A typical copyright infringer. Alas.

One can make principled arguments about how intellectual property in the digital age stifles creativity, or perhaps an historical argument that copyright is overextended beyond what the founding fathers intended in the Constitution.

I would be impressed, honestly, if even one of my many infringers responded to a takedown request with just such a line of reasoning. Alas. Here is a far more typical reply. I received this missive just now from a pest control company owner, in response to a standard takedown form letter:

so sorry did not know about the copoy right on your ants. if you did not want to share this with anyone then you should not have it posted so folks could copoy it. da hello wake up iam probably not the only one who was useing it .

Instead, I’m dealing with people who can’t even spell “Duh.”

15 thoughts on “A typical copyright infringer. Alas.”

  1. It is no fun having people routinely infringe your rights.

    I suggest that in the body of your take down notice, you point those who infringe to a source of restriction-free images. It takes the same tack that happened in “Miracle on 34th Street” in which Kris Kringle sent people to Gimbel’s if Macy’s didn’t have the gift a person wanted. For a person with such poor spelling, a lower quality, but properly licensed image might be just the thing.

  2. Couple questions for you:
    1) How does the average infringer use your images?
    2) What would you require – from your average infringer – to keep the image?
    3) Have you considered a watermark?

    I know when I use images on my blog I’m VERY picky about where they come from. In fact, if I can put it together in MS paint by myself, that’s what I’ll be doing. I don’t want to run the risk of accidentally violating copyright.

      1. These are good questions, Nicholas.

        There’s no “average infringer.” Rather, there are several distinct groups of people who infringe, and I treat each of them differently:

        – The content-farming spam internet (“Top Ten Most Venomous Ants”, etc.). These get DMCA’d (= issuing the hosting company a takedown notice) when I find them. Most aren’t even human, they’re just scrapers.

        – The personal bloggers. These I tend to ignore if they credit me, and sometimes even if they don’t. Sometimes I email them and have them append a link, sometimes I just DMCA the web host, especially when I’m short on time.

        – The social media sharers on facebook. Uncredited ones get DMCAd as I find them. Credited photos I leave be, although I do still have the right to have the content removed.

        – For-profit companies. Most are pest control companies that use a few of my images on their Pest ID pages. These I email and request that they remove, and I also quote them a price if they wish to continue using the items. About 5% decide to pay, or even order more work. Sometimes, when I’m rushed, I just DMCA the web host. If the image is used in a company logo, or product label, or web banner, or coupon, or other prominent display I will just send an invoice.

        The trouble with watermarking is that it doesn’t work. If an image is watermarked, I’m told it was ok to use because my name is displayed, so I was credited. If an image isn’t watermarked, I’m told it was public domain so I have no right to ask them to remove it. Watermarking might be a slight deterrent, but I’m finding a lot of watermarked infringements this year.

  3. I’ve noticed a lot of insect photographers using more obvious watermarks (which I’m sure they move/remove for paying customers), but I have no idea if that’s anymore effective. I don’t know what the solution is. There probably is no great one at this point. Seems like the internet is in a weird transition phase in terms of that kind of thing. People figure if they can save it to their desktop, it must be free.

  4. I’m not a big fan of watermarks, but obviously they’re still necessary, because people believe they have the right to use your intellectual property just because “you have posted it”. LOL. Thus – according to this kind of reasoning – in order to prevent your work from being stolen, you must never share it. Then what’s the point of photographing?

  5. I think one of the reasons that so many people feel justified using a photo, music or other artist’s work is due to the massive scams run by the big corporate entities under the auspices of current copyright law. Maybe it’s hard for them to see that these laws (such as they are) also protect individual artists and small companies.

    There is another legal framework called the Roman tradition (as opposed to the British system the US laws derived from) and in the Roman tradition protection for the creator of a work is called Author’s rights. Artistic and cultural products (songs, photos, artwork, most anything cultural) are licensed by their creators to distributors & publishers. By definition the author always maintains control, which stands quite starkly in contrast to the copyright laws prevalent in USA, Inc. One small piece of evidence http://www.salon.com/2000/06/14/love_7/ Maybe a shift to more rights for the creators of the works would help in the US?

    Although people still do plenty of pirating in countries with Author’s rights, so maybe there’s something else going on that pirates feel gives them license.

  6. I regularly run reverse searches on my photos and if they were used for commercial purposes I ask for a usage fee. Telling them that I will sue them, if they did not pay, for a much higher amount almost always make them pay. I do not bother with the blogs etc. though.

      1. I’ve never needed to sue to be honest. At last a letter from a solicitor did the job. I have got one now when I am considering it seriously. The other question, if it’s an obvious commercial use than I would ask for money. I have not come across a commercial blog though using my photos.

  7. This is just… I can’t. And what is always with pest control companies and not knowing how to effectively communicate in their native written language? I suppose an occasional mistake in confusing a dampwood termite with a drywood termite might be forgiven, but how can anyone be so illiterate and still run functional lives?

    1. I once got a summer job with a pest control company – only to discover that the workers were dishonest and incompetent. These people are out there! I would think twice about hiring a company where the owner was that illiterate and ignorant.

Leave a Reply