News and Views from Dave Wilson

Tag: copyright

Copyright Infringement Update

by on Apr.21, 2011, under Photography

If you were following this blog back in late January, you may remember that I had my first serious case of copyright infringement when a local telephone directory company decided to pick up one of my photos from Flickr and use it on the cover of their local directory. After an exchange of 5 letters and a couple of phone calls, I am delighted to report that the claim is now resolved. The directory company admitted that they were at fault and paid a mutually acceptable fee for a license to use the image. As expected, it seems that this was another case of someone in the production side labouring under the misapprehension that any image which is on the internet is automatically in the public domain.

As regards the actual settlement, you’ll need to take me out and buy me a few beers to find out the final cost to the infringers. Suffice it to say that it was less than my original demand but significantly more than they would have paid had they approached me for a license in good faith prior to publication. No doubt some of you are also wondering why I decided to settle rather than taking the matter to court. I’m 100% sure that I could have won a larger settlement after taking legal action but, weighing up the pros and cons (mostly cons related to the time, effort and stress involved in a dealing with lawyers and a court case) and after discussing the situation with my wife and a couple of lawyer friends, I decided that negotiating rather than litigating was in everyone’s best interest.

So what have I learned through all this? The main thing I take away from the experience aside from being doubly careful to embed copyright info in all my files (which was apparently not something I did until the end of 2004) is that it’s easy to bluster about taking someone to court but, when you are actually in a position to do it, you need to think long and hard about how much time and effort it will cost both you and your family if things get nasty. I think, in the end, this worked out as a win-win – the negotiation was very professional, no-one got stuck with legal fees and I was fairly recompensed for the use of one of my images.

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Unpleasant Surprises

by on Jan.27, 2011, under Photography

Wow - talk about blatant IP theft! These guys will be receivi... on Twitpic

Most of my images are licensed under a Creative Commons license which allows non-commercial use without people having to contact me to ask permission. This has worked pretty well but occasionally I have to send letters to folks who are using pictures for commercial use – real estate agents and come to mind. In most of these cases, the infringer decides to remove the image rather than pay for a license and in all of these cases so far, the infringement has been on a web site. Tonight, however, I experienced my largest and most blatant example of image theft.

On arriving home from work, I picked up a telephone directory that had been left at the end of the driveway and was amazed to discover one of my pictures on the front cover. At no point had I licensed this image to anyone for commercial use – it’s been sold as an art print a few times but not as a stock license. Looking through the directory, I found the same image used twice more in advertisements for the directory company. I have to assume that they found the image on Flickr and decided to use it in the hope that the owner would not complain. They made no attempt to contact me prior to using the image despite the fact that my contact details are clearly advertised on Flickr. Tomorrow, I’ll give them a call to check the circulation (probably around 100,000-150,000 given the number of households in the 4 counties they distribute the directory to) then invoice them for the usage. If they choose to ignore my gentle reminder, we’ll see where it goes after that.
Hamilton Pool near Austin, Texas

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