As I have around 5,000 photos online – some of which I like to think are quite good! – inevitably they find their way onto other people’s websites.  Generally speaking I allow use of my photos provided they are credited with a link. However, this is not the case in these instances.

This issue has been gaining momentum over the past few years particularly through the efforts of Getty images and Corbis. This  article in the Guardian shows the determination of these companies to enforce copyright and the potentially large amounts being demanded for the smallest of infringements.

What is interesting is that no cases (until this month) have actually been settled in court. They have all been settled out of court in favour of Getty. The main reason for this is copyright infringement is a criminal offence and the costs involved are huge. On top of this there is little point of disputing such an infringement if the evidence is in place.

In theory the law is pretty clear cut regarding copyright, however in practice, for the copyright owner it is almost impossible to enforce.

In simple terms all content on the web should be assumed to be copyrighted unless stated otherwise. It is advisable to make this abundantly clear though, as one line of defence is that an infringer could claim not knowing this – although this does not absolve the infringer and would almost definitely not be accepted.

Assuming you want some sort of payment the first problem comes with what to send the infringer. You cannot just send an invoice to the website owner. What you need to send is a license agreement for the exact useage of the photo. It is therefore fairly important to ascertain the length of time the photo has been on their site.
The only way I can see of doing this is by using the Internet Archive resource, which will also proove invaluable as evidence of the infringement, assuming the website owner takes the images down and denies everything!

Another form of evidence I considered was getting a 3rd party to sign a printout of the offending web-page.

Careful consideration should be made when calculating the cost of the royalty payment. The top end of the ‘going rate’ is often quoted as the price to use. Looking at the article mentioned Getty Images were demanding in the region of £2,000 for a one year license on a small photo. This seems excessive, to get a fairer price it is probably worth going on the Getty, or Alamy site and calculating the cost they would charge and then adjusting as you see fit.

From my point of view there are 2 reasons I would like to seek recompense for infringements:

The first is it takes me a considerable amount of time to collect evidence and check for theft of my photos. The alternative I suppose is just to give up and let anyone steal them.

The other reason is I actually think there is a minor impact on my income. Firstly because I could have sold the photo to the company and secondly these companies are often in competition with me and the fact they appear in Google / Google images is diverting traffic / income from my websites

At present I am in discussion with an intellectual property lawyer to find a template action. I’ll post any updates here.