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Copyright (2)

I am sure I am not alone in saying that I take a lot of care and trouble over the photographs used to illustrate the food I write about.  As they say:  you eat with your eyes. I have spent many hours trying to get my photographs ‘just right’ and many tears of frustration because of light, subject matter waiting to be eaten or just that the buttons on the camera are beyond me. Who ever said blogging was easy!

When I first started I would submit pictures to tastespotting or foodgawker – always hopeful of acceptance. On most occasions, and after an agonising wait, my submissions would mostly be rejected with a few cursory words to justify why the required standard had eluded me. So be it – I persevered, but with only modest success, finally to give up totally.

The posts I write the more confident I become in my blog and can live without the approval of these “food porn” sites, nice though it would be. I have taken comfort in certain of my pictures consistently ranking highly when I do a Google search, or a Google image search, as validation that they have a recognised quality and popularity – and that this will, I hope, increase visitors to my site and broaden my readership.

So I was in for a real shock when I realised recently that the pictures of my Christmas cake that appeared high up on Google image searches do not in fact link back to my site!

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This is one of the photographs used by two UK companies who had claimed to have baked it.

 

They linked back to two “reputable” businesses in the UK in order to promote their products and services. Both seemed to claim to have actually baked the cake in question. Shame on them.  This threw up other photographs which I could see were not theirs either.

Some information on copyright:

Firstly the photographer owns copyright in an original photograph. It is created automatically when the photo is taken – there is no need to add © or any date or other information to your picture or website (and even if you do these will be “stripped” by the copyright thief). I also find photographs with a copyright name stamped across them rather a turn off, so I don’t do it.

Secondly, putting a picture on my blog does not waive my copyright. It does not mean that anyone else is allowed to take it and use it themselves – if they do so, then they are committing a civil wrong and possibly also a crime.

Thirdly, if my photograph appears on a Google image search (or on Pinterest etc. etc.) it does not mean that it is available for someone else to use or that I have waived my rights.

Fourthly, if your “web designer” says that it is an “open source” or “public domain” image (which was one of the excuses) then you had better check it yourself – as you are the one responsible and liable.

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I baked these Koloocheh. The rug and even the dog are mine and therefore is this photograph my copyright? Answer: No, because I didn’t take it.

 

How to find out if your image is appearing elsewhere?

Searching Google to see if your image has been used is easy. Go to the Google home page and on the top right is a tool bar which includes after gmail the word images. Click on ‘images’ and a new Google search window pops up. In the search box to the far right is a little black camera icon. Click on this. A new window will pop up with two choices ‘Paste URL image’ or ‘upload image’ I tend to click on upload image. I click on browse and double click my chosen image from my computer. Google then does all the hard work and will show all links to places where that image can be found.

Some sites don’t always have email addresses or ways to contact them this is where you can use WHOIS to find the person behind the website.

Email that person. If there is a DMCA link on the website then use that to report the infringement. The prime objective is to get the pictures taken down

Enforcing your rights is not always easy to achieve. Dealing with foreign infringers is problematic as the legal system in their countries will be difficult to access and may be costly to pursue. I am in the UK so dealing with infringers in the UK is easiest. Unfortunately English law is not well advanced in giving realistic damages (unlike the US or Ireland where, apparently, statutory damages can be claimed).

Background reading

A company in the US had to pay $3,000 for using a blurry mobile phone picture without permission.  Apparently the claim was bought by a ‘leech’ lawyer – my thought was, what’s his name and email address?!

You might think that’s the US but here in the UK things are beginning to change.  Claims can be brought on the Small Claims track in court with relatively little cost or formality. You don’t need a solicitor and you can issue a claim yourself.

An example of this is of a photographer who was awarded £10,000 for the use of 19 pictures – and in that same case the Judge made it very clear that ‘ignorance of the copyright ownership is no defence‘.

The photographer wrote a very informative article “How I made £27k from two evenings tracking down copyright infringements”.

Even buying images from a storage locker sale doesn’t mean they are yours either.  Read the story of the copyright issues with Vivian Maier’s photographs.  I had admired her photographs a few years ago and thought that the person who had bought them from a storage locker had a real treasure.  I think he is now the owner of one big legal headache which doesn’t look like it is going to go away anytime soon.

Conclusion

The Internet is here to stay. Copyright issues are unavoidable. To anyone with a website or blog or working in digital media – if you did not take the photographs yourself then you need to be alert to copyright infringement. Otherwise you are at real risk of receiving a claim for compensation. Just as copying photographs is easy, tracking down those who do so is now easy too.

The internet is not going to go away any time soon and copyright theft is going to be pretty big business for legal companies as compensation figures start to rise.

 

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