The infringement backstory

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The last post was rather blunt. This was intentional. I wrote it as a statement to link from my sidebar and my “Image Use” guidelines, rather than as a stand-alone post.

Clarifying my infringement enforcement policies is overdue. I’ve been dealing in recent years with a great many commercial entities using my photos, without my knowledge, to sell all manner of pest-control services and products. The problem is bad and getting worse. More surprisingly, I am now getting pushback from a few infringers irate at being questioned, something that has never happened previously.

Five years ago, on the rare occasion when I’d find a pest control company selling their service with illicit ant photos, the owner would be unfailingly courteous and apologetic, immediately removing the image and/or offering to pay for it.  Most of my infringers remain polite and reasonable. But internet social norms are changing, especially in the era of social media and extreme SEO practices, and in the past few weeks I’ve had not one but several pest control operators claim that all internet images including mine are public domain, refuse to remove images, repost images after DMCA takedowns, question my ownership rights over my own photographs (even after I’d provided 100% crops, U.S. copyright registration certificates, and links to blog posts where I even explain how I took the photographs), and accuse me of being a predatory copyright troll out to hurt small businesses.

I needed a written policy to point to in my increasingly frequent conflicts with unrepentant infringers. I can’t pretend this will stop thieves from thieving, but having another tool in my corner can’t hurt.

14 thoughts on “The infringement backstory”

  1. Blunt and harsh I would add… I’m a blogger and have a Twitter account, Facebook and G+. Whenever I see great work (like yours, Sir) I like to link to it or even embed Youtube, etc. Having to request permission to use some photographs (with credits, links, etc.) before I would use it to promote some work is not very inviting… I am not making any money with all that… I am a photographer myself and have faced similar situations before. Not for profit use with credit of my images seems fair to me. Commercial use is something else…

    1. Hi Roger. Thanks for your comment. As way of context, I am finding my images plastered on the sides of pest control trucks, being used to sell pesticides, splashed across exterminators coupons, and coopted for company logos. And not just rarely. I find these all the time. It’s a big problem for my business.

      I used to ignore non-commercial infringements, but most of my commercial infringers are getting images not from my site but off blogs, facebook, and other places where they are not credited. So last year I started DMCA’ing non-commercial uses that weren’t attributed. DMCA is harsh, but when I’ve got literally dozens of these every week I just don’t have time to make a personalized email.

      In practice, I never request the removal of attributed, non-commercial images.

  2. Hi Alex, I am sorry you have to put up with this; as someone who aspires to making photographs people will pay for (or find well-crafted enough to steal apparently) it is one of the things that gives me anxiety (and I am putting my horse before my DSLR on wheels but I tend to worry on things).

    I was wondering about the “U.S. Copyright registration certificates” you mentioned. Are there associated fees with procuring those, and once procured, do they serve a purpose? I am guessing they are to help with legal proceedings (if it gets to that), but in what way(s) do you find them useful?

    Thanks!
    Mike

    1. Hi Mike. Thanks for your comment.

      This is a complex topic. The short version is that registering your copyright provides you with greater leverage to get infringing content removed- mostly because registered images make for stronger legal cases and larger penalties for infringers. I’ve never had to go so far as a courtroom (yet), but being able to provide legal evidence that I care enough about my rights to register my images is a powerful signal.

      A good place to start is the excellent writings of IP attorney Carolyn Wright (http://www.photoattorney.com/), who penned this article on how to register your images:

      http://www.naturescapes.net/docs/index.php/articles/341

  3. Alex, FYI I routinely steal your images for my talks! Please don’t DCMA me 🙂
    Nah, you always get a shoutout for your BeeNA pic!

  4. Like TGIQ said, what a waste of time for you. What you need is a volunteer ‘Alex Wild’ fan club that will chase these abusers of copyright down. WE would rather see you making more great images than chasing sleazy pest-control companies!

  5. Remember… You consider a waste of time, but most businesses have lawyers for just this issue…how many of you indignants have songs on your iPods that you didnt pay for…

  6. These decisions always seem so arbitrary. What indeed is the pvc banners point of a trademark?! If it is any consolation, there will only ever be one Motivating Mum for us, the original and the best

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