The post is written by the team of Pixsy, one of the leading reverse image search tools. You can sign-up for their service here with the limited invite code EVERYTHINGMICROSTOCKPIXSY.
If you’ve posted your images online, chances are you know that feeling of frustration from accidentally stumbling upon your own work (the one you put so much time and effort in) somewhere on the Internet. The sad truth is as much as 70% of digital users see nothing wrong in online piracy. It’s little wonder that the very same attitude seems to apply to using someone else’s photos without permission.
While there’s no foolproof method to protect your work, these five steps will make it much more complicated for a potential thief to lift your photos and much easier for you to get compensated in case your work gets stolen.
Watermark Your Photos.
The topic of whether to watermark your photos or not has been brought up in numerous posts and discussions. Those against it emphasize the potential damage to the visual appeal of the work and the risk of the watermark being removed regardless. While the supporters see watermarking as a free marketing tool and a way to put a name to the work.
Caption: Watermarked image. Photo: Daniel Foster.
Slapping a blunt watermark across the entire image might damage the intended look of your work. However, if done subtly, it can be a useful reminder of the photographer behind the photo and his or her rights. These tips might help you keep the balance.
Metadata is the information hidden inside your photos that can tell you what aperture you took the shot at, where and when the image was taken, and, with a fast set-up, who owns the copyright.
The great thing about metadata — it is not instantly spotted by an image user. They will have to use a dedicated app or design software to read it.
Unfortunately, it is possible to strip the metadata from your photos. However, doing so is illegal in the U.S., thanks to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Removing copyright metadata could be a $2,500 fine, or even jail time with a $500,000 penalty when done for commercial gain.
This makes metadata a great tool for establishing the rightful owner of the photo (you) and catching the intentional image thieves.
There are several ways to adding metadata. You can add it in-camera, so that all the photos you take with the camera have an automatically embedded copyright data. This 60-second set-up can help you do so.
Note: this feature is currently available on Nikon, Canon, and Olympus cameras.
Avoid Photography Contract Traps.
The wording of photography contracts can often be confusing and lead to misunderstanding from both sides. The phrases like “transfer of rights”, “without limitation”, and “exclusive” should always grab your attention. Check out the list of other contract red flags here.
Remember that similar traps that would make you surrender substantial rights to your own work can be encountered when entering online competitions.
There are a couple of things you should always keep in mind:
- Make sure you never transfer you copyright. By doing so you would give all rights to the photo, even the ability to display it in your portfolio. Most importantly, you’d give up all future licensing income for that photo.
- Ideally, your contract should spell out exactly what type of use is allowed with no provision for an exclusive license unless the client provides additional compensation.
- Always closely read all the contract clauses and, better yet, consult with a lawyer before signing.
Register Your Work with the Copyright Office.
Registering your work with the U.S. Copyright Office makes it much easier to prove the authorship of the photos should any copyright dispute ever occur. It can also give you the ability to collect up to $150,000 in statutory damages.
Caption: Copyright registration. Photo: Daniel Foster.
Register your work as soon as possible. Remember that registrations with the U.S. Copyright Office are the only ones that count.
Beware of the so-called “Poor Man’s Copyright” idea. It suggests that you can simply mail yourself a copy of your work, keep the envelope sealed, and use the postmarked envelope as proof of creation and ownership. However, it’s not a legally valid method of registration. After all, anyone can put a photo in a fancy envelope.
Know Where Your Photos End Up.
To be able to protect your images, it’s important to know when and where someone else uses it without your permission. Reverse image search tools like Google Images and Pixsy can be a great help for that.
These free tools crawl the Web for the matches of your photos and then present the results to you. In case of Google Images, you’d have to upload your photos manually, one-by one. Pixsy allows you to import photos in batches in one click from various platforms, including Flickr, 500px, Photoshelter, Dropbox, and even your personal website.
Pixsy can also help you claim compensation for the unauthorized commercial use of your photos for a 50% success fee from the recovered compensation. In return, all you need to do is click “Submit case” and wait to get paid. This service is currently available for websites in the United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and much of Western Europe.
Caption: Pixsy reverse image search tool.
In the digital age, image theft is a severe problem for all the photographers and visual artists. However, adding these five layers of protection will help you protect your images and stay out of the dark when it comes to your rights and your work.