Welcome to the GeekShot Photo Exclusive Series. This will be a weekly post featuring cool, interesting, or just plain awesome moments we have captured during San Diego Comic-Con and WonderCon. Each week we’ll post a photo by Beth or James of GeekShot Photography. We may include a short story about the photo, but sometimes we’ll just let the photo speak for itself.
About This Photo
Less than half of the people on stage at the end of the Fox panel at San Diego Comic-Con 2015.
Today we’re going to talk about copyright.
It’s the part of the law that helps and protects photographers and the photos they create. It’s also the thing the internet mostly tries to ignore, either willfully or through ignorance.
In the last few weeks Beth and I have had online run-ins with a rash of people stealing our photos. They posted them on Instagram, or tumblr, or who knows where else. We sent DMCA takedowns and commented on their posts informing them of such. What was the most common response? It was either “I just found it on the internet somewhere” or anger that we would dare call them out on taking our photos. They also claimed they were doing no harm and that they “always credit”. We of course saw no credit, except the one instance someone credited the person who stole it from us before them. Such is the way of the internet today. I could go on for hours and many words about the idiocy we came across dealing with these people. But I won’t.
This leads me to the main point of this post today – I’d rather our audience here on the blog learn something rather than hear me rant. So here goes.
First off, for those in America, you can visit copyright.gov and learn all the actual rules about what you can and can’t do with someone else’s creation. They have FAQs that put the legalese in shorter, easier to digest text. For those outside America, most countries have some form of copyright law you can look up.
The most important part of copyright law is this part:
“Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.” and “Copyright exists from the moment the work is created.”
This means that the instant I press the shutter and a photo is recorded on a memory card, it is copyrighted and I own the copyright (we won’t get into licensing or work for hire at this time). What does this mean for what happens with the photo when I post it publicly, such as on my flickr account or here on the blog? It means I have final say on where it goes from there. Or to put it in legalese (from Title 17, Circular 92, Chapter 1, Section 106):
Subject to sections 107 through 122, the owner of copyright under this title has the exclusive rights to do and to authorize any of the following:
(1) to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or phonorecords;
(2) to prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work;
(3) to distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;
(4) in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works, to perform the copyrighted work publicly;
(5) in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, to display the copyrighted work publicly; and
(6) in the case of sound recordings, to perform the copyrighted work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.
Boiled down, it means that every single person who copies a copyrighted photo onto their computer or other device and then reposts it in any way (whether altered, credited, linked, or not) is breaking the law. Unless they ask for permission first. This is why any time I send a DMCA takedown request to a site, they take the photo down. If it was OK to do, they’d just tell me tough luck and let the photo stay.
Or put another way, the rules are right there in the word copyright. I have the right to say who gets to copy my photo.
But what does all this mean for the photos I’m posting here? It means the watermark is going to be harder to take out of the photo. That’s about it. The watermark on today’s photo is over the top to make a point.
I don’t think one person can stop the unending tide of people stealing stuff on the internet. But I’m never going to let it slide when I see it. And I’ll never consider it OK just because everyone is doing it. If you do it, maybe this will make you think twice. If so, then I guess I’ve met my goal and helped someone learn something new.
Oh, and just an FYI since I see people using it as an excuse all the time… Google image search is a search engine. It is not a “Find photos I can use however I want web page”. If you find a photo using Google, you still have to determine if it is copyrighted, who owns the copyright, and then get permission to use it.
TL;DR – If you steal my photos, you suck. If you steal other people’s photos, you suck. Also, you’re breaking the law.
You can see all of the previous posts in this series here.
This photo is copyright (All Rights Reserved) by Beth and/or James Riley of GeekShot Photography. It may not be copied, reposted, published, or used in any manner without their written permission.