How would you catch this thief?

Discussion in 'Business of Photography' started by dave_jacobs|2, May 3, 2009.

  1. A few years ago i photographed a celebrity for a weekly photo-column i was doing for a major daily newspaper at that time.
    Today, on google, i discovered that not only is my original 2-image layout is being sold on a t-shirt, but the seller is also taking
    credit for my work.
    The shirt of the now deceased celebrity is being sold on a large website, and i wouldn't imagine that the site itself is even aware
    of the copyright infringement.
    Now, there are those who would say to write the pirate and tell him to remove it, and just be happy if that ended it.
    I have done that before when i discovered images of mine being displayed on fan sites without my permission. Some did remove the
    images, and some just ignored me. But this situation is different,...
    someone is stealing dollars selling my images and also taking credit for my work.
    If possible I'd really like to bust this guy and have him pay the consequences.
    Can anyone tell me if i would have to prove damages, or would such a flagrant violation likely insure damages could be assessed?
    I would really appreciate hearing suggestions how to proceed in nailing this low-life, (I sound just like John Walsh on, "America's
    Most Wanted"!)
    How would you catch this thief?
  2. hi dave,
    sorry to hear of this situation. is there any way you could prove you took that picture?
  3. Just a guess, but what proof do you have that you are the originator of the picture? That is, do you have a copyright registered on it; a witness of you taking the photo(s), a dated print/contact sheet, a published article or print form that is dated, etc.?
    If you have the latter, then simply contact an attorney and file a complaint without disclosing what you possess as proof. The complaint when heard will place a burden of proof upon him to disclose where, when, how, he came to acquire the photo (i.e., the date he shot the photo, witness, etc. ibid) and therein obviously if your burden of proof precedes his, it's a simple open and shut case.
    Once he is found plegerant (sp) then your complaint can seek damages, royality, punitive (if there has been any loss of reputation, etc.) and thus you're on your way, including perhaps FREE publicity which will surface your origination and even more depth to the use of the image but major publicist.
    There have been many cases of this even to include a guy who recently stole BO's (hussein omitted) image when running for pres. Hope it helps.
  4. The images ran in the newspaper with my photo-credit, and i have the negatives of those images and similar ones.
  5. They Obama thing is a different legal argument - Shepard Fairey regularly appropriates others' imagery and says he's making derivative works that fall under fair use. He may be correct - sometimes more than others, but in this case he may very well be fair use, and the photographer has said he doesn't mind.
    Copying photos directly, in the original layout even, and putting them without any new artistic intent on commercial products for sale, is a very clear violation. Having the original newspaper and the negatives, all you need is an attorney and the other guy's address and you're good to go.
  6. Hmmmm, you have a copy of that newspaper article AND the images, sounds to me like a open and shut case. If in fact this person is making money off your photo, then by all means you should contact your attorney and file the respective complaint to get a stop order and discovery to find out what has been made off the image thus far with regard to shirt and product sales resulting from that images' use.
    Way'ta'go . . nice one AND you didn't have to do much of anything :eek:)
  7. 1. Legal advice is best obtained from a lawyer.

    2. If you took the image while working for "a major daily newspaper" -- chances are good that the newspaper has ownership of the image. Unless you have a letter that transfers ownership from the newspaper to you, you may not have a clear 'shot' of claiming the copyright.

    3. Were you a employee of the newspaper?
  8. I was not an employee. I signed a freelance photographer contract with the paper that clearly
    stated i retain 100% copyright and ownership of my images. The paper ran my column for 3 years,
    they designed the 'look' of it, and my name was in the title of the column, I was even issued official
    photo credentials, all this with a contract the said i was a freelancer and not an employee!
  9. As an aside, Andrew, Garcia (the photographer who took the photograph that Fairey used) has subsequently said that he's not OK with Fairey's grudging acknowlegment of him as the photographer, and is not pleased with how the image was appropriated or used.
  10. Matt: I'd read that he liked it. If he's not pleased with the situation, that would give me more sympathy for the AP's side of the issue. Shouldn't have mentioned it, since it's not the same legal issue.
    Dave, you should have a lawyer to deal with it and advise you of the action to take, and whether you're entitled to compensation.
  11. NPR's Fresh Air did an hour-long show on that issue, Andrew, interviewing both Garcia (who related his thoughts while making the photograph, and his growing unhappiness as he learned more about Fairey's attitude about the whole thing), and Fairey (who, honestly, came across as a rather pompous ass). It's a reminder that a lot people can quite happily find a way to justify ripping off someone else's work, and that it's right for the OP in this thread to pull no punches in pursuit of the person who is not only infringing on his copyright, but causing money to change hands, too. Go get 'em, Dave.
  12. I can see that. I saw his show in Boston and... well, there's a lot of attitude there. And there's only so much time I can look at it before I start wanting to obey the giant.
  13. thank you all for responding. a theif has stolen, my work, my name, and my money, but
    i will contact an attorney, and hopefully justice will prevail...i'll keep you posted.
  14. I had an article that someone stole from me. It was on a rinky dink site, but the host of the site was one of the biggest ISPs. I wrote enough times and was obnoxious enough that they not only took down my article, but removed the site completely. It took a lot of work to do it, and I even had the copyright filing that I sent them.
  15. As with all legal issues, you have to decide what you realistically expect to recover and how much time and money you're willing to spend to get it back. Unfortunately, these are all isolated cases and how much are you willing to budget to make your point. You're not going to educate the public and it's a shame...-Aimee
  16. Please clarify your last sentence Aimee?
  17. There have been many cases of this even to include a guy who recently stole BO's (hussein omitted) image when running for pres.​
    Shepard Fairey did no such thing. Fair use specifically gives the rights to derivative works. The most bizarre thing in this case is that if anything, Fairey's use of the AP image depicting our 44th president is perhaps the only positive spin the AP or this generally unknown photographer have received in recent memory.
    Now, in the case that is at issue in this thread, if the actual 2-image layout has been made into a silk screen, it seems patently absurd that this would be anything but direct copyright infringement. A restraining order should be readily obtainable from a judge. The problem you face is funding the legal effort which would be required. Good luck!
  18. I would try to purchase some sample t-shirts from his site, so you have some tangible proof that he was selling the shirts with your image. I'm not a lawyer, but I once served as a juror on a patent infringement case, and this lady who manufactured designer jeans, found knock offs being sold and confronted the seller. After being escorted out of the building, she purchased some of the knock off jeans from some people exiting the building. It really helped me to see the tangible proof that someone was illegally reproducing her copywrited design, and the other jurors agreed, the plaintiff won the case. Somehow you need to estimate the dollar amount lost in sales, get a good attorney and recoup your loss.
  19. Dave, Charles makes a very valid point about buying up some of the infringement BUT add to that in your complaint through the attorney seeking judgement for lost revenue, there will no doubt be a "discovery" motion by your attorney which will put all kinds of potential legal action up inside his place of business, his files, his manufacturing concern, etc.
    I once was plaintiff in a corporate scheme of similiar infringment and when the liable suit finally surfaced to the value of the complaint, a team of three investigators entered the defendents property with cameras, voice recorders, and inspection rights under court order and that alone was worth more than the complaint, for we actually learned a lot about our competetors business therein and as we put it internally, "the value from this complaint was worth more in publicity, business knowledge, and reputation, than the entire award from the court plus the competetors agreement not to infringe in the future." The 50K or so hardly took care of a month of my personal income (~11k/mo) after the attorney's and investigator team sent their bill BUT the knowledge gained was enough for us to drive the defendant out of business in three short years. Y-E-S !
  20. I'm just curious, is the person selling the T-Shirts based in the U.S.

    If not, don't expect to get too far in court.
  21. I was about to call an attorney but the subject has now turned to actual dollars, MONEY!..that I will be billed, me!...
    vs what I might recoup. My mind is racing, ...what kind of numbers should i expect to hear from the lawyer?
    now we're talkin; juries? judges?, investigators?, purchasing evidence?...what happened to my 'open & shut case'?
    Reality check!
    Well alright, i didn't expect to just sit back. I'll just take a deep breath, & then I'll call the attorney.
    I'm not really worried, justice will soon be arriving at my door in the form of a check anyway, right?
    and money was never my main motivation, so what's the worst that could happen?
    at least I won't come out of this in debt...right?...right?
  22. Yes in the U.S. Keith...btw, did you say 'court'?
  23. Yes in the U.S. Keith...btw, did you say 'court'?​
    Assuming that you and the "thief" don't settle the matter, and you sue. I would assume that if you are planning on hiring an attorney that you are planning to sue this person.
  24. I think Aimee meant that unless you can make this a big public stink, i.e., a "teachable moment," then its sort of a drop in the bucket in a culture which seems to value copyright less and less each day. And that would take both money and some PR sense and perhaps a case that might be able to be elevated beyond local commercial dispute to larger legal fight about statute and constitutionality. Until that case arrives, with the internet sort of subsuming all IP, its more like bringing a knife to a gunfight.
  25. so sad in this case , very hard to solve this problem the only thing I wish software can has water mark can hide & canot remove by the owner . please to share this matter to you
  26. MONEY: On the money Dave, with a lot of experience in this arena, most lawyers will give you an initial consultation for 25 to 50 where you sit down tell them your argument and then the two of you will decide what to do and therein they will give you an estimate.
    Now if you win the argument of infringment which won't take a lot of expense . . my guess is less than 1500 maybe even less than 600 depending on how much resistence there is on the part of the defendant, THEN you sue for the proceeds they have earned for using your copyright material and therein is where the attorney will work for percentage.
  27. Once you have purchased one of the T-shirts and have printed out copies of your online receipts as documentation, you should locate an attorney who has a professional background handling intellectual property issues. If you have any difficulty doing so, please note that most state bar associations in the U.S. have intellectual property law sections whose members are practitioners specializing in this area.
    Once you have identified an I.P. attorney, contact him or her to request representation, and ask that he or she handle the matter on a contingency fee basis -- i.e., the lawyer will not charge you cash up front, but will keep an agreed-upon percentage of any money that he or she recovers as damages on your behalf. If the lawyer accepts your case, have him or her contact the operator of the commercial website on your behalf, asserting your ownership of the intellectual property in question (i.e. the original photograph), asserting that the operator's unauthorized use of the photograph constitutes infringement of your copyright or other intellectual property rights, demanding that the infringing use be discontinued immediately by removing the T-shirt from sale, and demanding compensation in the form of a licensing fee for all sales of that T-shirt made to date.
    If the operator of the commercial website refuses to comply, consult your attorney about the options open to you at that point. Whatever you do, refrain from any harsh or intemperate communications with the operator of the web site that could be interpreted as threats -- if your lawyer ends up having to go to court on something like this, it will be important for him or her to be able to do so with "clean hands," i.e. without the operator of the commercial website being able to accuse you of imrpoper conduct.
    I wish you the best of luck with this. Whatever you do, though, avoid investing too much of your time, energy and hopes in a successful outcome. If you and your attorney prevail, if you get the commercial operator to stop selling your images without your authorization, and if you get some money back, good. If not, however, don't get obsessed about it, as that will only make you unhappier without making the situation any better. Take what action you can to vindicate your rights in a reasonable and professional manner, keep things in perspective, and move on from there.
  28. The legal system takes a really long time and usually, the only people who really win are the lawyers.
    Get ugly. You have proof that you are the owner of the copyright. You know who's selling it. Buy a domain name that resembles the thief's domain and add stolemywork .... so, let's say it's YOu buy a domain called - And on the webpage explain that the individual is using your work without you permission.
    If you REALLY want to get ugly, imply that anyone who buys his T-Shirts may be subject to legal action - google 'SCO' and 'Linux'.
    To get downright a-hole-ish imply that the owner of that site who's selling your work without permission is using the money to finance terrorism, human trafficing, and child pornography. Then publish is home address.
  29. From what I understand if you want to have chance in court you have to have registered your images with the Copyright Office. I would start there.
  30. Dan, are you an attorney? Can you keep it going, Very interesting, I'd really like to hear more suggestions,
    how bout something with a sledgehammer? or a cannon? (not the camera, the other one).
    Thanks everyone!
  31. In some communities, Dave, there are nonprofit organizations that assist artists by arranging initial consultations with attorneys for nominal fees. By "nominal" I mean at rates appreciably lower than the usual hourly rates.
    Might be worth checking into that in your city/community.
    Having read the last paragraph of Dan's 5:34 post, I could forsee that one taking that advice literally (not at all sure it was meant to be taken literally) would very likely be in need of legal services ... but as a defendant, not a plaintiff. :)
  32. Uh, somebody in dealing with Fairey says "fair use" allows derivative works. No. It doesn't. The AP has that Fairey issue in court and we probably won't see much on it for a while (which is my way of having something surprising pop out tomorrow).
    The copyright owner has the right to control the making of derivative works. "Fair use" is a situation where something can legally be used without permission of the copyright owner.
    Faiirey is savvy enough to claim inspiration, etc., and not derivation.
  33. Ah yes, internet based legal advice and representation, the best money can not buy.
  34. Awwww, now Dewberry had to go and muddly up the water. We were actually getting somewhere here and solving all the malfecence (sp) in the world. Thanks alot Bill :eek:)
    Dave, don't listen to all these "hold on man" people . . I'd go after the dude man. Hey, he might have sold 100,000 of these and thinking of retiring in FL with Jeb Bush and now you can ice those plans for him and get yourself a new motor home and travel around the country shooting new stuff and selling it for 10x cuz you'd actually get to go some interesting places instead of your local stuff. Know what I mean?
  35. Without reading all posts, I suggest you put all your documentation together and talk to an attorney.
  36. One of the PN members (Jelena Balic) had her photo "The Scream" used by a major corporation for a major add campaign after being sold to the company by someone else! Aparently her photo had been snatched from a web site, reprocessed (exif data, etc.) and submited to the company which finally used it. As I understand she now has a team of lawyers and is going through endless hassle trying to prove her rights.
    Good luck Dave....
  37. this happend just a couple of days ago to someone here in Australia on a local forum. He contacted them via letter or email with a 'please explain' and also a very large invoice. the pirate then settled for a lesser amount and is now in negotiations with the rightful owner to pay an ongoing licence.
  38. I could forsee that one taking that advice literally (not at all sure it was meant to be taken literally) would very likely be in need of legal services ... but as a defendant, not a plaintiff.​
    Not if everything posted was the truth.
  39. It depends what your aim is.
    1. Do you want recognition for your work - reading between the lines it seems you are upset that he is making money out of your image but what has you really pissed is that he is claiming the credit. If he removes the claim that it is his work will that satisfy you?
    2. Do you want to punish him? Punitive damages are the tricky ones, are the goldmine for the lawyers and can elad to real stress on your part.
    3. Do you want some form of recompense such as a royalty payment? I think this would be the easiest way to get some form of financial recognition though how you prove how many have been sold is the tricky bit. But if it comes maybe you would both be both. You would have to agree the % (and if it is gross to nett?) and whether it applies to future or past sales and I think future sales would have far fewer complications.
    In my (non-legal) opinion I think 1 and 3 would be best.
  40. mm, tough one to me, can you absoultley prove 100% that it is your photo ? not a person standing to your side who got the same shots ? I have seen newspaper/magazine images that were almost 100% the same, but taken by different photographers @ the same time standing next to each other.
  41. The images were from an impromtu, one-on-one photo-shoot I arranged on the spot.
    Another photographer did walk over, i stopped & slammed him (verbally)...(he was a photo-terrorist!) before he took anything.
    Usually I'm very mild-mannered, but then there are those moments when people will try to take advantage,
    and i do what i have to to make it right, pursue this THIEF.
    Someone else was wondering if my main concern was that he was taking credit for my work.
    it's just one of many's all bad! if the damn attorney would just call me back!

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