Have you ever read an article that just had really long paragraphs and no pictures at all? You probably left that site quick, I know I would. One big factor that could make of break an online business is pictures. Pictures offer a break in the reading, they offer examples for those of us who are more visual people and they provide a better understanding of the content and the person writing it.
This being said, not all of us are artists or photographers, which means we must rely on the internet for these images. But the last thing you want in an up and coming online business is to get sued over using the work of someone else without permission.
What is Copyright?
*I am not a lawyer or a professional!*
According to the dictionary, copyright is defined as a person’s exclusive right to reproduce, publish, or sell his or her original work of authorship (as a literary, musical, dramatic, artistic, or architectural work). Copyright is a little tricky but from what I have read and learned, copyright protects original works from being stolen and used without the permission of the creator.
You are not automatically protected under this law if you put your name on it or add a little COPYRIGHT sign on your work. You need you register it with the copyright office, which costs money.
How does it work?
Lets say you took amazing photographs of the Grand Canyon. You want to show them off but you don’t want people using them freely and then saying it was their photograph right?
Before you register a copyright
Submitting works is pretty easy. You can physically deliver it, send it by mail, or upload them through the computer. I personally have only uploaded them so far therefore I will only speak to that.
It was awful my first time. I could only upload up to 500mb at a time. That was about 12 pictures at a time. I had hundreds. It took me a full two weeks to separate and zip up all of those photographs. By the end I was ready to just smash my laptop to smithereens.
The reason why I had so many photographs was because I was just starting out as a photographer therefore I took too many pictures. Also, you get charged about $55 for every separate load of photographs. Me being a poor individual, I didn’t want to upload them as I went, so I saved them up until I had over 2,000. I didn’t know about the limit per upload therefore I had not zipped up my files. There were dozens of really fat folders that I had to separate.
If you plan to wait off and send a bunch in at a time, separate your files as you go. Many professionals send them in as they happen, but they have the money to do so every week if they really wanted to.
How to Register
Well you head over to the Copyright website here, and click “Register a Copyright.” Once the page loads go to “Log in to the eCO…”
If you don’t already have an account, click on the “new user button.” Since I already have an account I am just going to go ahead and log in, but from what I remember, it is a pretty easy start up process.
Once you set it up, you head over to the sidebar to the left and click on “register a new claim.” Now read the options and click on the ones that apply to you. I usually try to make my money worth while and upload a few works instead of just one. I try to only upload photographs by my that wouldn’t require me to worry about including other authors. That stuff just gets really complicated and you may need to head over to a different informational guide.
What comes next is pretty straight forward. On the side there is a little guide showing you your progress.
Tips to get your certificate without too much of a hold up
Give your works actual titles, don’t give them numbers. The copyright people don’t like it and will say something about it which will make the process even longer. It already takes about 3-5 months to get the registration letter. You can title them according to what the works are about. Or you can also title them according to when you took the pictures. This is really up to you, just personalize it a bit.
Make sure to add yourself on the authors. Once you do, you can save that information so that you don’t have to write it so many times.
I have read that it is recommended that you only put yourself down for correspondent and for the mail certificate. You are the author and you are the one that will be able to fix any problems that may arise.
Super important! Quadruple check the address for the mail certificate. Make sure that you will have the address for at least another 6 months just in case. It takes a really long time to actually receive it. This could be expedited of course, but you probably shouldn’t unless you are a super famous photographer and people are already stealing your work.
Make sure you review your submission 10 times before turning it in. You don’t want to get fined, and you don’t want a single mistake.
How can Copyright affect you?
Well if you register some works with the copyright office, you will be protected, and if people do steal your works without asking for permission, you can sue them and make money! If you are someone that needs artwork or photographs for your online business, and you steal, you will loose a lot of money.
Always ask! If you see something online that you want to use, ask for permission. More often than not, if its not someone super famous, they will probably say yes, or charge you a very small fee. You can also head over to different websites like Pixabay (here is my review) that offers thousands of photographs for free (there is an option to donate a little bit of money). On this specific website, just make sure to check if the author needs attribution (which is usually a no) and if possible, link it back to Pixabay.
Anyway, if you don’t get it from a site like Pixabay , and if you can’t find the author on the first time, keep looking or pick a different picture. Don’t risk it. If this individual is serious about their work, the will come after you.
A Few Myths and Facts About Copyright
Myth: I have a small business with only two employees therefore you shouldn’t sue me for using your work.
Fact: If they took it without permission, sue them.
Just because they are small business means nothing. There are very rich corporations out there that only have one or two employees. Not only that, but you may be a business of only one person.
Myth: I found the image on google, therefore its public domain, and its free
Fact: You can find literally any picture on the internet ever on google. Just because it’s on google, doesn’t mean that its free, unless the actual author says it is.
I bet you could probably find this image of a monkey on google (eventually). I am pretty sure from this post you could probably tell that I am not okay with someone just taking my photographs. It may be posted on social media using one of the options below, as long it leads directly back to this website, and not one is claiming it for their own.
Myth: If I take down the picture from my website, then you have no need to sue me.
Fact: If you have proof that they used it after you registered it, and you can still sue them, because they broke the law.
Often times, if you/your lawyer sends the offenders a letter letting them know that you plan to sue them for stealing your work, they take it down and then send you a letter saying something like “we hope this ends this issue.” You can still sue them. They will hope you don’t know your rights and just want to end it at that but go after them!
Myth: Since I didn’t use it for money, or make any money from it, I shouldn’t be sued.
Fact: You can still sue! They broke the law and used your image without permission, go make some money off of them.
Myth: If I change 30% of the work, then I can’t get sued and put it out there like it was mine
Fact: This is one of the biggest lies out there. If it can be proven in court that your work was plagiarized, then you got the case.
Myth: Even though I took your photograph without permission, I let people know that I took it from you, therefore you have no reason to sue me.
Fact: Depends… If you have written somewhere that people can use your images as long as they give you credit, then you can’t really sue. But if you didn’t write anything like that then yes you can. Even if someone gives credit to the author, that does not give people the right to just take it.
There was a case a long while ago of a man who took famous registered works and changed them up a bit and mentioned the original author. He got away with it for a little while until someone called him out on it. He thought it was okay because he mentioned the author, but this was false. After this, he asked for permission every single time. And it turned out that they the authors almost always allowed him for free, or a small fee which he preferred over the fat lawsuit.
Stealing a work and then letting everyone know who it’s from is like stealing a phone from Target then advertising that you stole it from Target. Just because it is accessible online does not mean that it can be stolen without consequences.
What if it’s for non-profit/educational purposes? This one is a bit tricky. If you are a non-profit or a school of some sort, I would hope you have lawyers that you can talk to about that, but you shouldn’t steal anyway. If the elementary school stole your photograph, I would consult a lawyer. These specific lawsuits have never really gone through court, they are usually settled before they go anywhere. This kind of sucks for the rest of us because then we are not sure what to do in these cases.
Don’t steal any photographs. If you do, you better hope that you don’t get sued too harshly. If someone steals from you, sue them. It is another very legal way to make well deserved money.
If you created something, didn’t register it and then found out a huge company like Walmart is using it, don’t fret. There is still hope. If you can prove that its yours, you can register the work and then sue. You won’t get nearly as much, but you could get something out of it.
Copyright is really weird and may get a little confusing at times. Unfortunately most of the information out there is not very comprehensive which is why so many loose out on sue money, and why many get sued by those who do know.
If you have any questions, or would like to add/correct anything leave a comment below. I am not a lawyer or a professional, I found the information stated above through online research.