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PPA Photographers' Infringement Stories - PPA Today

PPA Photographers' Infringement Stories

Copyright is arguably the most important legal concern for professional photographers. With a photography career, it is inevitable that you will have to deal with copyright infringements at some point. The following are real infringement stories from PPA photographers. These situations could happen to you, so read up and be sure you're prepared!                                                                                                                   
"I didn't know I couldn't reproduce the images."

PPA member Denise Watrous found an envelope of her photographs backstage at the event she was working. She noticed the photos were taken during a former job but they had been printed by a major chain retailer. Denise reached out to both the young lady in the photograph and the retailer about their infringement. The woman was apologetic and claimed she didn't know she could not reproduce the images. Turns out, Denise was able to maintain a good relationship with the consumer while taking steps to educate and ensure she would not repeat another infringement.

However, the retailer was not so apologetic and was quick to blame the consumer - this is when Denise called PPA. We discussed the situation and gave her some information on retailers' responsibility to follow copyright law. Denise held the retailer accountable - it is their responsibility not to print or reproduce a professionally-created photograph without written permission from the photographer, even if the consumer tells them otherwise! Denise was able to negotiate with the retailer's attorney herself to reach an agreement and get a payout. 

Denise's situation with this retailer inspired her to get involved in PPA's photo retailer awareness campaign for Copyright Awareness Month. Members can sign up to receive educational brochures to distribute to local photo retailers while discussing photographic copyright. This is just one more way to protect your images. If you would like to get involved, sign-up on the Copyright Awareness page on PPA.com!

Lessons Learned:

  • Stand up for yourself - it pays off! And you don't always need an attorney to do so.
  • Keep copyright conversations with you clients educational. It will help you keep and gain customers.
  • Educating clients and local retailers is crucial to protecting your images. Sometimes infringers don't know any better, but their ignorance can harm your business.

Even Celebrities Can Infringe On You

In this case, the PPA photographer must remain anonymous, as the situation is ongoing. This photographer took a collection of photographs at an event which they later posted in an online gallery in which one of the photos pictured a prominent celebrity. They shared the photo with a family member but did not give permission for it to be distributed, printed or posted. The photo then found its way onto the celebrity's social media pages.

Next, the photo was picked up by major publications, and when we say major, we mean major!  The photographer grew distraught as they thought about the amount of money they lost due to the lack of a photo credit. This member called PPA and has kept us updated on the situation. They are working with an attorney to try and recoup the lost payments.

For Your Consideration:

  • Inform/educate your clients! Make sure they understand you own the copyright, and that they have no right to print, post, or copy them without your consent.
  • Register your photos with the U.S. Copyright Office before you share them, especially photos that would be particularly vulnerable to infringements. This will help if you ever find yourself in a copyright legal case and affects the amount you can seek in damages. 
  • Mark your images as copyrighted before posting them. If anything, it will clearly show people that this image belongs to you. Remember that your images do not have to be registered for you to mark them. Example: © 2015. PPA (include your contact information for further visibility.)
Watermark your images with your logo or another visual cue before posting or sharing them. Again, it will clearly show the images belong to you.

Take extra care in explaining your clients what copyright is and how easily they can infringe without meaning it. Here are a few things you can do:


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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Professional Photographers of America (PPA) published on April 29, 2015 2:59 PM.

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