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Copyright issue on Photos #1270
Back To Discussion List Written: 2005.04.09 by: Don Funk

I came across an interesting thread on about a member there who had a photo stolen and used by a news reporter without permission or any credit given. In the end, everything worked out OK, but members made some interesting comments about this issue. You may want to check it out. Here is the link.


#473 - 2005.04.12 Don Funk - Copyright link or notice on each photo page
As Shelley mentions, "the majority of people think anything on the internet is public domain and they don't read the fine print on the copyright". Perhaps a "partial" solution to this problem is to have a copyright notice, or a link to a notice, on each photo page. If it is visible on every photo page you view, then there will be no such excuse for this ignorance.

#471 - 2005.04.12 Shelley Wales - Odds are not good
Would be nice if adobe could enable photoshop to save jpeg's with the same or similar security features that PDF's have...

#470 - 2005.04.11 David Wasserman - Life's too short. . .
$50 is generally too little for use of a photo, but in this case:

- it was a mediocre photo, because with the degree confluence project one is limited to taken a picture either of an arbitrary point or from an arbitrary point

- the nine photos used were small enough that they fit all of them on less than a page

- Air Canada is continually verging on backruptcy

- someone else made the deal and it wasn't worth the hassle to try to change it

Other photos have brought between $100 and $200, plus one or more copies of the publication, except the two I sold 12 years ago to the Edmonton Journal to go with the story I wrote on dayhiking the Rockwall (now available only on Bivouac). The Journal paid $100 for the story and $25 each for the photos. That's really chintzy, for a full page story. But I was able to reduce my taxable income more than three times that because I claimed all the expenses of the trip.

The real problem is finding out that a photo has been taken from the web and used. What are the odds that you will ever find out if some tourist bureau uses one of yours in a brochure without payment or credit? Or if some limited circulation newspaper or magazine does the same?

#468 - 2005.04.11 Shelley Wales - nothing's safe
I'm a graphic designer and you would be surprised how often clients send me pictures they want to use that they have grabbed from one web site or another. When I ask if they have permission it is always no. Most understand after an explanation, that they can't use them without permission and are cool with it, others... well let's just say that the relationship is short lived.

The problem is that the majority of people think anything on the internet is public domain and they don't read the fine print on the copyright of a particular site so they go on thinking it. Other people just know better and choose to steal. A select few ask permission and are willing to pay a royalty.

If you do have someone approach you and offer to pay a royalty make sure it is the appropriate amount (sorry Dave but your photos are lovely and I think you should have received more than $50). Depending on the photo quality, the photographer, the resolution, and the usage I am usually willing to offer and clients are offten willing to pay a couple of hundred (as a low) for an image. I would also advise that you never let one of your picures be used in a logo or trademark without making them pay through the nose for it as you will end up losing copyright of it. If the image is being used for editorial purposes don't hesitate to ask to read the copy... you might not agree with what they are matching your picture up with.

If you do catch someone using one of your images without permission bring them to small claims court but be prepared to loose and for it to cost you money (at least $100). An alternative to small claims is the better business bureau. They publish a shame list in their newletter for unresolved complaints... or do both.

#467 - 2005.04.11 David Wasserman - Enforcing copyright
Given the copyright laws as I understand them, and the existence of the Bivouac copyright notice linked to the front page of the site, I think there should be no doubt with whom copyright and the right to reproduction fo photos or stories posted on Bivouac resides.

I personally have had two photos that I have posted here attract requests for permission to print. In both cases web resolutions were insufficient and I supplied the original negatives to the requestors to make suitable reproductions (and received, or am expecting, payment). The negatives remain my property, and were or will be returned.

In a case closer to the one on Summitpost, nine photos were taken from the Degree Confluence Project website,, and used in enRoute, Air Canada's inflight magazine, without permission. One of them was mine. When the magazine was contacted, they agreed to pay $50 for the use of each photo. There was no stonewalling such as the Summitpost photographer experienced.

In my opinion, the best way to enforce copyright for a stolen internet photo used by a local organization, or one that has local operations, would be to invoice them for a suitable amount, and if payment is not forthcoming, take them to small debts court. That way, there is no legal cost to you, and the organization would find it far cheaper to pay you the money than to fight a case they would probably lose. I haven't had to try this, however.