Copyright infringement – Pyragraph

So you find out that someone has used your photography without your permission. What to do? First step: Calm down. Take a breath. It’s easy to get furious, but it won’t help. A level-headed approach goes far. A lot of this happens out of innocent ignorance - maybe an inexperienced intern at an organization pulls your image off of Google and uses it without your permission. This can make you feel like the bad guy when enforcing your copyright. But it’s important to take copyright seriously. If you charge hundreds or thousands of dollars for commissions, you have to justify those fees by defending your copyright when your work (that you would normally charge for) is used without your permission. Get into the habit of registering your work with the U.S. Copyright office. It’s easy to make it part of your workflow. I do this to all of my work - well most of it, as you’ll see. I deal with image misuse case by case. I have to decide if it is worth time, energy and possibly money tangling antlers with an infringer. In the past my images have been misused by photography fan sites, and I usually just email them and gently remind them that images aren’t for their use. But constant back and forth emails distract me from my work. It’s easier to find their internet service provider and send them a DCMA takedown notice and they remove the content. Other times it’s appropriate to send an invoice for payment. DISCLAIMER: I AM NOT AN ATTORNEY. ALWAYS SEEK ADVICE FROM ONE. What about when things get more complicated, say a major company or university uses your work without your permission? I didn’t register my images from one shoot I did with my wife last year, and of course Murphy’s Law dictates that one of those images would be used without my permission. Since I didn’t register the image in a timely manner, I was ineligible for statutory damages in a federal infringement lawsuit, and was only eligible for actual damages. I was actually ineligible to even file a federal lawsuit. Copyright lawsuits are expensive, exhausting and must be followed through to the very end. What I might recover in court could be pennies compared to what I would spend in legal fees. This is how current copyright laws hardly deter infringement. I use my experience to illustrate how frustrating copyright issues can be, how important it is to fight for your work and for better copyright laws. Each year my wife and I have a college intern, typically from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It’s our way of giving back and mentoring a new generation of photographers. Our last intern was one of our favorites, and she was the first in her family to graduate college, so we photographed her graduation as a gift. I discovered that an image from this shoot was lifted by someone at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, my alma matter, and used for over a month on their Department of Psychology Facebook page without my permission. Do not let anyone tell you differently: Companies, universities and nonprofits lean heavily on social media photography for advertising, recruitment and outreach. Thus, social media use of photography, like any web use, has a market value.

About Peri Pakroo

Peri Pakroo is the founder, Publisher and Editor of Pyragraph. Outside her work with Pyragraph, Peri is a business author and coach, specializing in creative and smart strategies for self-employment, small businesses and nonprofits. Her focus is on helping people build structure for their passions to find success on their own terms. Peri is the author of several top-selling Nolo titles on small business and nonprofits including The Small Business Start-Up Kit, The Women’s Small Business Start-Up Kit and Starting & Building a Nonprofit. Since 2012 she has produced and hosted the Self-Employed Happy Hour podcast.

Peri accidentally started her first band The Moist Towelettes at the age of 40 with her husband Turtle O’Toole. Since then she has played in a number of bands including The Directory, Bellemah and her own downer-country project, Peri & the FAQs.

In 2012, Peri saw the need for a resource featuring the voices of a wide range of creative workers and the many different career paths they take. She founded Pyragraph to fill this need. Here’s the Pyragraph start-up story.

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