Copyright Infringement: The Blogger’s Boogeyman
I don’t want to rant. Nope, not gonna do it. But in the spirit of Halloween I want to address a scary problem for blogger’s everywhere. Copyright infringement.
I am a professional blogger, freelance writer, and photographer. As such I spent a lot of time, effort, and money to do what I love. In return, I may be paid by a company or brand to give my honest opinion of a product. I spend long days using these products and writing about them. Countless hours are spent photographing and editing horse shows, events, or products for my reviews and for marketing campaigns. Attending conferences and paying for my equipment. This is a profession and as such I receive payment in return for my work.
However, today alone two other bloggers I know had their photos stolen by companies and used for their own marketing campaigns. The watermarks were removed, no credit was given, and more- no payment was made. These bloggers were not asked if it was okay to share their content, signed no commercial license, and more- by removing the watermark it appears they knew what they were doing was wrong. Yet they still did it.
I’ve come across this a few times personally and professionally. Sometimes it’s ignorance. In today’s society where everything is available at the click of a button, we are used to immediate gratification. But here is the thing. Everything I write or photograph is mine. I own the copyright. Period. Taking quotes, repurposing my content, or taking a screenshot of my photographs without buying them is illegal.
There are a few ways to deal with this problem, and often it is done on a case by case basis.
I prefer the direct approach and giving people the benefit of the doubt. Write a notice to the perpetrator outlining the details of the copyright infringement. Have photographic evidence backin you up, i.e. a screenshot of the violation. Provide an itemized invoice that includes a penalty fee that they must pay. By law the minimum fine an infringer will be forced to pay if it goes to court is $200.
The onus is then on the guilty party. You found out about the infringement and notified them in writing, asking them to remove it. Will they apologize and pay the fee? Will they fight it?
Contact a Third-Party
If you haven’t received a satisfactory response, or blatant disregard to your initial approach what are the next steps? If your material is posted to YouTube, Instagram, etc. you may contact the platform directly and provide a complaint.
Use Social Media
This is my least favorite approach, but I will allow that in some instances it may be necessary. I am NOT a fan of bullying. But if you have tried your best to deal with the situation privately to no avail, you may threaten or proceed with releasing the information on social media to publicly shame them. Tell your friends, spread the word about these poor business practices. Note: this is a last resort in my mind. Sometimes individuals will claim ignorance and try to fix the problem. On the other hand, some websites will purposely hack and pull content from blogs or social media for their own sites without any credit, notice, or permission.
Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is a group of laws that protect copyrighted content on digital formats such as text, video, and photos. This is well known for the DMCA Takedown Notice.
Precise information may be found online with the DMCA or here.
I hope to never have to pull out the big guns, but the sad reality is that I probably will at some point. In a world where technology is gaining the upper hand, the rules are changing.
According to Purdue University, the penalties for copyright infringement are such:
|“Copyright infringement is the act of violating any of a copyright owner’s exclusive rights granted by the federal Copyright Act. There are three elements that must be in place in order for the infringement to occur.
The legal penalties for copyright infringement are:
The bottom line is if you didn’t create it, receive permission, or buy it- it’s stealing. Don’t be a pirate or you’ll have to walk the plank. You will be caught.
Here is an amazing infographic “What to Do If Your Photographs Are Stolen” by KeriLynn Engel
Do you have experience with copyright infringement?
Connie - Tails from the Foster Kittens
My current job is going after copyright infringement for the company I work for. It certainly isn’t fun, but it is profitable
I bet. I think it is so much more common than many people talk about.
I’ve been lucky that in 7 years of blogging I’ve only had photos stolen once (at least that I know of). Thankfully the company was very apologetic and I didn’t end up having to take things to the next step. Great post!
Thank you. That is lucky and I hope you continue to have that luck!
Tenacious Little Terrier
That infographic is very helpful! It sucks that we have to deal with this but it’s easier knowing what to do when it happens.
I agree, which is why I was hoping this would help. Thank you!
The Contemporary Pet
I’ve never been stolen from myself, but years ago I was offered a writing job for a popular blog. I was asked to sign a document electronically and send it back. I followed up with a hard copy to the address of the blog. A few days later, the blog owner called me and said she had never contracted with me. Apparently, someone had been spoofing her site and using her logo. The FBI investigated, and eventually the man was caught.
Oh wow, that is so scary. Glad he was caught!
It seems to be an ever increasing problem
That infographic is awesome.
Hope it doesn’t happen to you.
Thank you, I hope it doesn’t happen to you either. But at least you’ll have a plan if it does.
Kristen Paskus (@My3LilKittens)
This happens so very often and so many don’t understand that they DO have options. Thank you for raising awareness on this topic and I am sure MANY will find it helpful!
I’ve been seeing this more and more. Since I wrote this just a few days ago there have been two more instances that have come up with colleagues.
I’m SO glad you wrote this post Heather, thank you! Bloggers and other Independents are often disrespected and taken advantage of in this way. Deceitful individuals often claim they had no knowledge of their actions after the damage is already done and they’ve benefited from it. These are all great options to deal with the problem. I would not be above publicly shaming thieves if they deny or refuse to acknowledge their actions. I’m sharing this on my social channels.
Love & Biscuits,
Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them
LOL Cathy that’s great! Thanks for sharing and spreading the word. It’s so important to make this a conversation because sadly ignorance is not a viable excuse.
I have never dared to check who uses my photos, since I have so many on my blog but this is so downright disrespectful to plagiarize like this! Thank you for outlining all the options for copyright infringement so that we can all benefit from it.
Glad to help! I see it a lot with horse show photographs but it is unbelievable that brands and companies will do this also.
I haven’t had to deal with this, but I learned so much from your article. Thanks for truly educating me.
I have not seen anyone take our photos and posts without permission but thank you for posting this as very useful. We let dog owners use any photos of their dogs freely. Brands and other producers often ask for recommendations if they are looking for talent but I do not think they steal anything. We are very careful using anyones image or content without a license as we have to get insurance and prove we made best efforts. We do not even use royalty free or licensed music anymore as so many then got licensed by big companies and we got dinged on YouTube. Apparently the rules of Instagram can be bit confusing as there was a case with an artist who stole images of young girls (including a friend of my daughter’s) then edited them and added touches and sold them for thousands of $. He got away with it.
I recently found photos and directions for a project that I created on another website. I wasn’t credited (nor were any of the other bloggers in the DIY round up) but I messaged the offender on Facebook and they gave me credit. Sadly, they didn’t give credit to any of the other bloggers. (I didn’t recognize the other projects/dogs or I would have contacted the bloggers personally.)
Kelsie | It's Dog or Nothing
I feel like I’m always dealing with copyright infringement these days – it’s so frustrating. It’s the most upsetting when it comes from a brand who really should know better. Thanks for helping to spread the information!
Shelby @ For The Love of Paws
Honestly, I’m too scared to check. I need to. What an informative article, yet again!
I agree to this completely. I had someone on facebook take one of my photos of my rabbits and claim it was her bunnies, my watermark was removed. Sharing this with other blogging friends!
A friend of mine went through this with her designs on doggy t-shirts – someone stole her designs and started selling them including on Facebook plus, it took her 3 months of fighting but she won in the end. I think that is why I am hesitant to put too many pictures anywhere as I do not want the headache.
I just started blogging and its so scary to think this is possible and that there are people out there doing this sort of thing with no regard for the property owner!
Thank you for sharing about this really important topic! I know many bloggers who have had their photos stolen! I really wish that companies would just pay for the rights and then share it.rr
Thank you for brining this to the forefront. Several years ago, before I started watermarking my photos, I actually had someone want to “borrow” a photo of mine so they could enter it in a contest, the only good thing about it was they asked first. I was a bit stunned to say the least, but at least they asked and I denied their request. It was then that I began watermarking my photos, but even that doesn’t seem to stop those that want to “use” them. Your graphic is very helpful, but it’s still a shame that we would need to use this information because of people taking advantage.
I had a photo stolen from my website 4 years ago and someone made a meme out of it and shared it all over FB. I contacted I Can Has Cheezeburger and was given credit for the original photo, but all of the memes that were made from it weren’t credited. Recently the photo has resurfaced and people are putting their own watermarks on them. I’ve been lucky so far that people recognize my cats and let me know and with a direct request, the photos have been removed. Thank you for this informative information.
Amen, sister and preach it. The bogeyman indeed. There are so many unscrupulous folks out there. I have had this happen to me many a time. It is good there are things we can do to make them stop!