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Old 10-08-2012, 05:40 PM   #1
KarenAylwood
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So annoyed right now- stealing pictures, is this legal?

Will try to make a long story short.

I'm not a professional photog, just love photography. I take a lot of pictures when I travel and whenever I can locally. I don't sell any of them, mostly take them for personal use or for/of friends.

I have a smugmug website that I use as another backup for my pictures and to share pictures with friends and family. In July a friend started as a realtor (made a career change) in a city not far from here. I love that city so I have a good amount of really nice pictures of it on my smugmug. She wrote an email to a bunch of friends and family telling us and sent out her new website (it's kind of like a blog about the city and with info on houses on the market there). She then immediately wrote me an email that said "PS I "borrowed" some of your pictures for my website off your smugmug, Thanks " It really angered me when I saw it. This friend used to be very close to me but we've grown apart over the past few years. We haven't been nearly as close as we used to. I decided to let it go and try to just let it slide (not a usual occurrence for me). I never replied to either email. We've talked since but never about that (and not often, last time was about a month ago).

Then today she posted an update to her site about fall and put up a really pretty picture I took two years ago near my house (not her city). It's just a tree with fall leaves. It really struck a nerve. I immediately changed my smugmug website address/nickname and sent it out to the people I'm closest to.

Do I have a right to be so angry? I don't have a copywright on the images but it hurts to have these taken off my site and put on her business site (and her business facebook page) without so much as a mention of my name or asking my permission.

Sorry this is more of a vent than anything. I have no idea how to actually deal with the situation (or know if I'm prepared to).
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Old 10-08-2012, 06:53 PM   #2
rmattman
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Similar situation happened to me where someone posted one of my Disney pics from my Flickr site on their photography blog. I think what would bother me most if I were in your situation would be the lack of communication from your friend. When a total stranger uses one of my pics without permission, this does not surprise me. I would expect a friend to at least ask permission and/or give credit to me for the pics. The other factor in your situation is that she is using your pics for a commercial purpose. If she doesn't use your pics, would she have to purchase rights to some similar pics from a commercial source?

Hopefully, you have taken care of the situation by changing your Smugmug info. Having done that, I think I would let the situation die without confrontation at this point. If she ever asks about the change to your Smugmug account, feel free to blast away.
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Old 10-08-2012, 07:15 PM   #3
mytripsandraces
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KarenAylwood View Post
Will try to make a long story short.

I'm not a professional photog, just love photography. I take a lot of pictures when I travel and whenever I can locally. I don't sell any of them, mostly take them for personal use or for/of friends.

I have a smugmug website that I use as another backup for my pictures and to share pictures with friends and family. In July a friend started as a realtor (made a career change) in a city not far from here. I love that city so I have a good amount of really nice pictures of it on my smugmug. She wrote an email to a bunch of friends and family telling us and sent out her new website (it's kind of like a blog about the city and with info on houses on the market there). She then immediately wrote me an email that said "PS I "borrowed" some of your pictures for my website off your smugmug, Thanks " It really angered me when I saw it. This friend used to be very close to me but we've grown apart over the past few years. We haven't been nearly as close as we used to. I decided to let it go and try to just let it slide (not a usual occurrence for me). I never replied to either email. We've talked since but never about that (and not often, last time was about a month ago).

Then today she posted an update to her site about fall and put up a really pretty picture I took two years ago near my house (not her city). It's just a tree with fall leaves. It really struck a nerve. I immediately changed my smugmug website address/nickname and sent it out to the people I'm closest to.

Do I have a right to be so angry? I don't have a copywright on the images but it hurts to have these taken off my site and put on her business site (and her business facebook page) without so much as a mention of my name or asking my permission.

Sorry this is more of a vent than anything. I have no idea how to actually deal with the situation (or know if I'm prepared to).
Actually, you do have a copyright in your photos and what your friend did is copyright infringement. I would start by sending her a license and an invoice.
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Old 10-08-2012, 07:55 PM   #4
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Welcome to online photo-sharing. If you post nice photos, someone is going to take them without your permission. Technically, it is illegal as it's a violation of copyright law. In practice, it's much more confusing.

By law, you own copyright to anything you create. However, you can only sue for a copyright violation in Federal court if you have a valid ad timely registration of your copyrighted works. If you publish a work without a registration and someone uses it, you can't go back and register it and THEN sue them.

On the other hand, online photo sharing generally isn't recognized as publication.

You can send invoices, write letters, etc. Most of that does no good because there's no binding contract between you and the infringer. If you get paid this way, it's extremely rare.

Another option is to contact the hosting provider of the offender's web site (if the stuff is shared online) and file a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) Takedown Notice. You can find templates online. Most reputable hosting companies will honor these requests, as they don't want to be held liable for their user's infringement.

In some cases, what seems to be infringement is actually Fair Use. That's typically the first defense someone makes if you sue them, too.

I register all of my photos with the US Copyright Office. It only costs $35, but you can register them in bulk. As I mentioned, this is a requirement to file suit for infringement.

Having been through an infringement case before, I can tell you that it's not fun, costs money, and takes time. Even if you're represented by an attorney on a contingency basis (as I was), you still have to pay for the court filing fee and other costs that are beyond the attorney's time. When the settlement comes (and it will if you have a valid registration), they attorney takes a percentage and you get the rest. Settlements can range from a few thousand to $35K, typically. The max that you can sue for is $150K, but virtually nobody gets that much. A five-figure result isn't unheard of in these cases, but it's also important to know that the defendant can actually pay or has assets you can seize.

I suggest reading the PhotoAttorney.com site by Carolyn E. Wright. Another good resource is the Photographer's Survival Manual: A Legal Guide for Artists in the Digital Age by Attorney Ed Greenberg and Commercial Photographer Jack Reznicki - http://amzn.to/QajzzB

One more thing. I don't care if someone uses my photos for a non-commercial project. If they want a wallpaper or a blog post, that's fine with me. In fact, I prefer blog posts with a credit and link back to my Web site because that helps build Google authority for me, puts me higher in search results, etc. That's why I have nearly 20K backlinks to my site.

So, I release my photos under a Creative Commons License Attribution-NonCommercial CC BY-NC. That means they can uses it for non-commercial reasons, provided I get attribution (and the link I mentioned). If a commercial use takes my photo, I can still sue if I desire.
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Old 10-08-2012, 09:06 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wbeem View Post
Welcome to online photo-sharing. If you post nice photos, someone is going to take them without your permission. Technically, it is illegal as it's a violation of copyright law. In practice, it's much more confusing.

By law, you own copyright to anything you create. However, you can only sue for a copyright violation in Federal court if you have a valid ad timely registration of your copyrighted works. If you publish a work without a registration and someone uses it, you can't go back and register it and THEN sue them.

On the other hand, online photo sharing generally isn't recognized as publication.

You can send invoices, write letters, etc. Most of that does no good because there's no binding contract between you and the infringer. If you get paid this way, it's extremely rare.

Another option is to contact the hosting provider of the offender's web site (if the stuff is shared online) and file a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) Takedown Notice. You can find templates online. Most reputable hosting companies will honor these requests, as they don't want to be held liable for their user's infringement.

In some cases, what seems to be infringement is actually Fair Use. That's typically the first defense someone makes if you sue them, too.

I register all of my photos with the US Copyright Office. It only costs $35, but you can register them in bulk. As I mentioned, this is a requirement to file suit for infringement.

Having been through an infringement case before, I can tell you that it's not fun, costs money, and takes time. Even if you're represented by an attorney on a contingency basis (as I was), you still have to pay for the court filing fee and other costs that are beyond the attorney's time. When the settlement comes (and it will if you have a valid registration), they attorney takes a percentage and you get the rest. Settlements can range from a few thousand to $35K, typically. The max that you can sue for is $150K, but virtually nobody gets that much. A five-figure result isn't unheard of in these cases, but it's also important to know that the defendant can actually pay or has assets you can seize.

I suggest reading the PhotoAttorney.com site by Carolyn E. Wright. Another good resource is the Photographer's Survival Manual: A Legal Guide for Artists in the Digital Age by Attorney Ed Greenberg and Commercial Photographer Jack Reznicki - http://amzn.to/QajzzB

One more thing. I don't care if someone uses my photos for a non-commercial project. If they want a wallpaper or a blog post, that's fine with me. In fact, I prefer blog posts with a credit and link back to my Web site because that helps build Google authority for me, puts me higher in search results, etc. That's why I have nearly 20K backlinks to my site.

So, I release my photos under a Creative Commons License Attribution-NonCommercial CC BY-NC. That means they can uses it for non-commercial reasons, provided I get attribution (and the link I mentioned). If a commercial use takes my photo, I can still sue if I desire.
As long as the application is filed prior to the filing of the law suit, you can register the copyright whenever you want, though protection is maximized if it occurs within 3 months of publication. A rush application costs nearly $800, though. OP - your friend might not respond to the license or invoice, but it gives her an opportunity to do the right thing and shows that you're trying to work with her.
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Old 10-09-2012, 01:04 AM   #6
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Vent away!

But I am going to take a slightly different view from the others. Your previous friend did email you about it (albeit after the fact, but it was an opportunity for you to express your comfort level with this). Many people think a picture is a picture and if it's on the web and downloadable then it's good to go. Just part of the digital age IMO whereas before people would have to request a negative or some other such item to use a photo.

It obviously is bothering you so politely let the person know and what you would like for them to do - ie, stop using the picture, give credit or whatever is your choice.

You mentioned that you don't sell pictures so I doubt she's looking at it as stealing and may be thinking of it more as a compliment.
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Old 10-09-2012, 04:52 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wbeem View Post
By law, you own copyright to anything you create. However, you can only sue for a copyright violation in Federal court if you have a valid ad timely registration of your copyrighted works. If you publish a work without a registration and someone uses it, you can't go back and register it and THEN sue them.
Generally you can go back and register your copyright after the infringement occurs but you have a very limited window to do so.

http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap4.html#412

In an Ed Greenberg interview on Scott Kelby's site from a few years ago (the very first time they had him on there) he said you have 90 days from the date the infringement occurs. But what I learned in a class on copyright and ethics is a little different, and goes with the code on the copyright.gov site that says you have 90 days from publication or 30 days from when you learn of the infringement. either way, you need to register your work and the best course of action is always to talk to an attorney who specializes in this.


And hyperlinking... the image linked to is the original file stored on the server where the copyright holder uploaded it. It is not a copyright violation.
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Old 10-09-2012, 05:03 PM   #8
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And hyperlinking... the image linked to is the original file stored on the server where the copyright holder uploaded it. It is not a copyright violation.
Free legal advice is often worth what you paid for it.
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Old 10-09-2012, 08:27 PM   #9
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Wow! A friend used some pictures without permission and people are talking about legal remedies.

I'm guessing that your friend is not aware that what she is doing is illegal or that it bothers you. A friendly conversation on the subject sounds warranted. Getting mad at this point sounds kind of petty.

Before talking with her, I would think about what you really want out of this. Do you want to be paid? Do you want recognition? A simple thanks? I think that people are happier in life when they think about positive, win-win outcomes in these situations rather than reflexively demanding their full legal rights.

Also remember that there are some pitfalls to taking money for your shots. You'll need to declare that money as income and do the extra tax paperwork. Also, your insurance might not cover your gear if you are using it for commercial purposes.

I am thankful that Disney isn't as zealously protective of their intellectual property as some people here seem to be. They could easily ban us from taking pictures while at the parks. I chuckle when I see people being protective of the Disney pics they are selling. I guess it is OK for them to violate Disney's rights but people better not mess with them.

OK, that was a bit of rambling. I'd some it up with the thought that this person is (or was) a friend. Treat them like one, even you perceive them as having harmed you. Give them the benefit of the doubt. And make this world a better place by going to lawyers only as a very last resort.
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Old 10-09-2012, 08:56 PM   #10
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Wow! A friend used some pictures without permission and people are talking about legal remedies.
There's nothing wrong with a legal remedy if it's appropriate for the circumstances.
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Old 10-09-2012, 09:22 PM   #11
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I honestly don't understand the problem. I would do just about anything for my friends and if my picture of an average tree helped her in any way I would let her use it. No questions asked. No payment needed. You don't even need to put my name on it. But hey on the waaaay off chance one of her clients is blown away by my picture if she were to say she was the one who snapped the picture THEN I would be upset.
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Old 10-11-2012, 05:12 PM   #12
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Scanning the thread...

I don't know about smugmug, but some social media sites have in their terms that they own any picture you upload.

Might check that, too.
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