As a follow up to my copyrighting post in the real world, another quick flick through my Fickr stream looking for copyright violations has been interesting to say the least.
2 things are apparent.
1. Post a picture of a cute dog and it’ll be ripped off all over the internet.
2. Post any picture with Danbo and it’ll spread wider than a copyright thief’s mother’s legs.
This image, which is MY dog, in MY garden:
Has been on so many of these free wallpaper and puerile lolcat type websites it’s not funny anymore. Free for download they all say, no it’s fucking not I say! It’s worse still as usually it’s overlaid with stupid comments like “Weeeeeeee I can haz a fly…”. You wonder about the mentality of people who upload this shit.
As for Danbo, these images…
…now appear on what appears to be around a million lame blogs a piece. There is so many it would be near on impossible to try and get them removed. It wouldn’t be so bad if they liked to the Flickr original, which I would be fine with but they download them and use that downloaded image that then spreads everywhere.
This website: http://joomla17.zootemplate.com/jv_alber/index.php/using-joomla/extensions/templates has seen fit to rip off 5 of my images in a large size from the Flickr lightbox. Their response to an invoice?
“Lol, are you crazy? Are you scammer? Now please show us the copyright of your pictures.
FYI, there are many web designers are using the stock from Flickr without any authorised, ex: themeforest.com
Don’t kidding us! =))”
Illiterate at best, offensive at worst. They have yet to reply to the follow up message proving copyright.
So, is there a lesson to be learned? Yes, please people check your images, it’s easy to do, just drag the image from an online thumbnail into a Google image search and you’ll see if it’s being used. Go after every single one of the bigger organisations and at least be a pain in their arse over it.
Me, I’m going to watermark every image that might have the tiniest of “cute” factor with an enormous comedy cock to be sure as hell it won’t be used again!
What do I mean by real world? Surely all avenues to deal with copyright theft is “real world”. The big difference is, do you have the financial means to back up any threatened legal recourse when dealing with those who would infringe your copyright? 99/100 of us don’t. If you can hire a lawyer to deal with on your behalf, go right ahead and you’ll probably do ok from it, but if you can’t you’ll have to use different tactics.
First things first though, how do you know when someone has been nicking your work? Luckily for us those nice people at Google have made it very easy for you to see where your work is being used, on the internet at least. If you have any online photo account, Flickr etc there is a VERY good chance your work is being ripped off. Try, just for instance, picking the most popular image on your Flickr photostream, have Flickr in one window and a Google image search in another. Now click on the Flickr thumbnail and drag it into the Google image search and within seconds you’ll be able to see where that image is being used.
Most of the time you will find a stack of results that are Flickr, the search will pick up where people have added the image as a favourite and then there’s all those sites built up around the Flickr api but now and again if you check a few you WILL find instances of copyright violation.
I should point out here, this only applies as long as you don’t grant a Creative Commons licence, if you do move on and accept that your hard work is going to be distributed and mangled as anyone see’s fit. If not then read on.
From a quick search of Flickr thumbnails I found many instances of unauthorised use. These seem to fall mainly into 3 categories.
Blogs are far and away the biggest of these infringements. Really though, are they worth bothering about too much? Most bloggers are just ordinary people and if you really disagree with the context your image is being used then contact them and request a removal or at least a credit, don’t weigh in with both feet demanding a million pounds and their first born in compensation, be fair, ask them politely to remove the image and if they don’t most blogs are hosted somewhere by someone so complain to the host, be it WordPress, Blogger or similar.
2. Sites where the content is user generated
The biggest issue here is those free wallpaper sites but the likes of Facebook will also turn up fairly regularly. The wallpaper sites will generally respond pretty quickly to removal requests, others will spout on about DCMA regulations but will usually remove. Don’t expect any payment, you won’t get if from these sources as they don’t upload the content and as long as they remove it, you have little recourse. Facebook ask you to fill in their automated DCMA form and are actually very good at suspending accounts where the violation has taken place.
3. Commercial Operations
This is where you take your chances. If a commercial website is using your image then you must demand payment for the unauthorised use. Don’t threaten legal action unless you can back it up. It’s usually better to send a polite email, pointing out the image, where your original version sits, the copyright notice on the page the image is on and request a realistic amount as compensation. Don’t ask for a tenner, you’ll get laughed at; similarly don’t ask for a million pounds. Be realistic, if it’s a huge multi-national go in higher they can afford it and it’ll likely be a pittance you’re asking for in their financial terms, if it’s a smaller company don’t be a dick and try and bankrupt them over it, be realistic but don’t undervalue your work and be prepared to negociate.
In some cases you’ll get emails back apologising and informing you they have removed the image, if it’s a small local business I’d accept the apology and move on, if it’s bigger stick to your guns and continue to demand payment for the image, a lot of the time you will get some sort of compensation just to go away if nothing else.
At the end of the day, if you don’t want images nicked, then don’t upload them to the internet. It’s a simple as that. If it’s a major bugbear of yours then watermark them to make the image unusable to anyone else, remember though it also spoils that image you worked hard to get and want to show off.
The biggest single bit of advice I’m going to give you though is this. Whatever you do, don’t be an utter tool about copyright violations. Don’t try and bankrupt a small business, don’t try and extort money from a little amateur blogger. Most of these people use the image without realising about the copyright. It’s not right but we all make mistakes don’t we? Stick to your guns with the bigger organisations though, they DO know the law and they CAN afford to pay you. How much is down to your negotiating skills!