How photography can land your business in trouble

Picture this:

You have a full-time job but on the side you have a small business catering for events on the weekend. You get up one morning, get ready for work and in the process you grab your phone to check your email. On the summary you see a new email from an unknown sender:

URGENT: COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT NOTICE, YOU HAVE 14 DAYS TO PAY P20 000

Your head starts spinning because you are not sure where you could have infringed on copyright. And what the heck is copyright?

And then you see screenshots of the photos you 'Googled' and used on your pamphlets, to brand your business car, on your Facebook page and on your website.

Oh snap!

But let's start from the beginning, what is 'copyright'?

According to the Companies and Intellectual Property Authority (CIPA) website, 'copyright is a branch of Intellectual Property which gives an author of an original  literary and artistic work exclusive rights to authorize or prohibit the use of his works for a limited time period. Copyright protects expressions of ideas but not ideas themselves.'

Basically, copyright is a 'legal right that allows creators of original work to decide what others can do with their work.'

CIPA goes on to give a nice example about what expressions of ideas looks like.

"Let us take an example of ten people who independently think about writing a poem about the beauty of the Okavango Delta. The beauty of the Okavango Delta is an idea which no one can claim a monopoly over, but each person will be granted protection for how they expressed this idea in the poem."

A number of works are protected under the copyright act, but for my context I'll stick with photographic works.

WHAT ARE SOME EXCUSES GIVEN FOR BREACHING COPYRIGHT?

  • It was on Google, Facebook
  • We didn't use it the way we found it, we changed it a bit
  • There was no watermark on it
  • We credited the photographer
  • There was no copyright mark on it
  • Our designer used it

But let me tell you, none of these matter, and you can get one of these punishments for using photos illegally:

  1. Be forced to take down the image
  2. Get fined
  3. Go to jail

BE FORCED TO TAKE DOWN THE IMAGE

If you get a cease and desist letter you will be forced to remove the image from your website and any other places where it is used without permission. This will include destroying all of your advertising materials including car branding, pamphlets etc. This is a milder form of punishment, and though it might set you back do it ASAP.

GET FINED

Creators have the right to the economic rights that emanate from their creativity and skill. Under the copyright act, a photographer can institute proceedings and recover against the infringing party through civil or criminal remedies or criminal sanctions provided for both.

The civil remedies allow them to pray for an interdict to stop the use of the photos and/ or seek damages suffered in consequence of the infringement, including any profits enjoyed by the infringing party, that are caused by the infringement.

BE IMPRISONED

The criminal remedies allow the photographer to recover against anyone who infringes on their copyright for profit to be held criminally liable and be convicted of any amount not exceeding P20,000 or imprisonment for a term not more than 10 years or both.

[convertkit form=4910511]

WHY DOES COPYRIGHT MATTER

As someone that has been on this copyright infringement battle, I know just how disheartening it is to see someone benefit from your works and not get paid for it. By respecting copyright you:

  • Display the integrity of your business
  • Respect photographers that work hard to document the world
  • Make sure that you don't take food out of their mouths

SO HOW CAN YOU PROTECT YOURSELF FROM BREAKING THE COPYRIGHT LAW?

There are several legit ways that you can make sure that the images you are using are legal.

1. KNOW THE ORIGINS OF THE PHOTOGRAPHS USED IN YOUR MATERIALS

I know that companies are usually running on deadlines, but a simple 2minute conversation can save you a lot of trouble later on. Ask your designers if they are using images legally, and make sure they are aware of the consequences if not.

2. HIRE A PHOTOGRAPHER

This is a simple and fool-proof solution. This way you can style images for your business the way you want to, and you are absolutely sure that you are not breaking any law.

3. CONTACT THE PHOTOGRAPHER

If you see an image you really want to use, then contact the photographer and see if they would mind you using the image for free. If not, then offer to buy it.

4. TAKE YOUR OWN PHOTOGRAPHS

Also another fail-safe solution, more especially if your images are majorly going to be used online. I suggest that you use your smartphone, especially the iPhone if you have one (I love the iPhone camera quality). I'll write a quick tutorial next week on getting the better images of your product using your smartphone.

5. USE STOCK PHOTO SITES

There's numerous sites that provide stock photos, either paid or free. You'll just have to check licensing to make sure that you are working within the right confines, but otherwise this also another good way to use photos legally. I've compiled a list of sites where you can photos for free. You may need to give your email but otherwise they are totally, legitly awesome and free! Download the list here.

I hope this has been helpful. Now look through your marketing materials and make sure that you don't get such a scary email one day. I've included a FREE download with 15 FREE sites where you can get images, download it below.

GET FREE DOWNLOAD

Download PDF with 15 Free Stock Photography Sites

Powered by ConvertKit

Have you ever had someone use your photos illegally or have you ever been told to pay for using photos illegally? I would love to hear about the experience, share below or email me at info@fifyloewen.com.