This past few weeks I’ve been performing the unpleasant annual ritual of combing the web looking for instances of unauthorized commercial use of my photographs. My rationale for controlling copyright infringement is two-fold. First, infringement deprives me of the revenue I need to host my websites, repair my equipment, and travel to insect-filled jungles. Second, infringement is unfair to my honest, paying clients. Why should they fork over cash for images when their competitors use the same ones for free?
The results of this year’s infringement hunt were disheartening. Much more egregious than previous years. I am watching volumes of my work slip away into the ether. I’ve seen my images branded with the logo of other companies, appended to coupons, banner ads, and pest ID charts.
A few of my images have been copied through enough intermediaries that they appear in multiple search results, stripped not only of attribution but often of even the correct species name. This image of Formica oreas, for example, is now a leading search result for “Argentine Ant“.
In the possibly futile interest of heading off future infringements, I’ve made the following watermarked compilation of my most frequently abused images. All of my photographs are legally protected, of course, but these are the ones that have most often worked their way off my galleries and proliferated across scores of third-party sites.
I do not mind certain non-profit uses of my images. Educators, researchers, students are more than welcome to employ them for school projects, classroom presentations, technical articles, and educational websites. I just ask that the images be attributed and that online use be accompanied by a link to the source website.
But if your use is commercial- and that includes the educational products industry, thank you for asking- then you need prior authorization. Most commercial use also entails the payment of licensing fees. I am not getting wealthy off photo licenses, but it keeps the lights on and the servers humming.
In the coming weeks I will continue to contact webmasters of sites I find with unauthorized copies of my photos. In most cases I am content to issue DMCA takedown notices or ask for the images to be removed. The more egregious cases (repeat offenders & images branded with logos or splayed on advertisements) will receive non-negotiable invoices followed by appropriate legal action.
The annoying bit is that I don’t really have the time to deal with all this. I have papers to write, I’m assembling a couple book projects, the house needs work, and the absolute very last way I’d like to spend my time is facing endless infringement cases. But I don’t really have a choice, not if I plan to maintain control over my photographs.