISSION in your magazine.
I wonder how could this happen and how do you plan to compensate
me for this copyright violation?
The answer I received short after infuriated me, especially the second part:
I apologize for copying a picture from your site, it wasn't taken or used to generate any monetary gain, as we are a free magazine. I will forward a cheque for $50 [Asian Country] dollars ( the going rate for magazine photo usage here in [Asian Country]) to you as compensation as soon as you send me your mailing address. Your articles were very enlightening and entertaining and many people who read your story ( referring to your website) commented positively on it,
I hope this helps, so i'm sorry if you feel I should have known better but I will draw your attention to a recent US supreme court ruling that now states that all photos posted on the web are now free to use in the public domain, but i really don't want to intrude on your rights so could we talk about using some more of your great articles and photos (for payment of course.)
My answer was a clear demand of money, a printed apology and this part:
I understand that you are free magazine, but you generate revenue
with advertisements and my picture was used in combination with these
advertisements. This qualifies as commercial use of my images without
Since I live in Japan and you in [Asian Country], this [a made up US supreme
court decision] would not affect either of us. I also never heard of such a
A few emails later, I settled on a payment of $1,000US and a apology printed in the first page of the next edition of this magazine and the case was closed for me:
This was not the biggest case I ever closed, but I like to share it here to show what kind of excuses people come up with AFTER they use your images, instead of doing something common courtesy would suggest: ASK FIRST.