I am a photographer. I own my own photographs. Nobody can claim they took them because they certainly did not. I can upload my photographs under my name on the internet.
But what happens when someone tries to use my photographs without my consent? They don’t own my photograph and therefore they certainly aren’t allowed to use it, let alone to make profit, right?
Photographers who post their photographs on the internet will have an underlying fear of people stealing their works. Them seeing their work posted or used by someone else without notification or credit is frustrating. It is theft, and there should be a punishment for stealing other people’s works.
Just because something is on the internet, free for all to see, it doesn’t make it free for all to use. It is not fair if businesses steal someone else’s content to grow their business. It is not acceptable to steal a painting in an art fair and sell it on as our own, why should works on the internet be any different? Is it something about a nonphysical form that we can’t touch with our bodies that leads to this different mentality of stealing?
Take the story of photojournalist Daniel Morel against Agence France Presse (AFP) and Getty Images, two big media giants who violated the Copyright Act by wilfully stealing 8 of Morel’s images taken during the Haitian earthquake and licensed them under their own accord. After a long 3 and a half year battle, the jury awarded $1.2 million – the maximum statutory damages that the Court allows for copyright infringement for 8 images.
Despite Morel winning the lawsuit, during a talk with the photographer, he stated that his images are still being used by newspapers and companies to make t-shirts and coffee cups. ‘Ignorant people steal from the internet because they assume it is free because it is so easy to do, people see it, they grab it. It’s no different from stealing music from the radio.’
Works are works. Whether text is written in a published book or written on a blog, they were all written by someone – and someone who deserves to have their labour acknowledged as theirs. Morel says, ‘the internet is no different from AM or FM radio or television. It doesn’t matter where you publish your work, you still own it.’
There are ways you can protect yourself from theft. Know where you stand; once you publish content online you are covered by Copyright Law but people can still legally use your content under the “Fair Use” Clause. Learn all about it with this handy slideshow from Hubspot.
As long as these three questions are answered ‘no’, you can take legal action.
- Does the copycat have any relationship with me?
- Will I gain traffic from the copycat?
- Can it help my brand exposure?
Daniel Morel states, ‘Copyright Law is there to protect us, but when big companies get involved, one freelancer fears they are too small to pursue them for justice because of the price to do it. That doesn’t mean they should be afraid to do it, they should do it.’ We should fight against the content thieves to gain justice, if Morel didn’t set the example, those companies wouldn’t fear us retaliating to their wrongdoings.
One way you can protect your content before it is stolen is by licensing it so that you are rightfully paid royalties for your stuff. There are many sites out there that allow you to do this but be aware of how much of the profit actually goes back to you. Some sites only offer 15% of the royalties back to the actual contributor so always outweigh which site is right for your content. Make sure you get the amount you deserve for your work.
Stealing someone else’s property is never acceptable and I hope this mentality of the ‘free internet’ adjusts to the advancement of being able to earn money from the internet. I’m not saying that the internet isn’t a great service and that everything should cost money, but that people should be respectful of the widely available free-to-access-and-view content and gain permission for using someone else’s content before doing so. I also hope that content makers never feel afraid to post their work where they like or feel frightened to pursue justice for their work.