It's an epidemic. People are having their content and images stolen and used on other websites and on other products and services.
Sadly, it seems that it's not a question of if your work or images will be stolen, it's a question of when. With technology today it's possible to grab anything you see on your computer screen. Taking legal action can be time-consuming and expensive, but a few precations can go a long way towards slowing down the thieves:
- Copyright your work and images, individually or as a group. It's not expensive or difficult. You will need to gather info about each image to document it. If you've got your artist inventory set up and current, it's a piece of cake.
Yes, your copyright exists from the moment the work is created, but "...if you want to sue someone in federal court for copyright infringement, your work must first be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office."
- The way you prepare your images can help protect them. Make sure the images you use on your website are the smallest file size possible that still look good. Why? Besides loading more quickly and making for a smoother browsing experience for your visitors, a small file size means that the theives won't be able to use the image for much of anything.
- Another way to protect your online and print images is to watermark them with copyright info or a logo, large enough to see and over an area of the image that would pretty much make the image unusable if the copyright info was cropped out. Slow thieves down down by making it difficult for them to use your images.
- Use your name (or company name) in the file name, along with the name of the image, like "JohnDoe-Springtime." If someone steals and uses an image on the web, at least the file name will ID you and you can use Google to search for images by putting in your name. That will help you FIND the thieves.
- If you find an image that is being used without your permission, the first step is to contact the user with a "cease and desist" letter. That usually works. If not, you can pursue other avenues if you want. If you don't, at least the image is identifiable as yours and think of it as free advertising.
- Use Copyscape or a similar service to search the web for your content.
- To take legal action, get some advice from a good copyright attorney first. Read this article by attorney Michelle Fabio on Blogging and Intellectual Property Law to learn more.
US Library of Congress - United States Copyright office for copyright registration.
Stolen Content - Content protection and what to do in case of theft. http://lorelle.wordpress.com/2006/04/10/what-do-you-do-when-someone-steals-your-content/
Creative Commons - Non-profit organization providing creative licenses for image works. http://creativecommons.org/
If you would, please, help us all protect our work by sharing any resources/ideas/comments you have on this topic by leaving a comment on the blog.
All my best to you and yours,
P.S. If you're like me and love to have great resources around, I suggest you get on the email list for Aletta de Wal's new book "My Real Job Is Being An Artist: What You Should Know Before You Quit Your Day Job (Or Get One)." It'll be published later this year. I've read it, it's fabulous, and will be ordering 10 copies for family and friends. Honest. It's not just one size fits all "how to" or cheerleaderish "self help." It will help you get really clear about where you are and what YOUR most effective next steps are. Email me to get on the notification list, and get special goodies too!
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