How to protect your digital property from copyright infringement

Did you know that taking an image from the internet and using it without approval is considered copyright infringement?

Copyright infringements occur over and over every day. Downloading a product image for your ecommerce website, your business website, or even for an Instagram post or meme could mean you are violating United States Copyright laws.

In this article we will discuss best practices for how photographers can protect their content, and highlight things to avoid so that you don’t commit copyright infringement.


A Photographer’s Best Practices

Copyright infringement is a major issue across the spectrum of digital media, but infringement on photos is perhaps the most common. As a professional photographer, your pictures are likely on the internet for millions to view. But are you properly protecting your photos? Here are some tips we think every professional photographer should be aware of:

  • Your pictures should be copyrighted; Indication that a photo is copyrighted could be a signature at the right-hand corner or a watermark.
  • Photographers should have a website displaying prices for use of the pictures by size and duration.
  • Photographers should also have a program to search the internet for their photos. Many available programs use blockchain and web crawlers to comb the internet for your copyrighted images. All users determined to be using said photo(s) without permission (paying for use) are in violation of 17 U.S. Code §501.

Avoiding Infringement

Although most infringement on digital photos found on the internet is not deliberately nefarious (such as a student using images from Google), and likely committed out of ignorance, infringement detection has become somewhat of a second business for many photographers.

Any use of copyrighted materials is a violation. Federal law does not recognize an “innocent infringer;” Ignorance of the law is not a defense. Before you save and use a photo you found online, you should obtain permission from the copyright owner first. However, this is often easier said than done.

We Can Help

Recently we handled a case in which a small business that provides guided tours used a photograph that was found on a stock-image site. The image was labeled as free by the website; however, it was determined that this labeling was done incorrectly and the original image was in fact copyrighted by the owner. Unfortunately, the tour business was completely ignorant of the misleading image description found on the stock-image site, but that ignorance didn’t protect them from the image owner’s copyright infringement claim.

In the end we were able to negotiate a satisfactory result for both parties, but proper use of some of the suggested best practices we have discussed for photographers and copyright violators could have prevented legal intervention.

Lancaster has a thriving art community and we value the hard work our local artisans put into their craft. It is important for artists, such as photographers, to get paid for their work for that work to continue.

Additionally, we understand that those who have committed copyright infringement might not know it—we feel it is equally important to help those individuals as much as possible too.

Contact us if you are subject to a claim or suit based upon, or arising out of, piracy or infringement of a copyright or other intellectual property.

Alternatively, if you believe you are a victim of copyright infringement, please call with any questions as to how to protect yourself, your company, or your work.