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April 05, 2018

The Fight for Copyright: Rebecca’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 Rebecca. Check out Rebecca’s story on the battle for the rights to her own image:

Rebecca is an illustrator based in Kansas City, Kansas. She creates watercolor illustrations widely licensed for use on retail merchandise and consumer products including giftware, greeting cards, toys, calendars, packaging, and textiles.

Infringements of Rebecca’s registered illustrations are widespread, including displays and offers for free downloads on multiple websites. Unauthorized downloads include over 3 million copies of free downloadable calendars and images from her mini calendar illustrations from “free upload” and “downloadable” digital websites. Well-meaning fans have emailed Rebecca to thank her for allowing her illustrations to be available for “free” on the internet.

Rebecca has lost the ability to license her illustrations because of the devaluation of her work in the marketplace as a result of the availability of free downloads. She also objects to the poor quality, color, and aesthetic reproduction of the unauthorized digital copies, which have harmed her professional reputation as an illustrator.

The legal recourse she would have sought, had she been able to sue the infringer, would be take-down from all infringers’ websites, actual damages of licensing fees for usage, as well as potential lost profits from the number of illegal downloads. The total would be largely dependent upon discovery of the number of illegal downloads of the many images.

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!