Copyright issues for chasers and weather enthusiasts

Jan 14, 2011
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We've discussed this before on here, but there are some new items to bring up. The landscape of media is changing, and protecting your copyright on the internet is becoming increasingly important.

Social Media issues: Some big problems exist with the posting of images on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc). If a user takes an image from anywhere and uploads it to their own Twitter, Facebook or Instagram account, they are committing copyright infringement. Lots of people, chasers and weather enthusiasts are doing this to help boost their follower counts on their Twitter and Facebook pages. Sharing of images is encouraged, but sharing from the source is the only right way to do it. This way the original photographer gets all of the traffic and engagement. When someone copies the image to their account and shares it from there, they are in effect stealing engagement (likes, shares, retweets, etc) from the original photographer that is rightly his or hers. Crediting the photographer doesn't excuse this! I now pursue cases of copyright infringement involving images of mine copied to Facebook pages that are also used for financial gain (IE, a chaser selling calendars, prints, DVDs, etc).

Youtube: Youtube monetization is becoming a non-negligible source of revenue for chasers and photographers. I would recommend getting your Youtube channel monetized as soon as you can. Even if you aren't on Youtube, you need to do regular searches for your videos being stolen and re-uploaded by other accounts. If you don't, you are allowing many others to profit from your work, in some cases significantly if their copy of your video goes viral.

I find stolen videos of mine on Youtube almost every day. To make the task easier, I built this page that helps me search for infringing videos by coding search terms into links:

http://stormhighway.com/data/search.php

Feel free to copy this page and tailor the search terms to your material.

Search for infringing photos: Google and Tineye are good ways to find others who have stolen your photos. I use a browser extension called "Who Stole my Pictures" that allows one-click searching for images.

Register your work! Registering your work with the US Copyright Office is pretty easy nowadays via their web site: http://www.copyright.gov/eco/ It only costs $35 per registration! You can register work in bulk. With photos, they allow multiple photos to be registered in one case (for one $35 fee). For videos, you can throw together a bunch of your best work into a single video file.

Find a contingency fee attorney: A contingency fee attorney is one that does not charge you fees for taking a case, but simply takes a percentage of any settlements or damages won.

Educate yourself: Know the basics of copyright law.

Bottom line: Respect other people's copyrights and share images/videos properly on social media. Register your work. Put some effort into protecting your work online.
 

Shane Adams

The problem with all of that, at the end of the day, is most of us just don't have the time. What you described above is a full-time job.
 
Jan 14, 2011
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Not really, at least for most chasers. The copyright registrations I've been doing 2 or 3 times a year, depending on how much new half-decent footage and pictures I've managed to get. If I catch something very valuable, I'll register it immediately.

I do the reverse image searches one or twice a month for about 20 of my best photos. Those take about an hour total. Right now, yes the Youtube searches and DMCAs admittedly are a time burden. I put in at least 20-30 minutes a day on those. I've been trying to get YT to give me Content ID to automate that, so far without success. But it has to be done. YT is the wild west right now, and the pirates will do real damage to my channel if unchecked.

I could probably get by with doing the YT searches once a week, but it would mean letting the pirates rack up views in the meantime. I'm a little obsessive about it, maybe more than others would be.
 

shannbil

Enthusiast
Feb 24, 2014
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Although this does not protect you from someone uploading to their own site...another tip is to only upload low res images and add a watermark with your information/copyright... it is hard to make a calendar or nice print using low res images. :)
 
May 28, 2007
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Golden, Colorado
Hey Dan and All,

I am mostly a lurker (or less, as I don't come around much) here, but I have a question related to your topic which may be of interest to the visitors here.

I have a lightning photo which I took and which I have licensed for use from time to time. I am being deliberately vague as there may be legal action on this issue. The photo has been published in a book without permission, although the photo credit is correct. But no permission was given, and no fee was paid. The book is clearly available for sale, and I even got a copy out of the library, so availability is good.

My question here is, what should I ask the publisher for a fee? Let's say the use is a full page inside the book, and that the photo is sufficiently and demonstrably rare.

I have no idea of the number of copies printed, but as I said it can be found in the local library - not a major metro library, but a suburban branch. So the run must be in the tens of thousands or more.

Considering the book is already published, what would you ask?

Ken
 
Aug 16, 2009
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Ken, you should get a lawyer that might do a little investigating on what you might be able to get out of that. See if he could tell you if it's worth the time and effort. You might be able to get a nice sum out of it. Or there might be some policies that seal shut the whole issue.
 
Jan 14, 2011
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St. Louis
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Ken, it all depends on if the photo was registered with the Copyright Office prior to the infringement. If not, unfortunately there is not much that can be done other than invoicing the publisher for the market value of the usage. This site can give you a good idea of where to start:

http://photographersindex.com/stockprice.htm

Depending on where the image appears and how big it was printed, you could be looking from anything from $300 to several thousands.

If the image was registered, just send it straight to a contingency fee attorney who will take care of everything. If not, attorneys generally don't take unregistered photo cases, since there are no statutory damages in play and no way to recover legal fees. For an unregistered image, you can only sue for the market value of the usage - which sometimes is less than what all of the legal fees to pursue it would be. In that case you just invoice the infringer, and if they don't pay, you have other options (small claims, credit reporting, etc). Either way it would help to have an attorney advise you.
 
May 28, 2007
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Golden, Colorado
Hey Dan & Marcus,

Thanks for your responses!

I have been doing some research, and here is some of what I have found.

In the old days of pre-internet stock photo sales there was a guide you could purchase called "Negotiating Stock Photo Prices" published by a man named Jim Pickerell. I bought several editions of these over the years to serve as a reference for pricing my stock. Jim is still alive and kicking and yesterday I reached out to him for advice. Based on the info I gave him and, I think, in deference to the business he and I had done in the past, he sent me the following guidelines:

"I would charge $220 for the first one-quarter page use for up to a 40,000 print run. If the print run was higher then I would charge more. I would charge an additional 15% of this base for each of the 30 secondary uses. This would be about $33 per secondary use or a total of $990.

Add the $990 to the $220 and the total would be $1210."

Jim has an excellent website which can be found here: http://www.jimpickerell.com/Default.aspx

I also found a great primer on my question of addressing an infringing use here: https://asmp.org/tutorials/enforcing-your-rights.html#.U_3sl2OwT0R

The American Society of Media Photographers is a trade organization for people selling lots of photography, and some of you might benefit from membership. I am not a member, but I am grateful to them for publishing the article cited above.

I also found a fascinating article related to Pinterest: http://ddkportraits.com/2012/02/why-i-tearfully-deleted-my-pinterest-inspiration-boards/

Again this is not a site I participate in, but the write up (by a lawyer) is fascinating and well worth a read, ESPECIALLY if you do participate in that site.

One of my strategies to prevent infringing uses is to publish very little of my photography on the internet. This means far fewer people are exposed to my work, which is a minus, but then at times like these there is less chance of having a problem establishing ownership, or generally with people using my work without knowing who it belongs to.

In response to Dan, I have not registered my images with the copyright office, and in all the years I have done this (since 1989) this is the first time where anything more than a handshake has been required. Perhaps now I should register my work.

Thus far the publisher in my case has been cooperative, if not specifically falling over themselves to send me money. They remain engaged in the process, and I have high hopes that some agreement can be reached without any legal action. I will try to remember to post here if and when a resolution is reached.

Thanks again for your input!