Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Was I right to charge a fee? Update

About a month ago I blogged that I had discovered a wedding web site using one of my photographs without permission. When I sent an email to the business inquiring as to where they had gotten such a beautiful photograph, the reply, "from the internet."

When I explained that the photo was copyrighted with the US Copyright Office and, as such, I am entitled to collect $10,000, in addition to all attorney's fees and the
regular usage fee. An intern immediately called back, on the verge of tears, explaining she had downloaded the image and put it on the wedding photographer's site. She also said that her boss had just fired her and she would have to pay any fees.

Later the intern called explaining that she would make monthly payments on the usage fee I charged the wedding business, but that her husband was unemployed and they had two kids.

In the end, the boss wrote a check for almost 1/2 of the fee. Since the intern was to pay the rest, I said we were even and
refunded the $25 the intern had already paid. It also turns out that the intern did not get fired.

I have so many mixed feelings about the whole downloading (as in stealing) photos from the net situation.
• Should the intern be held responsible? I use interns all the time.
• How do we stop people stealing copyrighted photographs from the internet? Many young people feel it is their right to do so.

Oh, yes, a day after I found the wedding site theft, I found another site using one of my images illegally. Since they are associated with a very large company, they shuffled me around a bit, but they are paying the usage fee. Should I have charged the punitive fee? You would recognize this company.

What are your thoughts?


David Bryan Gilmore said...

Hi Janis;
Technically you would be right to try to recover a fee if you can prove they copied the image file from your website. However there are other ways to get image files that you own but not directly from any of your website or blog. It is quite possible that someone else lifted the file. This happens often on flickr. I have experienced this. If the violator lifts the image and posts it to their flickr account and sets the copyright to a Creative Commons publication, ( ) Any innocent party is free to download the image and use it according to the listing. I ahve found my work on a number of sites for sale. I have contacted the owners of the websites to have them removed. Who knows how they got my work. The only way to prevent this is to watermark your work or reduce the file size so small it is useless to steal. Of course on a website it doesn't have to be large so watermarking is the way.

frankp said...

Big compays if you are lucky might change only if you make it too expensive for them to not obey the law and should be charged penalty.

Not only young people but big companys feel they are immune.

They need to be taken to task.

Sounds like small wedding site owner/employees learned there lesson and you did the right thing.