Street Focus 30: Street Legal with The Copyright Zone Guys
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A few weeks ago I asked you, the listeners, to post questions related to some legal aspects of street photography in the G+ Street Focus community. Today I am pleased to have the guys at The Copyright zone, photographer Jack Reznicki and trial lawyer Ed Greenberg on the show today. After discussing briefly the Arkansas SB 79 “Personal Rights Protection Act”, we delved into questions regarding overzealous security guards and law enforcement officers confronting photographers in public spaces. We talked about the importance of copyrighting your images, how to handle model releases, and much more!
Please visit The Copyright Zone and a special blog post written for this episode of Street Focus. And don't forget to get your copy of the book, which should be on every photographer's bookshelf, no matter which genre of photography they shoot. And don't forget to visit Jack's website so check out his beautiful photography.
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I love these guys, and it was the first version of their book that opened my eyes to the importance of registering my photos and then pursuing infringement. I’ve been very much looking forward to the new expanded edition, especially since it’s available as a Kindle that I can take anywhere and reference.
One thing I would have to disagree with, however, is the laborious searching of Google Images looking for copyright infringement violations. That would be fine if you only had a few images to search for, but for most photographers, we have thousands or tens of thousands or even more, and that would require a full-time effort plugging each into Google Image Search and then following the links to pages to see, record and deal with each case. I know – I’ve worked with that scenario. It’s exactly why the host was not enthused at all about the prospect and basically admitted that she just can’t deal with it.
What’s become my savior alternative is a resource called Pixsy. For what I consider a reasonable percentage fee for each time they collect (which provides them incentive to collect as much as possible), they chase the infringers and get my money for me. I simply upload all my photos to my Pixsy account, then they run a full-on image search on ALL of them, and provide an easy interface to me where I can review any websites that are using any of them, so that I can determine if it’s a legitimate use or not. If not, I flag it for them to chase it down for me.
Further to my other post…
It is NOT in the interest or part of the business model of any of these companies “to collect as much as possible”. It is part of their model to use non-lawyers to collect as much as they can without expending the time necessary or the experts needed to maximize the recovery. So a recovery of say $1,000 in one day without the use of a lawyer may be more profitable to them than a recovery of 15k which takes a few months and the use of a lawyer.
Remember that if your work is registered and you prevail in a copyright action you are entitled to a recovery of your attorneys fees. These services use non experts who have never been in court to assess your case and settle as fast as possible. Do not assume that these companies seek to get the maximum recovery on an infringement as it is NOT in their interest to do so. Finally, you are stuck using their lawyers over whom you have no control or inputs. These services generally use inexperienced low cost lawyers who likely do not appear in Federal Court on these type cases with any regularity. Thus they do not know what the “settlement ballpark” in real life is.
If you doubt what we are saying do the following; Request a list of all copyright cases with docket numbers filed in federal courts by the service(s) and the results of those cases. The likely response is that there are very few if any of these cases. The reason? They settle early and cheap. That’s why in the legal business these services are known as “pioneers”. Attorneys for infringers are generally smart enough not to take them seriously and thus offer quick, cheap settlements which these services invariably accept.
NEVER, EVER give your right to pursue or defend your copyright to ANYONE else – ever. Do not give away this valuable right to an agent, stock agent or service – ever.
Thanks for your expert insight! I take everything you say VERY seriously, and I can see already that you’re obviously correct about them not going the extra distance to get the most compensation possible.
A couple of issues still get in the way for us “common” people though…
It’s great to recover attorney fees if I win. It’s not so great to be on a fixed income and not have attorney’s fees up front to pursue legal action in the first place. What’s typical? I suppose it depends on the attorney. With your legal expertise and vast amounts of actual time working such cases in this field, you probably command a fairly high price just to review the works I think might be worth pursuing. Another attorney might want less, or even more, up front. If you know of any attorneys experienced in copyright law who are willing to go to legal bat for me and my copyrighted images without money up front though, I’m all ears.
Also, it’s STILL a GIANT pain in the behind to try to constantly search many thousands of images one at a time on Google Image Search, then go to each page that pops up one by one to see if it’s actually being used, and if it’s being used in a way that *I* think *might* be actionable. That’s a full-time job for anyone who has many thousands of images to search, and most of us simply don’t have the time to do it.
I’d LOVE to get more compensation for my images than I’m getting from Pixsy. Nonetheless, I’m pretty happy getting anything at all after getting nothing for years. That’s a start. 🙂
..ahhh you spoke the magic words! “I’m pretty happy getting anything at all…” You are just the photographer infringers and services like this one feast on. Why would you be happy getting “anything” if you are entitled to “a lot”? This is the photographer’s mindset. No other business person who was ripped off would be “happy getting anything…” If your 2015 Mustang were stolen from your drive way would you be happy if you never recovered the car but the thief sent you $100 and a thank you card?
Our clients (as those of most attorneys representing artists, photographer, illustrators, etc) are all “little guys” they are all regular people and never mega corporations.
If you have a dental problem see a dentist. Tax issues? A CPA should be your next stop. Legal problems? See a lawyer. Remember that there are no legal requirements, licenses, expertise or experience required to work at these “services”.
Again, I very much appreciate and take to heart what you’re saying.
You’re still not addressing the actual issues that prohibit me and people like me from tracking down the infringers and finding the money to hire you to pursue them however.
If you have actual solutions to those problems, again, I’m all ears. 🙂
Loving the new book, by the way. Got my e-version the other night.
Great Show Valerie. Thank you for considering my question regarding shooting in the Washington, DC Subway system. Great advice to arrange a meeting with the PR people from the Transit Authority to clarify the policy. I’ll definitely be doing that. Thanks to Ed and Jack for being so informative.
Good show Valerie,
I guess I need to find the CND equivalent.
I wish I had remembered to write in a question.. I would have liked to had more answers to model releases…. and fine art… my bad..
Okay, great advice!
I just found another real estate salesman who has a low-rent web page up and has used one of my copyrighted photos on it. How much to hire you, and how much do you think you can get for me in compensation?
I’m eager to step up to bigger payouts by using PROFESSIONAL services!! WOOT!!!
You ought never discuss the details of any matter on line where no conversation is privileged.
You may call me at 212 697 8777 5- 7PM EDT this week.
Thanks everyone! Sorry, I didn’t mean to ignore you, in Rome teaching a photo workshop now, will read all the comments when I’m back in the office. Thank you Ed for jumping in, I’ve received a lot of great feedback on the episode! 🙂 We will definitely do another one in a few months with new questions.
Thank you so much for addressing my question about the ‘Public’ Library, and the rules for photography that they stated to me. I don’t know that I got a clear answer to my question about whether they can regulate photography in a public space – or is it really not a public space. I don’t go there to bother people who are working or researching or just relaxing. I go there to photograph people in interesting spaces with interesting architecture and backgrounds. I believe Mr. Greenberg asked the question of why I want to take pictures there. I am including an image to demonstrate what I like about it. Thank you again – a great, informative show!!
Pixsy works with thousands of professional photographers around the world. Whether they choose to invoice unlicensed photo use on their own, send it to their own attorney, or use our own licensing services, we’re here to support them.
We work with reputable IP law firms in several countries. As a technology startup, we also have access to resources for finding and documenting photo use that most law firms do not have available. We do not settle claims on the cheap and indeed, we handle licensing issues that would not be cost effective for an attorney to take on.
Great, great information. Thanks so very much, Valerie (and your guests!).