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May 13, 2019

The Fight for Copyright: Marie’s Story

When you put your blood, sweat and tears into creating a masterpiece that showcases your uniqueness, the last thing you want is your work being improperly used or even stolen, especially if your art is your livelihood.  Unfortunately, many professional photographers of all backgrounds and fields deal with copyright infringement every day.

Granted, those who have high enough incomes predominantly benefit from today's current laws, but the same can't be said for the average professional, like Marie. Check out Marie's story on her battle for the rights to her own image:

Marie is an architecture photographer who gets a large portion of her income from photographing homes and licensing images to the home's seller for uses related to the sale. She recently performed such a job for a client in Idaho. Marie later found out that the real estate company her client worked with used one of her photos several times for the purpose of promoting the business. She found the advertisement for the real estate company featuring her work on the back cover of a magazine and on the back cover of the program for a music festival. Marie assumes there are other infringing uses she did not happen upon.

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Marie contacted the owner of the real estate company directly to retrieve payment for the infringing uses. She sent an invoice with her standard licensing fee. The infringer completely refused to pay anything to Marie and was adamant that the use was not an infringement because the images were provided by the photographer's client who paid for the job. The owner of the real estate company even claimed that this was their "standard practice".

A cease and desist letter was sent to the offender from Marie's photographic association on her behalf to which she received no reply. She followed up with the infringer several more times to be either ignored or sent extremely offensive responses. When asked if she would like to sue the offender, Marie responded, "I would like to but feel that is not an option and will not find an attorney to take on the case for such a small amount of money." Marie estimated the licensing fee of the infringing uses she knew about to be less than $1,000.

Marie reports that all she wants is for the offender to admit wrongdoing, pay the invoice, and change her standard practice. She believes her requests were disregarded because the infringer knew Marie could not make her pay if she refused - of course Marie was not going to file a federal lawsuit over a $1,000 licensing fee.

"A small claims option would give me the opportunity to actually pursue this further or at least would provide something to hold over [the infringer's] head," Marie said.

This story and many others are the reason that a Small Claims process can be a game-changer for photographers and creative artists. It will help them enforce their copyright in cost-effective and efficient ways. We need everyone to support Small Claims at