If you sued,did you win!!??

greenspun.com : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

My images discovered on a web site promoting the services of a company unrelated to the client that paid me for the original assignment is using five of my shots both on the net and in there co. brochure. If they innocently/ignorantly claim that they thought that they could freely use them, does that release them from any liability? I have had some dealings with this co. and they are jerks which is adding a little fuel to my fire concerning this matter. Thanks in advance for sharing you copyright experiences concerning largeformat images.

-- John Forrest Grunke (johngrunke@msn.com), May 22, 2002


They have no excuse. What they did is unlawful and ignorance won't be a defense. Have you actually registered the copyright? I think registration will give you even more ammunition. Print out their site (so if they change it you have some proof) and get your hands on one of the brochures. Unless it will create difficulties between you and the original client, (some exclusive use arrangement or such) bill the thieves full price as if you were hired to do the pictures for them and demand payment immediately. If they don't pay, have your attorney write them a letter demanding payment. If that doesn't work you'll have to decide if the costs of a lawsuit is worth the trouble. Good luck.

-- Henry Ambrose (henry@henryambrose.com), May 22, 2002.

Do NOT let those criminals steal your work and cheat you. They have surely picked your pocket. If in doubt look up the ASMP or perhaps PDN magazine. Unauthorized use of copyrighted material IS A CRIME. And you, the photographer (or creator of the work), own the copyright unless you specifically give it up to someone else.

-- Mark Sampson (MSampson45@aol.com), May 22, 2002.

Depending on your location, you may want to try small claims court. Retaining an attorney to recover what sounds like a small amount would be counter productive. I would be interested to hear their side of the story before I pass judgement though.

-- Jim (jimzpace@yahoo.com), May 22, 2002.

Contact APA (Advertising Photographers of America). They may be able to help you find an attorney who understands the copyright law and the value of your images.

I would not go to small claims court first. If you win there you will not be able to file another lawsuit (- as far as I understand it...) Talk to an attorney first...

-- Per Volquartz (volquartz@volquartz.com), May 22, 2002.

I would certainly follow this one through if I were you!

-- Scott Walton (walton@ll.mit.edu), May 22, 2002.


I don't have legal experience or experience with this problem, but the standard language that I've seen includes triple billing for unauthorized usage.

I have heard about an organization ("Volunteer Lawyers for Artists" or something like that, I think) that offers free legal advice. You may want to contact them.

Another person that you may want to contact is Seth Resnick (www.sethresnick.com).

A book that may help you is ASMP Professional Business Practices in Photography, by the American Society of Media Photographers.

Good luck!

-- Matthew Runde (actorm@hotmail.com), May 22, 2002.

I think a better place to ask those kinds of business questions would be the editorial photographers mailing list (Seth Resnick is a frequent contributor there). http://www.editorialphoto.com/

-- Q.-Tuan Luong (qtl@ai.sri.com), May 22, 2002.

I have not, as of yet had that problem, at least not that I know of. At least you were able to find out and get the evidence. Sounds to me like pure thievery. Though in this day and age of Enron, Global Crossing, pedophilic clergy, mafia mentality catch me if you can, it's a wonder anybody can stay in business.

The general perception of photographers is that they are push overs, starving for work, that it is a buyers market, plenty of starving artists who will give away their work for exposure. Plus the many stock houses dictating conditions, prices. If you had not seen it for yourself, you probably never would have found out.

Perhaps you should contact the company directly and see what their attitude is. Explain your situation, copy right laws, how they apply to their situation. See how willing they are to pay for the usage. Charge them at first for what you would normally charge. If they balk, do not back down, they are in the wrong. Be firm and stick to your guns. If you negotiate in good faith, they may realize they are on shakey ground and pay you and give you work in the future. If they remain stiff necked, call a lawyer and sue.

Remember,copyrights do not have to be nationally registered for copyright laws to apply.

-- Rob Pietri (light@narrationsinlight.com), May 23, 2002.

John.. don't be affraid with the copyright thing... someone told me that if you can bring the negs to the judge you will be in good shape (granting that you did not grant them illimited usage...) good luck..let us know how how it turns out...

-- dan n. (dan@egmail.com), May 23, 2002.

john, i found this info on the photo.net site; it may be of some use...

Violation of photo copyright on the internet--can Photo.net help in a major way?

The following is from page 7 of the 26 Feb. 2000 issue of the British photo magazine Amateur Photographer:

"Photographers win copyright battle Pressure from photographers and journalists has forced the Virgin Net website to withdraw rules that effectively took away all photographers' right to their images once placed on the site. the move follows protest by the Editorial Photographers UK & Ireland (EPUK), the National Union of Journalists and the Writers Guild who complained at the terms and conditions which gave Virgin Net full ownership of copyright of materials placed on its service. . . . . . . . . . . . . The original paragraph on the Virgin Net site had read: 'All information and material submitted to and accepted by Virgin Net via the Service or that you publish on any public area via the Service shall be deemed and remain the property of Virgin Net . . . .' Last year the Yahoo Internet service provider withdrew a similar demand after a worldwide campaign."

Occasionally, questions are raised in this forum asking for advice on the violation of copyright of photographs posted on the Internet, and most answers suggest consulting a lawyer--but how many of us have the time and means to do that, especially for those people who live in place where the idea of copyright doesn't even exist in the local legal system? I think the issue can be most effectively dealt with by some kind of pressure group that can represent copyright-violation victims on the Web. Since Photo.net has established itself as an independent, respected and potentially powerful photographic organization on the Web, and is planning an expansion of its services, I wonder if it would consider a role as such a pressure group? What do you think?

-- Hoyin Lee , March 05, 2000; 01:16 P.M. Eastern Answers I won't presume to speak for the management,just me.First top of the head reaction, Hoyin. Yes, apparently it's a problem,even worse than other copyright issues because it is enmeshed in new technology. Yes, the mechanisms for dealing with the internet in all its legal ramifications (E.g profiteer registering of web names) are just getting rolling and are going to take action sooner rather than later. But by whom and how? Should photo net organize to "do something" you ask or propose. If I appreciate the published raison d'etre, I think the value of Photo.net has been to disseminate information and allow sharing and even networking. The Neighbor to Neighbor section has effectively put a gentle brake on some scurrilous merchants without even taking a Ralph-Nader-like stance. I recommend that you and some others here take the lead in forming a separate advocacy group apart from the forum. Maybe the forum will let you use the Lusenet for same. Best wishes on curbing abuses.

-- Gerry Siegel , March 05, 2000; 02:24 P.M. Eastern

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Cool, the Photo.net Flame Brigade All members get to wear a funny hat and receive a lapel pin for formal occasions. Instead of working of out angst in the Canon vs. Nikon wars, we can send flame mail to alledged internet copyright infringments. Oh wait, did I say "alledged"? Gee, when you think about it, the checks and balances required to make sure that the system is used responsably and not abused could get complicated quick. We certainly wouldn't want photo.net to get the reputation that we are a bunch of rabble-rousing hooligans.... well, no moreso than has already been earned.

-- grant groberg , March 05, 2000; 03:27 P.M. Eastern

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Hoyin, About the only thing that can realistically be done is a consistent attempt at educating both photography producers and consumers. There will always bew people who can't understand, alway's be people who don't understand, and there will always be people who refuse to understand, ignore and/or abuse the system even when it is not in their best interest to do so. That's human nature for you.

-- Ellis Vener , March 05, 2000; 04:54 P.M. Eastern

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Hoyin: I am a lawyer with much copyright experience (I also taught it at one time). For working photogs, I offer the following: for a modest fee ($125), I will send a series of letters (up to three) to alleged infringers and their ISPs. Often, I find that a threatening letter is enough to compel the infringer to remove the work in question (or cause the ISP to terminate the infringer's account). In some cases, a letter will lead to a payment to the photog. If you or anyone else is interested, E-mail me with facts and a link to the infringing site. I will send you my address for payment. I am a member of several state Bars, as well as various federal Bars and the Bar of the US Supreme Court.

-- John Costo , March 05, 2000; 07:55 P.M. Eastern

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... but Hoyin's point was about an ISP whose conditions apparently included assuming copyright ownership. Very bad news, of course, but anyone who accepts such terms is an idiot.

-- Alan Gibson , March 05, 2000; 08:59 P.M. Eastern

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[...] most answers suggest consulting a lawyer--but how many of us have the time and means to do that [...] If you can do it yourself, and you have the time, you might not need a lawyer. Though you probably won't go wrong having a cooler head on your side.

If you can't do it yourself, you must secure a lawyer.

If you can't secure a lawyer, then you are screwed.

This is known as the "Rule of Law", as it has evolved (or maybe "devolved"?) over the centuries. It is unlikely any "pressure group" will be able to change it in a meaningful way. [ie, Mr. Costo's offer seems reasonable to me!]

A far more potent force is the technology itself ... as the RIAA and the MPAA has discovered. Business models based on distribution of physical artifacts by various cartels, middle-men and the like will ultimately collapse, even if the music and movie industries manage to prevail on all their outstanding claims. So I think a more interesting question is not how to apply "pressure" to keep the status quo, but how to exist in an environment where making copies of things is at the very core of what it is to be "digital".

-- Matthew Francey , March 05, 2000; 09:59 P.M. Eastern

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Hoyin, this is an interesting subject to me, and I'll offer the following comments.

The basic thing that photographers can to to protect their valuable images is to NOT post them on the Internet, period (emphatically). If you do so for self promotion of some sort, then post a lower resolution version that won't have value beyond your use in promotion. The problem is that anyone can 'right click' on the image and use it as they desire.

Consider trademark protection. I can search the web for, say, Ford (tm) and find it being missused all over the place. Can the law protect Ford, sure, but what an overwhelming job to do so.

John Costo's approach is a good one, use a demand letter from an attorney, to scare the misbehaving party into stopping the bad acts. Usually works, but not always.

As far as Virgin Net acquiring rights in images as they attempt, that is an interesting questions as well. They can only acquire the rights if a court finds that a valid contracct to transfer the rights was created by their "rules." How likley is that, not very in my opinion. Shrink-wrap licenses fall in that genre and they have had a tough go of it over the years. Lately, they are tending to be more and more enforceable. But acquiring ownership in creative works by by pressing an "I Agree" button, I wouldn't want to trust my future to such a proposition.

Fianlly, in my personal opinion, using photo.net as a forum for policing Internet copyright matters, I don't think it is such a good idea. Let's stick to supporting each other as photographers for now.

-- Dan Brown , March 05, 2000; 10:09 P.M. Eastern

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Lawyers never lose, right Mr. Costo? Seriously, though, Hoyin, anyone dealing with Virgin as an ISP would have to be blind or subnormal to miss the implications of the rat-bastard clause you cited.Getting images "off" the internet is like getting pee out of a public pool.Who can expect sympathy--or redress--when the terms are explicitly stated, as they purportedly are by Virgin and other ISPs? There seems a limit to efforts necessary to protect people from themselves, especially when the crucial information sits so close to the surface.

-- Gary Watson , March 06, 2000; 07:13 P.M. Eastern

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The uproar on Yahoo's method started when Yahoo aquired some site which ALREADY had images there. Those images were NOT posted with rights released, but Yahoo then absconded with the right.

Hoyin also addressed the issue of places where copyrights are not enforced rigidly.

Best bet IMHO is as the above poster suggested, do not put valuable images on the net, or put them at such a low resolution as to make them unusable.

-- Floyd Vaughan , March 08, 2000; 02:52 A.M. Eastern

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even worse, what Yahoo did was force people to accept the license before they could delete the content. In other words, we had our IP held hostage. They lost about a third of the geocities members because of this.

-- Jeroen Wenting , June 14, 2001; 04:50 A.M. Eastern

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-- miles feigenbaum (mfa1@ix.netcom.com), May 23, 2002.

I was in a situation similar to yours some months ago and posted much the same question, and received similar advice.

As to my remedy, I simply sent the offender an invoice at my regular rate, which much to my surprise was paid promptly. I have since gotten considerable follow on work from this client.

So, until you're shown otherwise, assume your 'client' has simply made a mistake and give them a chance to pay. If you don't receive payment within a reasonable period, follow up with a letter or phone call stating your case, and if you still see no payment, proceed with a lawyer or small claims court.

-- Michael Mahoney (mike.mahoney@nf.sympatico.ca), May 24, 2002.

Miles, did you get photo.net's permission to reproduce its entire thread, including its copyright notice, in this thread about violation of copyright?

-- Sal Santamaura (santamaura@earthlink.net), May 24, 2002.

tee hee hee, Sal; I actually came back to check this, looking for that reply... And, notice my credit to Photo.net. have a good day! m.

-- miles feigenbaum (mfa1@ix.netcom.com), May 25, 2002.

Miles, that doesn't answer the question. Giving credit isn't the same as having permission to reproduce a work.

-- Sal Santamaura (santamaura@earthlink.net), May 25, 2002.

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