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Author Topic: U.S. Copyright Registration  (Read 5839 times)

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PaulieWalnuts

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« on: June 18, 2011, 08:12 »
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After seeing all of the thefts via the new Google images tool I decided it's time to register copyrights with the U.S. Copyright Office. US residents automatically hold copyrights. The difference is when you pursue an infringement. Regular copyright may get you a few hundred dollars which would be a waste of time to go after an infringement. Registering allows up to $150,000 in damages per image infringement. So if Big Bad Company uses steals 10 of your images in their big advertising campaign you have the leverage to go after them.

The registration process is kinda vague. It looks like you need to separate submissions into groups.

- Unpublished - Seems to be grouped by year
- Published - Seems to be grouped by date first published

It's $35 per electronic submission so I'm try to figure out how to organize files into groups. So if I'm understanding this right the groupings of the .zip files to upload might go something like this.

- Unpublished 2010, Unpublished 2009, etc. (so $35 for each year?)
- Published 6/18/2011, Published 6/15/2011, Published 3/10/2010, etc. (so $35 for each publish date?)

I have over 1,000 published images that have been posted online for at least the past 5 years. If it really needs to be broken down by publish date this is going to cost a fortune.

Photo Attorney Carolyn Wright has a great overview of the process
Photoshelter also has a good overview

Has anybody gone through this process to know how this grouping stuff works?


« Reply #1 on: June 18, 2011, 08:57 »
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« Reply #2 on: June 18, 2011, 09:44 »
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I'd say register everything you have published so far, EVERYTHING, in one batch for $35, as published work.

This might help if an infringement occurs AFTER the date of registration.

Ideally you should wait about 2-3 months before uploading and accumulate a batch of works that you're not publishing before registering copyright. Once you register unpublished work and then upload it you're 100% in the safe zone. After that simply register every 3 months so you have 4-5 registrations per year and everything will be registered as unpublished work.

Any infringement of those images are clearly violating copyright (your previous work would too but it's harder to find a lawyer for that).

Also, keep in mind that even though you register copyright it's not a license to print money in case you find an infringement.

If some John Doe, roofing company steals your image(s) for their web site you might get lucky if they pay you a couple hundred bucks if even that much (without a lawyer). Even the lawyer will assess upfront if the case is worth pursuing.

I just spoke to an IP attorney who handled a case of a company the knowingly used many images illegally. That case was settled at $10.000 per image in fines. But that's one of the good cases. That's not the general amount of money one would get.

In one of my cases, I found a printing company using 3 of my best sellers for rear window car decals, selling them for $120.00 each and I had a lawyer on contingency working for me and nothing came out of it because the owner of the company was a full-time criminal, in jail several time for other stuff and knew exactly how the legal system works.

As my contingency lawyer didn't want to go into litigation (too costly) he just sent the printing company letters, trying to reach a settlement. The owner of the company just ignored the letters and that was it.

I simply can't afford to pay a lawyer, as my lawyer told me that it's unlikely that any court would rule in "my favor" as the damage was 3 EL licenses (whoopdidoo) and no idea what the statutory damages could have been which range from $200 to $150,000 per image.

So if the lawyer wasn't too convinced that I had a strong case what am I supposed to do?

All I could do was the web hosting company remove the infringing content from their server as the printing company refused to do so initially, but later they did. They had like 6 web sites running with different addresses - go figure.

You have to have a "major" infringement happening to see some decent money. Like your image on TV, movie, national billboard or newspaper ads stuff like that. Nobody gives a crhap some web site use etc.
« Last Edit: June 18, 2011, 09:45 by click_click »

lisafx

« Reply #3 on: June 18, 2011, 17:57 »
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Thanks for sharing your experience going after the infringers, Click Click.  Not the outcome I would have hoped, but still good to know. 

« Reply #4 on: June 18, 2011, 18:36 »
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Thanks for sharing your experience going after the infringers, Click Click.  Not the outcome I would have hoped, but still good to know. 

I have another case going on right now. I hope it works this time. I'll let you all know how it went, once it's over.

« Reply #5 on: June 19, 2011, 13:28 »
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Click_click provided us some sad but real evidence of how difficult it is to enforce our rights. I think that only when it is a big company whose image may be harmed by the bad publicity is that we have a real chance of getting any compensation.

This is so sad.  :'(

« Reply #6 on: June 19, 2011, 22:31 »
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Click_click provided us some sad but real evidence of how difficult it is to enforce our rights. I think that only when it is a big company whose image may be harmed by the bad publicity is that we have a real chance of getting any compensation.

This is so sad.  :'(

I can only speak for myself and I have to say you're pretty much spot on.

In every instance that I contacted somebody who used my image in a "suspicious" way, it turned out to be copyright infringement - every, single, time.

In all those cases I should not have acted alone without consulting a lawyer as all cases could have led to statutory and punitive damages (or most likely settlements).
Problem is though, that 99% of all IP lawyers are simply not interested in pursuing statutory damages worth $5 in licensing fees and punitive damages of I don't know how little - on a contingency basis and who has the $$$ to pay $200 to $500 per hour for an IP lawyer?.

While every case for us might be "worth" $200, $400 or more, a lawyer won't even pick up the phone for that money. They want to deal with the big stuff, major infringements.

Maybe at some point we can find a way to actually squeeze damages out of infringing parties ourselves, without a lawyer.

I'll see what's going to come out of my latest situation.

« Reply #7 on: June 20, 2011, 02:07 »
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The sites could get together on this and fund one lawyer to go after the biggest infringes.  It might cost them a little bit of money but it would send the message that people need to buy licences.  That's going to make the sites more money.

If we're all losing money because people aren't buying licenses when they should, just think how much it's costing the sites.  They could set up an organization that educates internet users about copyright laws when using images by other people and peruses those that blatantly disregard those laws.

If the sites aren't going to do something about this, it really undermines their business.  It could get to a point where people wonder why they are paying for a license when it doesn't cost anything if you don't pay for a license.

« Reply #8 on: June 20, 2011, 04:25 »
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It's crazy that if someone or a small business company downloads your photo and uses it on their website or prints them out to sell, the lawyer most likely will not pursue any legal action.  But on the other side of the coin, if someone downloads a music file (even for personal use), the fine could be thousands or dollars if not millions.  Also, possible jail time.  What kind of sense is that?

« Reply #9 on: June 20, 2011, 07:49 »
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It's crazy that if someone or a small business company downloads your photo and uses it on their website or prints them out to sell, the lawyer most likely will not pursue any legal action.  But on the other side of the coin, if someone downloads a music file (even for personal use), the fine could be thousands or dollars if not millions.  Also, possible jail time.  What kind of sense is that?

The music or film industry has more financial punch than any microstock agency or contributor.
They love to make an example out of stupid cases like a mother downloading 30 songs and suing her over hundreds of thousands of dollars that they won't ever see anyway.

You can sue over everything, so can we. We (or most of us) just cannot afford to pay a lawyer.

Maybe it would be worth paying a lawyer $2000 every time because we may get double the amount back in the end. However, I can't take that risk. Not at this point.

The agencies have no interest in pursuing infringements more strictly as the non-exclusive uses make it pretty much impossible to nail illegal users.
Sure I find one of my images in use illegally, now how do I find out where that image was originally downloaded/purchased from?

This requires a lot of resources and the agencies have not the manpower to deal with that.

It's up to us to enforce our copyright.

PaulieWalnuts

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« Reply #10 on: June 20, 2011, 08:05 »
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Thanks for the info Artmyth and Click_Click.

That kinda blows. Seems like a double whammy of RF being too difficult to track and the licensing being too cheap.

« Reply #11 on: June 20, 2011, 10:10 »
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...The agencies have no interest in pursuing infringements more strictly as the non-exclusive uses make it pretty much impossible to nail illegal users....
Surely they can go after the ones that are displaying their watermark?  They can also go after the ones that purchased an ordinary license from them when they should of paid for an EL.  SS has done that successfully at least twice. 

They could also make a database for all the sites, to easily see what's been paid for and what's being used illegally.  That might be more difficult but I don't think it's impossible.

« Reply #12 on: June 20, 2011, 10:19 »
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...The agencies have no interest in pursuing infringements more strictly as the non-exclusive uses make it pretty much impossible to nail illegal users....
Surely they can go after the ones that are displaying their watermark?  They can also go after the ones that purchased an ordinary license from them when they should of paid for an EL.  Shutterstock has done that successfully at least twice. 

They could also make a database for all the sites, to easily see what's been paid for and what's being used illegally.  That might be more difficult but I don't think it's impossible.

It's not impossible but the financial expenses are too big for the agencies. While they and we should receive billions in fines for copyright infringement it appears that the agencies do not have any interested to implement such a department.

Why? I don't know. The infringements are happening on a daily basis.

One of the problems: Many questionable uses occur on servers located in countries that do not enforce (or don't have) copyright laws.

I can see why so many low-lives in such countries simply steal the images in order to make money pretending the images are theirs. It's easy and quick money.

The watermark issue is valid and of course the easiest way to figure everything out. However, those watermarked images are used not on Coca Cola banners of during a Super Bowl ad. Most likely bloggers use these images and the damages are negligible (very unfortunately). Unless you pay a lawyer his/her hourly rate they will laugh at you for pursuing something like that.

As much as I would like to get $100 for every infringement that happened to me, it just won't work.

« Reply #13 on: June 20, 2011, 11:48 »
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...The agencies have no interest in pursuing infringements more strictly as the non-exclusive uses make it pretty much impossible to nail illegal users....
Surely they can go after the ones that are displaying their watermark?  They can also go after the ones that purchased an ordinary license from them when they should of paid for an EL.  Shutterstock has done that successfully at least twice. 

Yeah, but that's all they will do.  Ask them to stop, or pay for the right license.  No damages or anything because they don't want to hurt the feelings of the buyers.

ShadySue

  • There is a crack in everything
« Reply #14 on: June 20, 2011, 11:58 »
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  No damages or anything because they don't want to hurt the feelings of the buyers.
Or even those of the stealers.

« Reply #15 on: June 20, 2011, 15:25 »
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^^^Exactly, they aren't buyers.  I think a small number of well publicised legal wins against some of the worst infringers would make more people want to buy a license, instead of risking the same thing happening to them.  At the moment there's a lot of ignorance of copyright laws and a lot of people that know they aren't going to get anything worse than a request to remove the image or buy the appropriate license for a small fee.

« Reply #16 on: June 20, 2011, 16:30 »
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Here is the response I got back from one site allowing the downloading of a FREE high rez version of one of my images (hqwalls.com.ua/eng/nature.html, used google chrome to translate):

Quote
You, of course I'm sorry, but the source of all evil here: http://allday.ru/ (there your whole site free)
And my site - a drop in the ocean.
I am a poor Ukrainian student who recently arrived from the army.


It's a Russian site, and his English is broken, but I can pretty well translate his meaning: feck you. Here is his info, in case anyone else finds their work:

domain:     hqwalls.com.ua
admin-c:    VV739-UANIC
tech-c:     NIC-UANIC
status:     OK-UNTIL 20111231011141
dom-public: NO
nserver:    ns1.jino.ru
nserver:    ns2.jino.ru
mnt-by:     DRS-UANIC (ua.drs)
remark:     hqwalls.com.ua
created:    0-UANIC 20091231011141
changed:    DRS-UANIC 20100316231138
source:     UANIC

nic-handle:     VV739-UANIC
organization:   Весёлая
address:        ул., Заводная
address:        00000 КИЕВ
address:        УКРАИНА
phone:          +380.950000000
e-mail:        
org-id:         N/A
mnt-by:         NONE
remark:         Linked to CX9NPW-CUNIC
changed:        DRS-UANIC 20091231011009
source:         UANIC

nic-handle:     NIC-UANIC
organization:   Service Online LLC
address:        P/O BOX, 147
address:        04050 KYIV
address:        UA
fax-no:         +380 (56) 7872298
phone:          +380 (44) 5937569
e-mail:        
url:            http://nic.ua
org-id:         33383990
mnt-by:         NONE
remark:         --
remark:         phone: 0-900-254-254 (Ukraine Only)
remark:         fax-machine: +380 44 5937569
remark:         Feedback: http://nic.ua/rus/support.html
remark:         --
changed:        NIC-UANIC 20110201082615
source:         UANIC
« Last Edit: June 20, 2011, 16:32 by cclapper »


« Reply #17 on: June 20, 2011, 16:34 »
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"I am a poor Ukrainian student who recently arrived from the army."

Wah.

lisafx

« Reply #18 on: June 20, 2011, 16:40 »
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Here is the response I got back from one site allowing the downloading of a FREE high rez version of one of my images (hqwalls.com.ua/eng/nature.html, used google chrome to translate):

Quote
You, of course I'm sorry, but the source of all evil here: http://allday.ru/ (there your whole site free)
And my site - a drop in the ocean.
I am a poor Ukrainian student who recently arrived from the army.


It's a Russian site, and his English is broken, but I can pretty well translate his meaning: feck you. Here is his info, in case anyone else finds their work:



So he's not even going to take it down?  He's going to continue to allow people to download you image?  If so, this is a good time to send a DMCA notice to his hosting service. 

« Reply #19 on: June 20, 2011, 17:02 »
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So he's not even going to take it down?  He's going to continue to allow people to download you image?  If so, this is a good time to send a DMCA notice to his hosting service. 

Doesn't sound like he's going to take it down. I just checked, it's still there, with tons of other peoples work, too. I will search some more to see if any more of mine are there. And yes, DMCA notice going out tomorrow to the hosting service.

« Reply #20 on: June 20, 2011, 17:10 »
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Sorry, didn't mean to derail Paulie's thread.

« Reply #21 on: June 20, 2011, 17:20 »
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Sorry, didn't mean to derail Paulie's thread.

Did you start a new thread about this?

I'd recommend doing that if the site is still up with yours and other contributors images on it.

« Reply #22 on: June 20, 2011, 17:47 »
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Sorry, didn't mean to derail Paulie's thread.

Did you start a new thread about this?

I'd recommend doing that if the site is still up with yours and other contributors images on it.

Will do.


 

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