Another Reason to Register Your Photos with the Copyright Office
This weekend, Thomas Hawk wrote a couple of posts about copyright infringement by Imagelogr.com and Wapfever.com. They were basically scouring Flickr and other parts of the Internet to grab images without regard for the author's copyright, downloading them to host on their own servers and then offering those images up to their customers. At least Imagelogr.com had the good sense to shut down. Going to that site now re-directs to Domainlogr.com. I never had the chance to check that site for any infringement of my images. However, Wapfever was still hosting and I found 45 of my images on their site, ready for others to download.
Do these sites truly rise to the level of infringement? Carolyn E. Wright of the Photo Attorney blog has a useful post about infringement. The first thing she advises is to make copies of the infringement, before they have a chance to erase the evidence. I did that for all of my images I found on the Wapfever site. I'm trying to decide what, if any, action I want to take next. Most of the images were not registered with the Copyright office, though some were.
It turns out that registration with the Copyright Office is the key to statutory damages and attorney's fees. Yes, you own the copyright on any image you own. However, registration strengthens your claim. From what I've been told, no judge wants to hear a copyright case if the images weren't registered. You may be able to get some value from unregistered claims, but statutory damages (per the PhotoAttorney blog) can be up to $150K. That makes the $35 registration fee seem worth the effort.
I've registered every image I've created starting late last year and I'm in the process of registering old images. There is a bit of a difference for images that have been published already (e.g., posted on the blog or Flickr counts as publishing), so I have to separate my registrations. Still, you can register in bulk. I took 502 photos this weekend and registered them all in the same batch for $35. I don't publish a thing until the registration is complete. The official letter comes a few weeks later.
Jack Reznicki and Ed Greenberg have a course on copyright registration on KelbyTraining.com. They walked through the process, showed you how to fill out the forms and then save your entries as a template to make registration much faster & easier on subsequent visits. It takes me longer to export and zip the photos I'm going to register than it does to actually go through the registration process.
At Photoshop World in Orlando, I spoke briefly with Jack to tell him how much I appreciated the course (he was providing the same information at Photoshop World in the Expo Hall). He let me know that he had recently earned several thousand dollars after finding someone who infringed upon one of his registered images. It's part of his income stream. When I found some of my registered images on this site, my first thought was Ka-Ching! Of course, that may or may not be the case. I have the saved copies of my photos on their website, but I think I want to find an attorney to guide me through this experience. As Carolyn mentions on the post I referenced, it may not be a copyright infringement. I'll find out and this will be yet another learning experience for me.
Ironically, one of the images of mine I found on the Wapfever site was this one of Jack Reznicki – one of the People You Meet at Photoshop World.