How do you protect your work?

Discussion in 'Photography' started by Dallas, Nov 15, 2011.

  1. Dallas

    Dallas Guest

    As an amateur I'll often upload photos to photo hosting sites.

    On my last vacation, I managed to get a couple of very nice shots that
    I think would have commercial value to travel related businesses. As I
    spread them around for people to view, I guess I'd be pretty ticked off
    if I saw them on a commercial website or in a book without my

    I don't even know if photos like this have any value worth worrying
    about. What would be the price range for photos like this and how can
    you keep people from ripping them off?
    Dallas, Nov 15, 2011
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  2. Dallas

    ray Guest

    You don't want them pirated - don't put them on the internet. Pretty
    simple, huh?
    ray, Nov 15, 2011
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  3. Dallas

    PeterN Guest

    I have a concern similar to yours. Here's my conclusion:
    If someone really wants to rip off your image there is no way to stop
    them. However, you can discourage a rip off by:

    Posting only low resolution images of those you care about;
    Post a copyright notice on each image;
    Use a websight that does not permit copying, unless you indicate it's OK;
    Restrict access to your images;

    PeterN, Nov 15, 2011
  4. Dallas

    Alan Browne Guest

    Let it free and you lose control. Only if you use a watermarking
    service (puts an invisible digital watermark in the image) which crawls
    the web checking images, do you have a systematic means of protection
    against web use.
    Published in a mainline magazine about $400 - $800.

    Newspaper, about $50 - $400.

    But, so many people GIVE images to magazines and newspapers that they
    don't have to look for content that they have to pay for. And they can
    get royalty free editorial images for 50 cents - $5.00 or so.

    Keep your online images small enough that they look good but can't be
    printed at high quality. 800 pixels wide works out to about 2. 5 to 4.5
    inches wide when printed (depends on their screen size). So it's a
    tough choice on making a good presentation online and preventing
    unauthorized use.

    Lastly of course you can add a copyright to all your images in the image
    space (as well as in the tags). That might help at least get asked for
    permission. But I doubt it.
    Alan Browne, Nov 15, 2011
  5. Dallas

    Pete A Guest

    True. You could try the UK approach: forcing ISPs to block sites with
    pirated material, but you may find this difficult to achieve in some
    parts of the world :)
    Pete A, Nov 15, 2011
  6. You're probably wrong about the commercial value, in today's market.
    In theory, use in a book at all widely distributed would be worth dozens
    to hundreds of dollars (much more on the cover). But you have to find
    somebody willing to pay you that much. I actually did get paid dozens,
    just short of 3, for a small B&W photo used in a book a few years ago.

    In the US (I've only really paid attention to US copyright law in any
    detail), your photo is copyright from the moment you take it (when it's
    "fixed in tangible form", which explicitly includes computer storage).
    There is no legal requirement that you place a copyright notice anywhere
    around the photo; you can't lose your copyright by failing to give

    You need to register copyright before you can file a complaint about a
    violation. You can register copyright on unpublished work; there's all
    sorts of official info at <>.

    If a violation is outside the United States, as a practical matter
    you're unlikely to be able to do anything about it. This might not be
    true if you're a big name and they made a big use of your photo, but
    it's generally true for little guys (both sides, the photographer and
    the thief).

    If a violation is inside the United States, you can demand a reasonable
    fee for the the use, and get a judgment against them, which you cna then
    try to enforce. Can you see how this is going?

    Also, you can claim statutory damages -- the law provides for a fairly
    high penalty for violating the copyright. I don't know the ins and outs
    of this, it's specialized law and will require a specialized lawyer. In
    theory, it can look like you can make a huge amount of money suing over
    this -- but that's only if you can collect the judgment you might
    get. And you probably have to pay a lot of legal fees along the way.

    Intellectual Property law, of which copyright is part, is a highly
    technical and specialized area of the law, and your average attorney
    doesn't know beans about it. An honest one might be able to refer you
    to a specialist, though.

    I'm not a lawyer, and if I was, I couldn't give you legal advice in a
    general way like this. I've paid a fair amount of attention and read a
    lot and may actually know roughly what I know and what I don't. I hope.
    My actual advice is 1) don't worry about it too much, and 2) if you
    think you have a complaint to make, find a good specialist copyright
    expert to represent you.
    David Dyer-Bennet, Nov 16, 2011
  7. One thing this accomplishes is making the "gosh I thought it was an
    orphaned work" defense less believable. The problem is, you probably
    can't prove where they got their copy, and therefor you can't prove that
    they got the version with the copyright in it. Still, it can't hurt.
    Web sites blocking people from downloading stuff is hopeless. To
    display it on the user's monitor, you have to send them the image. Once
    you've sent them the image, they can keep a copy of it if they want.
    *You* may not know how, but 5 minutes googling will tell you. And
    people actually in the practice of stealing images off the web know all
    the tricks.

    So mostly, things like turning off right-click just annoys honest users
    like me (I have for example add-ons that show me EXIF info when I
    right-click on an image on the web, or run Tin Eye to search for other

    A plugin that makes its own connection to your server, using encryption,
    to fetch the image, never sends it to disk, and does somehting to block
    screen captures, and can tell if it's running in a virtual machine and
    refuses to display the image if it is, can actually make it hard for a
    viewer to keep a copy. Of course, what it really does is make sure that
    no viwer will ever *see* your image -- they'll refuse to install the
    special plugin.

    Anything short of that is a minor annoyance at best to anybody who wants
    a copy. And often a major annoyance to people wanting to do things you
    want, like look at your picture in detail and discuss it with you.
    David Dyer-Bennet, Nov 16, 2011
  8. Dallas

    Savageduck Guest

    Digimarc is a useful safe-guard.
    < >

    …and this is a good reference:
    < >
    Savageduck, Nov 16, 2011
  9. Dallas

    PeterN Guest

    An embedded copyright notice will only make things a little harder. Yes
    I know it can be removed. And I do agree that draconian measures will
    discourage honest users.
    PeterN, Nov 16, 2011
  10. Dallas

    dadiOH Guest

    Not right. The primary benefit of registration is that you do not have to
    prove damages, only that the image was used. If not registered, you have to
    prove it was used but you also have to prove damages. As you said later,
    registration can provide hefty statutory damages; no need to prove them.



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    dadiOH, Nov 16, 2011
  11. I'm quite sure you have to register before pressing the claim. This
    could be after the (alleged) theft took place, though.

    Whereas I think you're right that you need to be registered before the
    theft to claim statutory damages, and I should have mentioned that.
    David Dyer-Bennet, Nov 16, 2011
  12. David Dyer-Bennet, Nov 16, 2011
  13. Dallas

    Dallas Guest

    That's just about enough money to care if they get ripped off.

    Thanks everybody.
    Dallas, Nov 16, 2011
  14. Dallas

    Joel Guest

    In general, in the digital world these days most photos won't worth much
    for outsider (besides the clints), and most companies don't bother to use it
    except some lazy ads makers who may use a small part of the photo.

    For you, you just need to go to church more often praying God to make
    someone uses your nice shots. Then you can tell them to PAY or seeing my

    And if you see them selling your nice shot then before sueing them, you
    may want to stretch your arm to pat on your shoulder telling yourself doing
    a good work.
    Joel, Nov 17, 2011
  15. Twitpics, copyright & making infringers pay
    Charles E. Hardwidge, Nov 17, 2011
  16. Dallas

    Pete A Guest

    Thanks for that, Charles.

    I'd like to add that some in the under 18 age group are becoming quite
    fond of doctoring images stolen from websites and claiming them to be
    their own work. When challenged, they claim it was their work that was
    stolen then doctored with a copyright and/or a watermark. Obviously,
    any legal costs incurred to fight this misuse will unlikely be
    recovered from the perpetrator.

    Laws vary so much with country, even state. Often, the onus is on the
    originator of the work to prove loss of earnings caused by the misuse
    in order to make a realistic claim.

    Each image watermarking product has a plethora of un-watermarking
    software/methods available. Image authentication methods are completely
    different from image identification products, the latter rely on this
    confusion to sell their wares. JPEGs make it trivial to bypass the
    whole lot.
    Pete A, Nov 17, 2011
  17. Loss of earnings is tricky. Often the value of the work in itself is slim to
    none, although the work itself can generate a lot of value. Maybe there's
    something in there which will help people reassess the value of works?
    Stockphoto is great but when it's used by big corps and the media to
    undercut professional work? Gallery samples are one thing but where it
    provides an irreplaceable focus for an editorial?

    I'm not certain about this but I think the Berne Convention has a clause
    somewhere that says that copyright infringement can be prosecuted under the
    law of the originating jurisdiction. Theoretically, this means a UK artist
    could sue a US infringer in a US court under UK law. That throws US "fair
    use" provisions out the window. If it was the other way around statutory
    damages for a registered US work could be hefty in the UK.

    Artists moral rights are another consideration. Work may be created on a
    for-hire basis or legally licensed but if use is deemed to conflict with the
    authors moral rights the author can withdraw usage. Moral rights of the
    author cannot be sold or transferred and remain with the author. Under these
    circumstances it would be possible for, say, Billy Bragg to prevent usage of
    a song produced under a studio label by the Taxpayers Alliance.
    Charles E. Hardwidge, Nov 17, 2011
  18. Perhaps this is another reason to hang on to raw/negatives?

    I must admit to ripping off work when doing forum avatars. Game developers
    used to rip off art for games content all the time back in the day but as
    resolutions climbed and the need for original quality work became more
    obvious that dropped off. Plus, there's the whole thing of having something
    to protect now so not wanting to be caught pissing on the system.

    This would seem to apply generally? MS and Adobe don't give a shit for
    piracy as long as the business and retail sectors are on board. As long as
    some gangster isn't punching out 10,000 copies of whatever from the disc
    pressing factory and the majority of regular customers pay up for hassle
    free shrink warp they're not bothered.

    Individuals and small retails can feel the pain harder because a single loss
    is more personal or is a larger slice of their balance sheet.
    Charles E. Hardwidge, Nov 17, 2011
  19. Dallas

    Pete A Guest


    I also strongly recommend that all camera EXIF data is stripped from
    images before distribution because:

    1. It's nigh on impossible for anyone to invent a convincing set of
    values for the fields. E.g. a realistic shutter count corresponding to
    the supposed image creation date.

    2. EXIF data often contains camera and lens serial numbers. If the
    companies that hold our purchase records get hacked we're in serious

    3. If the image has been post processed using cropping or adjustments
    to exposure, white balance, tone curves etc. then most of the EXIF
    information becomes meaningless.
    Long gone are the days when a VGA-sized GIF image would be both fit for
    a game and not seriously considered to be a facsimile of an original
    Their main (supposed) loss of sales is due to mass copying in countries
    that have immunity to international law suits. I say "supposed" because
    those that purchase the cheap copies would not have bought genuine
    copies in the first place.

    It reminds me of the suggested levy for blank cassette tapes because
    they _could_ be used to copy original works.

    Does it still apply that if one buys a PC without an installed OS we
    still have to pay a MS licence fee, or has this been dropped? I do
    remember that if one wanted to buy a Linux laptop there were only a few
    countries one could buy it from without incurring the MS fee - the UK
    wasn't one of them.
    Yes indeed. The cost of the first consultation with a legal expert,
    plus their initial letter to address the situation, often exceeds the
    value of the loss. I think that fits in with your other very thoughtful
    reply to my post.

    In my very limited experience, I can't help thinking that the best ways
    to protect oneself from being ripped of are:

    1. As above, removal of EXIF data.

    2. Never make hi-res images available online unless one is using a
    reputable image library.

    3. Get valuable work published because the publisher can afford better lawyers.

    4. Get valuable work sold to clients.

    5. Accept that getting our work ripped-off is a sincere compliment.

    6. Rest assured that anyone who copies our work or learns our
    techniques will never be able to catch up with what we can produce next

    I've deleted most of my images from 2009 and earlier because they've
    served their purpose and I've moved on to do better things. It's saved
    me one heck of a lot of backups and I no longer much care if everything
    I've done and my material possessions go up in smoke or meet some other
    Pete A, Nov 19, 2011
  20. The scheme you've outlined there is pretty much what I was thinking.

    This just in: The EU commission is looking at copyright and they seem aware
    of both the need for protection and some of the more practical realities.
    Charles E. Hardwidge, Nov 21, 2011
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