A Must Read For Real Estate Photographers That Worry About Protecting Their Copyright

February 2nd, 2016

CopyrightWorkflowI just got an email from Steve Schlackman an IP attorney and author of ArtLawJournal.com the blog about artistic copyright issues. Steve highlighted a recent blog post titled Six Steps to Safer Image Sharing by Chris Reed that I found very interesting because:

  1. It features a study of social media sites that tested how each social media site treats metadata in uploaded images.
  2. It also features Chris’s book, Copyright Workflow For Photographers: Protecting, Managing and Sharing Digital Images.

I purchased a Kindle version of Chris’s book and have quickly paged through it. It proposes a methodical approach to registering, sharing, selling and licensing images and monitoring and enforcing your copyright.

In light of the recent discussion we had regarding Losing Control of Your Copyrights on Social Media both of these subjects will be of interest to real estate photographers who are concerned about protecting their image copyrights.

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11 Responses to “A Must Read For Real Estate Photographers That Worry About Protecting Their Copyright”

  • It sounds like you would need to hire an attorney to prosecute someone, any idea on how much time and effore that would cost? Does anyone know how Iran Watsons lawsuit was settled? Does he feel it was worth the time and money?

  • There are various services starting up, similar to TinEye, that will chase the fees for unlicensed image use on your behalf. Eg. https://www.pixsy.com/

  • @Rohnn – I can’t speak for Iran as to whether his litigation was worth it (see: http://photographyforrealestate.net/2014/02/04/iran-watson-takes-action-against-map-maker-for-flickr-infringement/) for a description of the litigation. But Iran won a partial victory (see: http://law.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/georgia/gandce/1:2014cv00100/201785/56/).

  • @Rohnn, you do need an attorney to file a Copyright infringement suit against somebody unless you are already an attorney. It’s a Federal case heard in a Federal Court only and the judges run the proceedings very formally so not having an attorney could ruin your chances of winning the case and recouping your costs. To get an attorney to take your case, they will mostly want to see that you registered your images in a timely manner and you have your official Copyright paperwork in hand. Nearly all Copyright cases are settled out of court and your having an attorney that specializes in Copyright contacting the person that infringed on you will often get you a reasonable offer of settlement from them via their attorney to keep it out of court where the court may award far more money and the attorney fees will have escalated tremendously.

    Attorney’s fees vary wildly. If you have registered your copyright, the infringer looks to have assets to go after and the infringement is blatant, an attorney might take the job for a percentage of the settlement without any fees up front. Since their paycheck is tied to how much they negotiate with the other party, you’re likely to do pretty well too.

  • If you are posting your images to social media sites, you may have granted them an unlimited license (including giving them the right to resell those images) to your images by having agreed to their Terms of Service. I haven’t seen any mention of that being contested in a court, but an organization like FB is going to have a large staff of blood sucking lawyers to fight against and they may just bankrupt you by stalling and dragging any suit out. They’re in a position where they just can’t lose those sorts of cases or the flood gates will be opened for lots more litigation. Given that their main business is gathering and selling personal information, they probably will know way too much about you and just how far they will have to go to make it impossible for you to continue a case against them. They also know where you live, where your kids go to school, where you work, your hobbies, etc. Aren’t you glad that you signed up?

    Best bet is to only post behind the scenes photos with a link back to your own web site if you feel you must use a Social Media site. Posting low resolution photos doesn’t help, they get stolen and used just as often as higher res stuff.

  • I hate to say it but watermarks are probably the only practical deterrent you have. It would be great to be able to do a blanket subscription service to copyright all your images for a (reasonable) fixed monthly fee and be able to have a team of trained attack dog attorneys on your team. Does such a thing exist?

  • @Dave Kinkade, the hardest part in registering your images is creating a .zip file of small .jpg’s that you would have to provide to a third party service anyway. Once you have your archive, the rest of the process only takes about 15 minutes on the Copyright.gov website. Since you have 90 days to register published images for full protection, you only spend that 15 minutes once every three months. Granted, I’m a cheapskate, but in this case, there isn’t any time savings by paying somebody else to do it for you.

    If you have a clear cut case of infringement by persons with assets to go after and your official registration paperwork is in hand, there are plenty of good attorneys that will want to take the work. After all, they’re going to have most of the work done by their staff at a fat profit.

  • Dave Kinkade I have been thinking about this exact thing. The question is, how many of you send out your pics with watermarks and are your clients ok with it? I have an inhouse realtor who is using my work and she is fine with me watermarking my images. In her mind she is helping me market, so she supports it.

  • @PeggyWright In the case of real estate most MLS boards will not permit watermarks on any images so even if you do watermark *most* of them, the set the MLS requires to be unmarked are syndicated, far and wide, across the internet.

  • Ahhhh. and I learn.

  • I am sure that is so that they can be “borrowed” more easily without additional fees.

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