Here’s Why to Add Your Name and Copyright Notice When Posting Photos Online


Copyright infringement is much too common these days. To reap the big statutory rewards (of at least $750 and up to $150,000 for willful infringements, plus costs and attorneys’ fees) from prosecuting infringements, you must have registered your photograph with the U.S. Copyright Office prior to the infringement or within three months of publishing it (making it available to the public).

Most photographers haven’t registered their photos, so they must prove “actual damages” from the infringement. Usually, this is your normal license fee plus any profits the infringer made from the unauthorized use of your photo. Often the “profits” damages can be difficult to prove (especially for editorial uses). So you are left with potentially recovering only a license fee.

Many infringers then will ignore your demand for payment because they know that it will cost more to sue than what you can possibly recover. Copyright infringement cases have to be prosecuted in federal courts; the filing fee alone is $350 — about the amount of many standard licensing fees for photos.

The DMCA Makes Recovery Easier

But the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) provides a great alternative to recover damages for infringements. The DMCA can be found in Section 1200 of the U.S. Copyright Act. Section 1202 makes it illegal for someone to remove your “copyright management information” from your photo to disguise the infringement when used. The great news is that the copyright management information need only be your name, identifying information, or copyright notice to qualify.

Many photographers place watermarks including their name, Web site, and/or the copyright notice on their images to prevent someone from infringing them. With digital technology, it’s fairly easy to crop or clone over the mark.

But if you can prove that the infringer removed or altered your information to use your photo in an unauthorized manner, you may recover for that removal under the DMCA. The fines start at $2500 and go to $25,000 in addition to attorneys’ fees and any damages for the infringement.

What the Statute Says

The pertinent part of the statute is included below:

Section 1202. Integrity of copyright management information . . .

(b) REMOVAL OR ALTERATION OF COPYRIGHT MANAGEMENT INFORMATION.

No person shall, without the authority of the copyright owner or the law:
(1) intentionally remove or alter any copyright management information . . .
(3) distribute . . . copies of works . . . knowing that copyright management information has been removed or altered without authority of the copyright owner . . . knowing . . . that it will . . . conceal an infringement of any right under this title.

(c) DEFINITION. . . . “[C]opyright management information” means any of the following information conveyed in connection with copies . . . of a work . . . or displays of a work, including in digital form . . . :
(2) The name of, and other identifying information about, the author of a work.
(3) The name of, and other identifying information about, the copyright owner of the work, including the information set forth in a notice of copyright. . . .

Section 1203. Civil remedies…

(b) POWERS OF THE COURT. In an action brought under subsection (a), the court . . .
(3) may award damages under subsection (c);
(4) in its discretion may allow the recovery of costs by or against any party . . . ; [and]
(5) in its discretion may award reasonable attorney’s fees to the prevailing party . . .

(c) AWARD OF DAMAGES. (1) IN GENERAL. . . . [a] person committing a violation of . . . 1202 is liable for either
(A) the actual damages and any additional profits of the violator . . . or
(B) statutory damages, as provided in paragraph (3).

(3) STATUTORY DAMAGES. . . .
(B) At any time before final judgment is entered, a complaining party may elect to recover an award of statutory damages for each violation of section 1202 in the sum of not less than $2,500 or more than $25,000.

And the even better news? You don’t have to have registered your photo in advance to recover under this statute. So now you have an even better reason to place your name, identifying information, or copyright notice on your photos.

[tags]copyright, photography law[/tags]


27 Responses to “Here’s Why to Add Your Name and Copyright Notice When Posting Photos Online”

  1. Great post and good ideas and reminders - thanks.

    Joel

  2. I had always wondered what the point in using watermarks was, when they could be so easily edited out. I had no idea this law existed. Thanks!

  3. Great information! Thank you so much!

  4. I just forwarded that post to my attorney as he his preparing a suit against an infringing party.

    Despite the fact that they were told they didn't have rights to my photos, they refused to remove them from their site or pay my license fee.

    I guess the courts exist for that very reason.

    I just read about a woman in Minnesota who refused to settle with the recording industry for $3,000 for song swapping. A jury just found her liable for $1.9 MILLION dollars.

  5. Great post and good ideas and reminders - thanks.

  6. don't post images that can be printed. only post images on-line that are optimised for online use. it makes them less attractive.

  7. It's great advice only if followed. I know a lot of photogs, even some pros, who fail to protect their images.

    Thanks for the informative column

  8. Very interesting BUT what happens when a US citizen or company infringe on international copyright?

    In New Zealand we have automatic copyright so long as we can prove we produced an image/work etc.

    This does not seem to stop US based companies stealing our stuff :(:(

    They can quote this DCMA all they want, it means nothing to us because we have our own copyright laws. Since images are created by us in our own country-ies I thought US people would have to abide by that.

  9. Good idea. Infact, i watermark my pictures to protect it from being copied. Then again, hacking in photo servers are very often heard nowdays.

  10. great info!

  11. Only relevant to US Photographers. Under the International Copyight Agreement to which the US is a signatory, registration of photographs is not required.

  12. Do you have to have the copywrite symbol on your image? meaning the little C in a circle? or can you just have your business name on the photo. This is very interesting stuff, and I had no idea.

    -Dave

  13. Your embedded image metadata is still 'copyright information'. Even the bit on your website that says (c) is still 'copyright information'. It doesn't say that it has to be attached to the image. e.g. you don't see a copyright symbol on every page of a book but you have 'removed copyright information' if you detach part of the book from it's copyright statement. A simple footer on a picture would seem to be the best idea (not damaging the picture and still in plain view of any potential user - i.e. they can't claim ignorance if they remove it).

    Also, the majority of copyright infringements are in websites so posting smaller images will make no difference at all. Even for small use in magazines, they only need a 500px image to get a half decent quarter page image.

  14. Hello,

    Being a UK freelancer I have a question, if I as a UK resident put my pictures up do I need to register my images with the US copyright people. Reason why I ask is that we are no longer local but now Global.

    Look forward to your answer,

    Rich

  15. This is great info. I was unaware of this law. Thanks for the reminder.

  16. High cost in filing infringement is to make sure that people do not involve in such case again. I was wondering how much is the highest infringement one must have paid??

  17. I'm a software engineer and have a similar problem where a book publisher has taken the copyright off the output of my program and then used the outpupt to promote their webiste.

    I have a YouTube video that explains the situation:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8qHzyaRbaYg

  18. In case any Canadians happen to be reading this, in Canada, everything you create is automatically copyrighted. There is no need to register anything.

  19. Can you register with the U.S. Copyright Office hundreds of pictures by ceating one pdf containing all of them. Thus saving on the fee.

  20. This is a very informative and helpful tips. I put a lot of photos on my blog http://www.sydneyaffairs.com and this will somehow help me protect what I got on the net. Thanks!

  21. Good info. I had not been consistent in watermarking my photos. After reading this I will reconsider.

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