Photo Stealing / Ripping - Need Lawyer

chrigah

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hey guys,
i don´t know how important this topic is for you but i think it´s more important than you think.

i´m chris, a photographer for architecture and art, working european-wide and asien-wide and i´m constantly getting ripped of my photos. but i´m defending myself. seriously, i´m making half of my money by suing companies who use my pictures without asking and paying me. i talk constantly with other photographers and most of them shrug and say "you can do nothing about it". but that´s not true!! we photographers should unite, if you ask me. we should not tolerate that our photos are being stolen again and again. take action!

so much for that. i already know how it works - for example - in germany. i find unlicensed pictures, i call my lawyer, he takes care of it, i receive my money. what i don´t know is how it works in the u.s.

right now a big furniture company from sacramento uses my picture promoting their products. they didn´t ask me, pay me, mention me as the author. so, for christ´s sake, i want my money. they earn money with my picture and i dont´t see a single penny for it? no, just no.

so, how does it work in the u.s.? can someone recommend a lawyer? how does the settlement work? i have an agreement with my german lawyer: he gets 40% from the amount he eked out of court. it´s much money but he also is highly motivated fighting for me because he participates on the win. (sorry, i´m not a native english speaker, maybe it´s wrong how i express myself but i hope you understand me anyway).

best regards and thank you
chris
 
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astroNikon

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There's a few photogs here on TFP that license their photos and track online usage, have a lawyer on call and do the same thing that you do. I can't recall who it is off the top of my head but I'm sure they'll come along.

If you can change your title to include "need lawyer"
 

astroNikon

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ah yes, a quick search and the FIRST hit is this thread with the person I was thinking of. You may want to send them a message ==> Should I Be Upset About This?
 

Designer

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i already know how it works - for example - in germany. i find unlicensed pictures, i call my lawyer, he takes care of it, i receive my money. what i don´t know is how it works in the u.s.
It works the same way in the U.S.
 

waday

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astroNikon

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vintagesnaps

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There is information for professional photographers on American Society of Media Photographers . The info. on copyright, usage, etc. is for the US market.

I participated in a webinar thru ASMP about copyright that include discussing copyright violations. The recommendation for most cases was that the photographer can issue a DCMA takedown. So the company takes down and stops using the photos. The reason for that recommendation is that usually unless it's a large company the photographer likely would not get much money beyond lawyer and court costs (if even enough to cover that).

You said it's a furniture company, and I'm not sure why they'd be using photos found online? I'd think they'd need photos of their furniture. Although if it's a chain store, then maybe they'd use more generic photos? and you'd probably need to find out where the headquarters are located.

I would suggest you think about where you're putting your photos and look at the Terms & Conditions on the websites. Many photo sharing websites include in the terms that site users allow for distribution etc. of their photos by the website.

Those are often referred to as 'photo rights grab' sites because by putting your photos on their websites they can 'grab' the rights and use the photos without necessarily notifying or compensating the site users.
 

terri

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ah yes, a quick search and the FIRST hit is this thread with the person I was thinking of. You may want to send them a message ==> Should I Be Upset About This?
Buckster's information is relevant, but he passed away earlier this year. :(
I completely missed this news, but looking further at his account, I see where his daughter informed us in another thread in Off Topic, back in February. I'm so sorry to hear this.

OP: my apologies for hijacking your thread, but I am just learning of the death of a long-time member here. I am sorry.
 

DarkShadow

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Same here as what Designer has already sad.Sorry to here about Buckster,my condolences.
 
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chrigah

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There is information for professional photographers on American Society of Media Photographers . The info. on copyright, usage, etc. is for the US market.

You said it's a furniture company, and I'm not sure why they'd be using photos found online? I'd think they'd need photos of their furniture. Although if it's a chain store, then maybe they'd use more generic photos? and you'd probably need to find out where the headquarters are located.

I would suggest you think about where you're putting your photos and look at the Terms & Conditions on the websites. Many photo sharing websites include in the terms that site users allow for distribution etc. of their photos by the website.

Those are often referred to as 'photo rights grab' sites because by putting your photos on their websites they can 'grab' the rights and use the photos without necessarily notifying or compensating the site users.

Thanks for every message, guys, especially vintagesnapes. just in short: the furniture company stole the photo from the architects website. see, i never put photos on photo sharing websites. all my photos are protected by copyright. that special photo is actually an interior photo where you see a furniture piece that this company sells. it´s totally by chance that they found and use my picture. it´s actually quite funny because the company´s basic business model is copying designer furniture and sell them for less than the original price. so they copied my picture too and thought "na, we´ll get away with it anyway, like always".

so, coming back to the topic: many times i´m not against the use of my pictures, so i´m not always interested that they put them down. i just want to get payed. in the thread that astroNIKON found - thanks buddy - someone wrote basically "be a MENSCH, talk to them". well, that doesn´t really work. most times they´ll put the photo down and claim they never used it. your lawyer must catch them red-handed by sending them a cease and desist letter. at least in germany this is practiced law. you offer them a compromise settlement, that means if they pay there won´t be any involving of court. i don´t know if it works the same way in the u.s.

but i will find out! :)

and just by the way, i don´t speak about some hundreds of dollars i make with the unethical behavings of companies. not even a few thousands. i make a high five digit amount every year just because companies use my picture without asking and paying me. what i want to say is: every photographer should defend themself. it´s not a trivial offense. get those companies educated.
 

smoke665

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Don't want to hijack the OP's thread but this sort of ties in. To be enforceable in court doesn't your image have to be registered with a copyright office? And though some countries don't , I was under the impression that the US recognized the copyright status of other countries. It was my understanding that just putting your name on a print didn't make it copyrighted.
 

petrochemist

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Don't want to hijack the OP's thread but this sort of ties in. To be enforceable in court doesn't your image have to be registered with a copyright office? And though some countries don't , I was under the impression that the US recognized the copyright status of other countries. It was my understanding that just putting your name on a print didn't make it copyrighted.
In the UK your photo is copyright as soon as you take it. Adding your name is not required...
However getting compensation for theft of a non-registered image is probably MUCH more difficult.
 

smoke665

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The US has a "fair use" doctrine built into the copyright law and it's a defense to copyright infringement if certain elements are met. The defense is decided on a case-by-case basis. "The distinction between what is fair use and what is infringement in a particular case will not always be clear or easily defined. Recently a big name case in the news was Google and their posting of "samples" of books. They won by the way.
 
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chrigah

chrigah

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does anyone know how the registration of copyright works in the u.s.? does it mean i need to prove that these pictures are mine to someone sitting in a bureau? hmmm.

the "fair use" doctrine sounds okay to me. if for instance someone with a passion for archtitecture posts pictures of mine at his personal blog, that´s alright for me. but as soon as someone promotes products with my pictures and earn money with it - i´m out. it´s the same with music production software: those big companys wink at ripping off their sequencer programms as long as you don´t sell your music on a grand scale.
 

smoke665

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the "fair use" doctrine sounds okay to me

Been awhile since I dealt with it, and maybe some others on here have more recent experience. Also I'm not an attorney, and nothing posted herein should be construed as legal advise. If you are concerned about infringement of your work you should contact an attorney familiar with the copyright laws of this country.

Section 107 of the Copyright Act states:

the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.

In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include—the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

the nature of the copyrighted work; the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

However in all likely hood you'll end up in court on an infringement of the "Fair Use" policy. As I understand it, you own the image as soon as you push the shutter button on the camera, throughout your life and 25 years past. You can reproduce it, prepare derivatives. distribute by sale,license, rental or lending, publicly display as yours etc. The moment you post or display that photo in a public medium, it further establishes that image as yours. There is an exception to "work for hire" which might supersede your ownership rights.

You don't have to register your image for a copyright to occur nor do you have to post any notice on your image. However to enable you to prove when your ownership occurred it is advisable to include the copyright symbol, your name and the year. This won't protect you from someone stealing your image but serves as a reminder that your work is not "public domain" available for free unrestricted use. If your image "is not" registered with the US Copyright Office prior to an infringement, you can only collect "actual" not "statutory" damages, which could run up to $150,000 per infringement if you can prove it was willful.

Registration is voluntary and may be done online with U.S. Copyright Office It's pretty self explanatory and can be done online, but supposedly can take up to 8 months to complete.

You also have to understand that regardless a large company will view any infringement claim two ways. 1. How much will it cost to make you go away 2. How much will it cost to defend. If you have substantial proof that they infringed and your claim for damage is minimal. They will likely pay you and walk away, but if your claim is substantial, they will do their best to wear you down financially and mentally.
 
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