Copyright Protection For Photos Is Dead

Posted on 6/10/2020 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (3)

One or my readers, Amyn Nasser, recently asked, “Isn’t it about time that ALL photographers started using copyright watermarks on all images that appear on social media platforms?" To a certain extent many photographers and agencies have tried for a decade or so to reduce infringement by placing watermarks on their images. For the most part the effort has been a total failure. This story will explain some of the reasons why.

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Copyright © 2020 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz


  • Paul Melcher Posted Jun 12, 2020
    If there is no more copyright, than there is no more licensing. If there is no more photo licensing than there is no more reason for the existence of "Selling Stock"

  • Penny Gentieu Posted Jun 13, 2020
    Paul Melcher -- Except for Nancy Wolff, when she loses a case!

  • AC Kojreau Posted Jul 5, 2020
    Jim Pickerell wrote, “Given the average license fees of most picture uses today, it is highly unlikely that she will ever receive anywhere near $150,000. The average license fee charged by Getty Images is about $29. Usage fees at Shutterstock, Adobe Stock and iStock are much lower.”

    JP is specifically addressing copyright infringement’s “actual damages” clause, where the creative work was not “timely” registered with the USCO, and therefore not eligible for enhanced statutory money damages and potential recoupment of litigation fees.

    In certain rare circumstances where the photograph was not timely registered but was prominently reproduced in a national or worldwide commercial ad campaign or on consumer packaging (think an unlicensed image exploited on a Wheaties’ box), actual damages could easily exceed $150K+ in unlawful profits.

    On the other hand, those copyright claims that were “timely” registered (either before the infringement began or within three-months of their first-publication date) can provide the plaintiff/photographer’s attorney with the necessary LEVERAGE to push the infringer to settle out-of-court. If the infringer doesn’t settle and the copyright owner prevails at trial, the infringer is now liable from $750 to $30,000 and up to $150,000 (for willful copyright infringement) in statutory damages AND recoupment of attorney fees AND legal costs (at the court’s discretion); the defendant has to also consider his/her own litigation costs by not quickly settling.

    JP wrote, “Microsoft’s legal team can afford to drag out the case as their lawyers are on salary.”

    To mitigate their financial exposure risks AND being subject to a social media shaming campaign for ripping-off a photographer, most all copyright (corporate) infringers who are facing a timely registered copyright claim and whose use does not fall within the scope of Fair Use will want to confidentially settle out of court and put their infringing actions behind them.

    With my timely registered copyright claims, in 2012 I received a large out-of-court settlement against a billion-dollar publishing media giant for exploiting multiple stock images.

    Something like 96% of all copyright infringement disputes are settled out of court -- timely registering your copyright claims really counts! I’m living proof of that!

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