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The digital world was supposed to make our lives easier. Maybe that’s the case for most of us but there is a certain group of people who would not agree with that statement, right? And here I mean you, the artist, the photographer.

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The Internet may be considered as the best place to share your work with others but it is also full of unpleasant surprises. There are many people keen to download your works to commercially reproduce it and distribute without your consent. They keep ignoring the copyrights which are applied to artistic works immediately.

In photography, copyright means that the photographer has exclusive rights to every photo he took. Once you press the camera button, you immediately become the creator of the image and your works are legally granted copyright protection. Sounds simple, nonetheless, it may be more complicated than you think. To protect the photos you took, you should know your rights and ways to protects them. Otherwise, they will become worthless! Every time a photo is used without the photographer’s permission, copyright infringement takes place. In many countries, this is even considered a criminal action as photography copyright laws may vary from country to country. Sounds scary? As a company that helps artists to protect their works, we will try to point out the essentials information you need to know.

As a photographer who should protect his photos, this is what you can do against it:

1. Find out if you’re a likely target for image theft

At PhotoClaim, we have discovered that your photos are very likely to be stolen if:
a) you run a blog and give your photos names such as ’Berlin-TV-Tower-Sunset.jpg’
or
b) you’re successful on Flickr (making it to the daily ’Explore‘ section pretty much guarantees an invitation to being a victim of copyright infringement).

Of course, you have valid reasons for doing the above and we don’t want to encourage you to stop SEO-optimizing your blog or to stop using Flickr. Quite the opposite, as those two points also have a huge impact on getting clients who are willing to purchase your works. Nevertheless, the possibility of your photo being stolen by a potential buyer is still high. Catchy names or/and websites where you promote yourself and your artworks are a target for potential infringers. However, you can always protect your photos from unauthorized online use, for example by allowing Creative Commons licence, using a digital signature or adding watermark to your work – just to name a few. Last but not least, some websites offer an active protection service on their platforms, which helps you to monitor duplicates of your work.

2. Track your portfolio

It is important that you track your portfolio! This is what we do and we may help you with that. Sign up with PhotoClaim and we will search for your photos on the internet. Once we’ve discovered a potential infringement, we will notify you and you can verify whether the use was licensed or not. As a photographer who wants to protect their copyright, you can also send a ’take-down‘ request on your own to social media, such as Facebook, Instagram or YouTube. However, you never have a guarantee that it will be completely removed from websites and server-side data collection.

3. Keep track of your clients

You guessed it: you need to keep track of your license sales. Make a list of the companies that purchased photos from you and it would be best if you can ask them for the URL on which they’re planning to use your works. Tell them you’re curious to see the final result of how they used your photo. Trust me, this will make your life and fight against copyright infringements much easier, and you’ll never be in a situation where you send unfounded demands to a client of yours. And do not hesitate to ask your licensees regarding a specific license purchase. As the creator and copyright owner, you have the right to do so.

4. Stop Microstock

For certain types of photography, microstock can be a good business model. Unfortunately, especially young, talented, but maybe not-yet-recognised photographers sign up with microstock agencies to make a few bucks on the side. If you don’t expect to make a 4-digit monthly income from your microstock activities, you may want to reconsider. Here is why:

With almost all microstock agencies, you lose control over who is licensing your photographs. That puts you into an awkward situation since you can’t know for sure if the use of your photograph is licensed or not.

Unfortunately, we cannot help with that either. We tried to get a list of licenses for one of our clients from Fotolia or at least let them confirm whether a certain use was licensed or not. Fotolia never even responded to us.

Again: if you have thought of running a business through microstock, it can work! However, if you are just starting and you can afford it, resist the temptation of microstock and retain the value of your photographs for when you’re more recognized and can achieve higher prices.

And, by the way, this also includes the 500px marketplace.

Nevertheless, the best examples come from real life. It happened that one of our Clients while monitoring his portfolio on the Internet, found out that one of the platforms, a so-called bank of photos, was selling his videos without his permission. He contacted the platform immediately to request the removal of the content. However, despite the attempt, the content was still visible on the platform and in the offer. The lack of reaction from the infringing party was a green light for us to enforce our Client’s copyrights of his artistic works and fill the injunction.

5. Protect the value of your clients

If you’re at the point where you sell via macro stock or even have your own licensing possibilities such as PhotoShelter, it is even more important that you protect your photography. You want your clients to pay a fair price for your photographs and you want your clients to be happy.

How do you think your clients would feel if they see photos they bought for a decent price popping up everywhere on the internet? And why should they buy from you again, if others can simply steal them? Such a situation may bring additional and unnecessary stress and also could have real consequences on your finances as a photographer.

Think about it for a second and also consider how the so-called ’post-use licensing‘ services are harming photography. If the only ’penalty‘ of copyright infringement is that you pay what you would have paid in the first place – then why purchase a license? After all, chances are that the photographer doesn’t find out about his photos being stolen.

6. Be considerate

Making our tool available to you, we also ask you to be considerate. Not every stolen photo is harming you in the same way. If a school class uses your photo to accompany an article about their recent class trip to a certain place, then that’s something different from a professional newspaper using your photo to lead an article. And remember that just because someone is using your work, it does not necessarily mean that they are infringing your copyrights. Some other factors, such as regional laws or the license, or Creative Commons may change the game. Therefore, if you found any potential and unauthorized use of your photo online, please give us a hint and we will check the matter carefully for you.

That’s why, at PhotoClaim, we only pursue infringements that give a financial benefit to the site where the photo was used. If a private person shares your picture, it might just be a way of showing their admiration for your work. We believe that, in those cases, the person should link to your website (and therefore you have SEO benefits) or delete the photo but have an option of doing so without paying any fee.

7.Register your copyright

No article about photography protection would be complete without bringing up the issue of copyright registration. Please note that in most countries, registration of your copyright is not necessary. Once you spot the infringement, you should act because your work is legally granted copyright protection from the moment of its creation on. If you are from the US, the registration of your works in the US Copyright Office might be new to you. However, if someone steals your photograph in Europe, you can claim damages, whether your copyright is registered in the US or not.

Nevertheless, we recommend you to register your copyright in the US, whether you’re a US citizen or not. You can do this online using our guidance under the following link. Even though the registration of images is not mandatory for photographers, if they want to protect their copyrights on the other side of the Atlantic, it brings additional protection. Moreover, even because the copyright registration process may vary from region to region, many countries rely on it to prove the ownership of the specific works. This registration may make it easier to benefit you in terms of damages and to navigate lawsuits. So far so good, right?

Unfortunately, the worldwide copyright legislation varies from region to region and for a single photographer it is almost impossible to know the respective law of each country. Nevertheless, all of your photos are protected by copyright, whether you registered them or not. Should you have any further questions regarding copyrights, feel free to message us at: service@photoclaim.com. We will be happy to provide you with more information.

Now that you know more about copyrights. It is time to protect yours.

It does not cost a dime but may bring you thousands! 

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