In this post, I want to share a “bedtime story” with you all. Yes….for my closest friends and family members, you know what this post is about. I’ve waited a long time, but with so many stories showing up on PetaPixel, two years is long enough I think. For the sake of what happened, I can’t name the band.
Why do I need copyright my images? I mean, once I click the shutter and take the picture, it’s mine.
Ok, technically that’s true legally. However if someone steals your images, if they are not registered with the U.S. Copyright Office prior to anything bad happening, you may only recover “actual damages” instead of “statutory damages.” What this means is that you as the photographer will only be entitled to the “fair market value” of your work, instead of what could be up to a $150,000 award, plus legal fees. (Parts of this description came from https://www.format.com/magazine/resources/photography/photography-copyright-law-guide )
So if you need to hire a copyright lawyer, the first thing they will ask you is if the images in question have been registered yet. If yes, then you can proceed. If no, well, that’s going to be harder if your case goes all the way through and in front of a judge. The reason behind this is that professionals take the time to register their images because of the value to them and their livelihood, whereas say a, hobbyist, may not. Someone stealing images from a person and using it means a huge loss in revenue for a photographer.
I’m not going to go in detail on how to go through the process of registering your images. There are plenty of sites that can help you with this if you Google it. My favorite sites are:
A great article from Photoshelter 5 Things Photographers Can Do to Protect Their Images Online
Here is a great video from Scott Wyden Kivowitz on how to prep your images for the US Copyright Office using Lightroom. Lately I’ve been using Capture One Pro, but I can apply what he does here to that too.
A fellow photographer got me into this site Pixsy and what they do is really cool. You sign up, and sync your images with them either directly from your computer or social media site, website, etc. They find matches of your images online, and send you an alert. Then they’ll give you options on how you want to proceed, and yes they can handle international infringements. The service is free for up to 500 images. If you have more images that you want to have monitored they have different monthly plans. Now you don’t get the full amount if you win, they keep 50% except the the highest paid plan, you keep 55%. Overall, it’s not a bad system and I did have an image that their software found. I contacted them and they took care of it, done. I highly recommend trying it out and going with it, if you do find something that’s a huge deal then get a copyright lawyer.
Ok now that we have all of that taken cared of let’s go one with my experience shall we?
Back in 2015, I went to a concert here in my town and thanks to my buddy, a popular band from way back came to perform. The opening act was The Successful Failures and that was my first time seeing them. I was in the audience doing my usual thing, taking pictures. I wasn’t paid to be there, actually I paid for my tickets. But I asked if it was ok to take pictures and he said sure. I had my Canon Mark 5D III, the 16-35mm f2.8 L lens, and the 70-200mm f2.8 L non-IS lens. I’m working the room, doing my best to not be in the way of people enjoying the show. And we’re all having a great time, enjoying the hit songs we all love.
After the show, my husband and I meet the performers, the lead singer is a friend of my friend, and he introduces me. We get our photos taken, hands shaken, it was a great night. Before they went onstage, I met the previous band this way too, exchanged information.
Later on, I post the images from that night to this blog, watermarked them as you see here. Shared the post to social media and of course to my friend. The lead singer of The Successful Failures reached out via email and told me how he and his band members loved the images that I had posted. He wanted to know if they could use some of the images on their website and social media and how much it would cost. And touched upon the photo project for their new album.
I got back to him because at the time, I wasn’t sure how to price this sort of request. But I could see the value in what they do and they knew the value of what I do, there was going to be an awesome photoshoot coming up, I love their music, and most importantly, they asked for my permission . So I came up with a web sized per image price and we agreed upon it, had them sign a contract and that was it.
I follow the bands that I photograph on FB, Instagram and on Twitter. That’s when I noticed that that well known band had screenshot my images right off my blog and was using them on their FB, Twitter and Instagram with a link to their merchandise section to sell stuff like shirts and cds. That’s called using my work illegally for advertising. So at first I was pissed, but I played it cool because this is a friend of my friend. So I private messaged the band with this and I’m so happy that I had the insight to make screen copies.
If you can’t read it here’s what it says:
“Hey there! While I’m flattered that you like my images, I’m not cool with the screenshots and on my blog it does state that all images are copyright Deirdre Ryan Photography. Please do not copy in any way, this includes screenshots, thank you. I wanted to be nice, be cool. I’ll let it slide this one time, but please tag me and please change all posts to include Photo by Deirdre Ryan www.deirdreryanphotography.com thanks. This includes Instagram �� My FB Page is http://www.facebook.com/deirdreryanphoto I’m re-branding myself again as a commercial and editorial photographer, so this would greatly help me and as a friend of Randy’s �� Oh I forgot, if you could tag my IG with my IF @deirdreryanphoto Thanks again! Have a super awesome day!”
Looking back now I realize what I dork I sounded like LOL! I wasn’t asking for money or being a jerk. I just wanted photo credit. And as you can see, it was seen.
I waited a while and nothing….crickets…so I added my photo credit in the comments. Then, and I wish I took screenshots of those, they deleted my credits! And I saw that some fans had shared my image.
I tried again and they blocked me! WTH? So I hopped on IG and not only did they block me, they cropped out my watermark and slapped some crappy IG filters on some of them. The reason I knew this was because I had another IG account that they didn’t know about(ha!). I had added my credits in the comments there and at the time you couldn’t delete them, but I was blocked from their Twitter too! So I had my friends monitor their account for me. I think that they asked them in the credits who took the photos, etc. and they got blocked and deleted too, I can’t remember right now.
(If you notice, the copyright symbol isn’t on them, at the time, I didn’t think I needed it. But now I have them on now, but I wanted to show you what they looked like for reference.)
So I first I got a hold of my friend that I network with, she is a copyright lawyer. In fact we’re still in touch. She suggested that I email the band first, so I found their manager’s email. Btw, they have a different manager now.
My name is Deirdre Ryan, I’m a professional photographer in New Jersey, (USA).
I’ve spoken with an attorney with whom I’m in the process of retaining. Before I go ahead and do so, I want to give you an opportunity to take down all of my images.
Please call back as soon as possible _________.
These are images I shot of ________ that I posted on my website’s blog(Recent Work). These images are on their Instagram and Facebook accounts and they were Tweeted. Two were posted last week, and four this week.
So let me get this straight..
You went down, and shot the band… The band posted low rez pictures that you posted online of THEM live… and you have a problem with this… and now have the nerve to threaten us with lawyers?? am I getting this right?
Based on the tone of his last email, I called my lawyer up and I said, you deal with this. I could tell right away that this guy was hostile and would not offer a dime. I put her on a retainer and then the nightmare began. But I was really thankful that I had her. She then asked me to draw up an estimate of what this would cost them, so I did.
Their manager was rude, mean and over the phone with my lawyer, it was F this and F that, he clearly had a problem. He didn’t see the issue with what I had with my work being stolen to be used on their social media outlets and with a link to sell merchandise. I wasn’t asking for anything other than taking them down. I tried to be nice, asking for photo credit, then emailing with a polite and direct message.
Instead he was an asshole. Never asked for permission, deleted my photo credits, ignored my messages, and it took about 3 months for them to take my images down. In the end, I’m “banned” from their future shows(no big deal to me), and you know what he told my lawyer? This is “rich”….he was just trying to help a young photographer out.
If you wanted to help a “young” photographer out, you would’ve done what I asked for in the first place.
Next time someone steals my work like this again, they are going to pay me. I went through this ordeal because I didn’t want them to think that they could push anyone around, ESPECIALLY women. I didn’t this for myself, but for other creatives out there. They had stolen from the Getty’s site too so it’s only going to be a matter of time before they will end up shelling out thousands of dollars.