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July 16, 2018

The Fight for Copyright: Rebecca’s Story

When you put your blood, sweat, and tears into creating a photograph that showcases your talent, having your work improperly credited or stolen can be a harsh insult. Unfortunately, many professional photographers of all backgrounds and fields deal with copyright infringement every day.

Photographers with higher incomes predominantly benefit from today's laws, but these same rules don’t protect middle-class professionals like Rebecca. Check out Rebecca’s story from The Copyright Alliance on the battle for the rights to her own image:

Based in Kansas City, Kansas, Rebecca is a dedicated illustrator who creates watercolors commonly licensed for retail merchandise and consumer products like giftware, greeting cards, toys, calendars, and more. As an entrepreneur who deserves to be paid for their hard work, imagine Rebecca’s shock and confusion when fans began to email her thanking her for allowing her illustrations to be available for “free” online. She soon discovered multiple infringements on her registered images within website displays offering free downloads. These “free downloads” had resulted in over 3 million copies of Rebecca’s illustrations being downloaded without her approval or consent, and most importantly, without her getting her necessary profit.

Due to how readily available knock-off version of Rebecca’s work were, she has lost the ability to license her illustrations. Along with that, their worth has been significantly devalued in the marketplace as a result of the poor quality, color, and aesthetic reproduction of the unauthorized digital copies, and her reputation as an illustrator has been severely damaged.

Rebecca has been unable to seek legal recourse for the theft of her images and the harm inflicted upon her professional reputation. Had she been able to sue the infringer, all of the infringers’ websites would be taken down, they would be charged licensing fees for usage, and they may lose profits from the illegal downloads. The total loss of profits would be largely dependent on the amount of times Rebecca’s images were illegally downloaded.

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 so learn more and lend your voice today!