Copyright lawyer

Discussion in 'Business of Photography' started by ulf_nordholm, Apr 16, 2009.

  1. I have found one of my photos on several (!) web sites, and seem to need a lawyer to get the offending parties to pay me anything. I therefore would like suggestions on lawyers (mostly experts on copyright) who will work for a percentage of the damages, and nothing else. The reason I want this kind of arrangement is that I live in Sweden, while all web sites I have found my picture on are in the USA. This also means I am only interested in lawyers in USA.
    Or should I 'just' let it slide, and do nothing about it? I don't like that path, since it leads to a loss of value of photographs, and photographers.
    The pictures concerned is http://fotoblogg.wordpress.com/2007/02/13/footprints/ and it can be found on http://www.nicholas.duke.edu/nicholas/insider/trenches/alexsblog/images/footprints-in-the-snow.jpg/view and http://www.jayklusky.com/Jay_Klusky,Ph.D./Mentor.html . If any of you would take screenshots of these pictures, I would be thankful, since I might need the testimony of third parties to prove the picture is mine and has been used.
    For the record: I have given two other sites permission to use the same picture, but not granted these sites (or anybody else) permission to sub-licence the picture. Neither have I given any picture agency the picture. The only place I have published the picture is on my website linked to above.
     
  2. I may sound a tad cynical here...but good luck.
    First off this is a photo forum, not a law or legal forum... I know that there are several lawyers that do scan this forum but I can't say if any of them will contact you.
    Second - Do you have the copyright of the photo registered in Sweden or the US? or Both? Without that - damages will be tougher to get from a US based firm.
    Third - Not sure how any of us going to to those links above proves that you actually took and own the photo. On the one site I see attribution to a wordpress site and on the 2nd I see attribution to another site...although somewhat late.
    Your best hope at this point may be to send a letter - registered mail - to the owners of the respective sites, asking them to remove the photo, as it is yours and you did not give them permission to use the photo.
    Dave
     
  3. Ulf:
    I'd start by looking around the web site of the US Copyright Office. This will give you starting information.
    Unless you registered your image before the infringement, your options are limited.
    I doubt if you'll find a lawyer willing to work on a contingency basis for this. My guess is that legal fees would far outweigh any money you would get from this particular infringement.
    Eric
     
  4. Hejsan Ulf,
    Since the photos seem to be mainly used on blogs etc I don't think you'd find any US lawyers willing to take this on. You can always write the owners of the blogs/sites and demand that they take the photos down and specify that if they don't this is copyright infringement and you will take appropriate actions. That's generally enough to get people to zap photos double-quick.
    If you need any help feel free to e-mail me (click on my name) and I'll be happy to help in Swedish since I'm Swedish but now live in the US.
     
  5. Search in Pnet on my name or using the terms 'DMCA' or "digital millennium copyright act' on which I have posted numerous times. You DO have some redress, but you'll need to do some work for it. It might not get you paid but it will give the users of your images a fright.
     
  6. What are you hoping to gain? Are they being used for profit? Are you looking to get them taken down or are you just looking to make some money?...-Aimee
     
  7. Damages would be minimal, even if you "won". Simply not worth the effort.
     
  8. Here are my thoughts. First write a cease and desist letter to the offending websites. If a physical address is not available you are left with sending them an email. Most non photography people don't really understand the rules of copyright and assume that everything that they find on the web is fair game. Usually this will be enough for the owner to remove the image. Next I would add a small mark on the photos you post on the web along with a statement of copyright under the photograph (Copyright (your name), (year) Photograph may not be reproduced without permission). If the image you gave to other sites was for free a stipulation should be a logo on the image and copyright notice placed on the image.
    If you are looking to get money from the offending websites good luck. Courts would be overflowing with this type of case if they were succesful. Also you would bear the burden of proving that you have lost income due to this situation.
    Just my thoughts.
     
  9. Thank you for your answers.
    David: you may be cynical, but if you being cynical helps me, then please be as cynical as you want/need to be!
    As for registering the copyright, it is something you don't need to do in Sweden: once you have the photograph on film/memory card, you have the copyright to it. Proving it is your original work might be a bit difficult, but I have in this case published only a down-sampled version of the picture, and still have a full-size file accessible. It should be reasonably obvious, even to lawyers, that sampling up a picture does not restore it to full size with the original quality.
    Aimee: if the infringers pay me a bit of money, they can keep using the picture. Since they have chosen to use it, it must have some qualities they value high enough to choose that picture over all others on internet, and I think those qualities should be worth a bit of money.
    All in all, I get the impression that the US legal system is set up (not necessarily intentionally) so that it favours big companies over 'the little guy', and it favours residents fo the country over foreigners, without concern to who might be in the right or in the wrong.
     
  10. Good luck getting any money from the student at Duke Univ., the Dr. on the other hand is a target. You can always send a letter to the Dr. requesting some licence fee for the use of the image or you will sue him for damages if he doesn't pay. If you ask for $300 to $500 for prior use without a license and a yearly fee of $20 to $30 for use, he may just pay you and it saves a lot of legal hassle.
     
  11. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    As for registering the copyright, it is something you don't need to do in Sweden: once you have the photograph on film/memory card, you have the copyright to it.​

    This is true in the US also. However, if you file for damages in a US court, which you might have to do, registration brings significant financial advantages if you win. I agree with everyone else who says that litigating over this isn't going to be a big winner. I had trouble getting a lawyer to take on a case against Sony and Dreamworks over use of a photo because it was international.
     
  12. I can live without getting money from the student at Duke University. In that particular case, I am 'just' pretty annoyed at them, since I sent the student an email asking her to remove my picture from her web pages, or make them to links to my web page. The answer I got was that she had been given permission by others to use the picture. So I sent an email to the webmaster, and the picture was gone next day. From the one page I had found it on, but apparently not from all....
    The invoice I did send Duke University concerned the use of the same picture on www.footprintsconference.com, which is owned by an employee (or student, I'm a little uncertain) of Duke University. The site however, is (was ?) used to advertise a conference hosted by Duke University. I sent the invoice, by email, to the person given as contact on the website, who also happens to be the domain owner. The amount of money I wanted was SEK3000 (approximately US$360, or £250). The entire web page with my picture was gone within hours of me sending the invoice.
    I sent an invoice for the same amount to JK, for having my picture on his front page. It was gone next working day, and JK tried wriggling out of paying me by offering his services to any youths I may know, or a couple of copies of his book. When I made it clear to him I didn't need neither his services nor book, he point blank said he didn't want to pay, since I had suffered no damages. After telling him I have had my rights to decide when, where, how and even _if_ the results of my work are published taken from me, I have not heard any more from him. It was after this email exchange that a member of a Swedish photography forum was kind enough to point out to me that JK still had my picture on his site, just not on the front page...
    I feel the amount of money I have asked for from both Duke University and JK are reasonable, and well within my rights according to Swedish legal traditions. In fact, in JK's case, I could have asked for up to SEK8000 and still stay within the limits of the legal tradition. The tradition is, simply put, that if the picture has been used without permission, you charge the guilty party an extra 100% of the list price (*). If the picture has been modified in any significant way (cropped, had parts digitally removed, colour alterations...) you add an extra 100%, and a further 100% if the photographer has not been credited.
    * The 'list price' is in this case the price given for that particular use in one or other of the semi-official price lists published yearly by the Swedish Picture Agency Organisation, or the Swedish Photographers Union. The lists give everybody an idea of what to expect to pay/charge for pictures. Their use in cases of copyright infringement is so that both photographer and infringer can decide on a base price: the infringer cannot claim the picture is worthless, and the photographer cannot claim the picture is worth millions.
     
  13. I would approach as Steve Carless mentions.
    Although you might be better off only a flat fee for a web quality only version of the file with credit.
    you can also at least get the Duke guy to give you credit or remove. I dont see the point of removing with no pay, but if you let them know that ..."Hey bozo, you can at least give me credit for the image".
     
  14. People like this "Dr" disgusts me. He claims to be a mentor to teens and to be teaching and giving lectures in Portland, OR. I just wrote him the following e-mail and would like to encourage other p.netters to help Ulf stand up to this guy. Click on his site in the initial post in this thread and then on contact and there you'll find the contact info. Come on folks, let's show some community spirit here!
    ...............
    Nice going Dr. Klusky. I understand you now have been able to add ripping off photographers as well as copyright infringement to your list of achievements. I'm sure the school districts et al in Portland, OR would be delighted to find out.

    Even though it may seem to you that anything you find on the internet is "free" that just isn't so. Would you object to me taking the contents of your book and sell and market it under my name? Unless you can honestly answer "yes" to that question stop stealing photos for use that demand a fee from the photographer holding the copyrights of a photo.

    I think you should be very glad that the Swedish photographer you have ripped off is willing to settle the matter for e mere few hundred bucks. As I'm sure you are aware as an author, copyright infringement lawsuits often run in the hundreds of thousands dollar range. Ever heard about RIAA suing students, parents, universities etc for people downloading a few songs from the internet for $5,000 and above?

    I suggest that you read up a bit on copyright infringement lawsuits and intellectual copyright rights. Then I suggest you send the photographer a check for double what he asked for along with an apology. I find it extremely troubling that someone who mentors teens is OK with stealing. I'm sure the Portland authorities will find it equally troubling.

    Mike
     
  15. Does anybody know the details of the law surrounding registered works and infringement on their copyright
    Specifically, what I would want to know more about is what the law says about images published on internet: do they get published once (ie when they are uploaded to the server) or do they get published once for every visitor to the site? If the law states that the image gets published once per visitor, I 'just' have to register my picture with the US government, and can then drag the 'good Dr' to a court and hardly loose, right? If the law, on the other hand, states that publishing occurs when the item is placed on the server, I am no better or worse off than before.
     
  16. Somewhat off topic but I am really curious. How does one discover that one's photograph is being used on the Web by someone else, especilly in case like this where I see no relationship between the OP and where the photo is being used. In other words, with the millions of photographs that are posted on the web, how would you discover, not one but two, totally unrelated postings of a single photograph?
     
  17. In my case I did it with Google, Yahoo and Altavista. And some hours of time... Rather boring stuff actually.
     
  18. I understand the use of the search engines to locate the photo. My real question is why did you spend the time to search? I don't mean the question to be critical; it's just that I have posted some photo's on another site some time ago and it never has entered my mind to spend several hours searching to find out if one of my photo's had been used by someone else.
     
  19. The original reason I did it was that that particular picture had so many more views than any other on my web site I thought it might have 'wandered off' to other places as well. And once I found it on one other site, I thought I should spend some more time looking. I didn't do it all in one go though, but took it little by little. And I suppose I was a little lucky: the filename has hardly changed, which probably makes it easier to find the illegal copies.
     
  20. O.K., thanks Ulf.
     
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