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Copyright Awareness Month - PPA Photographers Tips on Dealing with Infringement - PPA Today

Copyright Awareness Month - PPA Photographers Tips on Dealing with Infringement

By Lindsey Forson

April is Copyright Awareness Month at PPA! Why get involved? Because copyright is arguably the most important legal concern for professional photographers. During the course of your career as a pro, it's inevitable that you will have to deal with copyright infringement at some point. To highlight the importance of copyright protection and give you the opportunity to learn the easy way, some PPA photographers have agreed to share their experiences!

In light of a recent issue with a copyright infringement, we had a conversation with PPA member Ross Oscar Knight.

Ross has been a professional photographer since 2004. He takes great care in protecting his images but still faces around 4-5 copyright infringements per year! He has dealt with infringements from clients, retailers, and other photography businesses, along with those frustrating unknown infringers.

Ross stands with PPA in encouraging photographers to protect their images and sees copyright protection as one of the most important aspects of a photography business. For him, there are reasons to protect images beyond the obvious business-related concerns because his images will live on long after his life and the life of his business. "It's no different than a musician writing a song," said Ross. "I'm a photographer, and for me, images are my legacy."

Early in his career, Ross faced a major infringement issue that PPA was able to help him with. He photographed a proposal at the Ritz-Carlton in Atlanta, GA which went viral--it even ended up on the Oprah Winfrey show! Because of all the publicity surrounding the proposal, people began taking Ross's images from his website. One major tabloid site even cropped his logo out of the image before posting it. PPA sent a letter to the infringers which resulted in the removal of the image.


Ross explained his current tactics for protecting his images. "Conversations are key!" he said. "I take extra care in educating my clients on copyright by having a discussion with them during the original consultation and in subsequent meetings."

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Ross uses PPA's copyright inserts to begin his conversations. All of his clients sign an electronic use agreement which requires them to have online posts approved by the studio, and he takes the time to ensure they understand what the agreement means. Ross watermarks all images he posts online and includes his logo, name and studio name with every image. When he sells products, he includes another PPA copyright insert as a reminder.


Even with all of these precautions, Ross still deals with infringements now and again. He believes copyright infringements have become a more prominent issue for photographers due to social media.


So what does he do when infringements occur? "Typically, my first step is to try to resolve the issue myself. I contact the offender and directly ask for the image to be removed," he said. "Sometimes it works, other times it doesn't. If it doesn't, I send the website host a DMCA letter, claim ownership of the image and ask for it to be removed. (Need help doing this yourself? Call PPA! 800.786.6277) If it goes this far, this usually works, and actually, social media sites have been quite helpful about removing images."


PPA has found this to be true with many members' online infringement issues. At this point in his career, Ross works with an attorney to whom he turns over any infringements he's unable to solve on his own. His suggestion to photographers who don't have an attorney on retainer? "Call PPA to see how they can help!" he said. The attorney fees alone for a cease and desist  action can cost more than your PPA membership for the entire year!


PPA is here for you when you're dealing with infringements. We can help you understand your options and can often even help you get the offenders to stop using your images!


Here are a few things Ross learnt along the copyright infringement way:

  • Copyright infringements are common; you are not alone in this!
  • Educating your clients might be the most important thing you can do to protect your work!
  • There is not a "right way" to handle infringements, and though you may not always get what you deserve, you do have options. PPA can help you understand what those options are.


In honor of Copyright Awareness Month, take the extra step to educate your clients. You can use this Copyright Awareness fact sheet created by PPA to help educate your clients. Feel free to print this and share it with your clients or post in your studio. If you have not already, go to PPA's Copyright Awareness page and sign up to participate in the Photo Retailer Awareness Campaign. Include the Copyright Inserts with products you send and distribute to your clients. And check out additional Copyright Resources on PPA's website. If you have copyright questions, contact PPA at 800-786-6277 or CopyrightDefense@ppa.com.


Lindsey Forson is PPA's Copyright & Government Affairs Coordinator.  She works with members on a daily basis addressing copyright questions and works closely with our CEO to advocate for professional photographers on Capitol Hill and to keep members informed on the issues that affect their businesses. She's new to Atlanta and spends most of her free time exploring the city (restaurants, markets, parks); spends three nights a week playing soccer and is a huge Auburn fan. 



About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Professional Photographers of America (PPA) published on April 16, 2015 9:00 PM.

PPA Council Nominations Now Open was the previous entry in this blog.

World Champions, Copyright Month and Finding Clients: Our Top Ten Blogs from 4/10-4/17 is the next entry in this blog.

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