Musings on Photography

Copyright Notice, another round

Posted in the art world, web issues by Paul Butzi on August 18, 2007

 Imgs 040728-8A-500

Via Colin Jago’s Photostream, I got a link to an excellent post by Dan Heller on dealing with copyright violations. As Colin points out, Dan’s post is excellent analysis, well worth reading in its entirety. I read it back when Colin first linked to it, and since then some background bit of my brain has clearly been grinding away on the implications. Here’s one I didn’t notice at first:

Statutory awards can range from $750 to $30,000 per infringement, or even be as high as $150,000 if the infringement was willful or intentional. (Sound effect of Vegas-style slot machine bells going off.) To determine your situation, consider these two steps:

If you have registered your photos with the copyright office, you can sue for statutory damages, and even recover your legal expenses.

If your photos have had a visible watermark on them with your name and/or copyright notice, then the act is considered willful and intentional. [emphasis mine]

It seems it wasn’t so very long ago I was caught up in an argument about whether putting that little copyright notice thingie on photos I posted to the web was a worthwhile thing.

Well, it appears that if you have registered the copyright for the images, then having that visible copyright border or watermark moves matter quite a bit if it comes down to an infringement lawsuit. There’s a world of difference between ‘attaching the copyright notice doesn’t change things at all’ and ‘attaching the copyright notice means that the act of using the image is considered willful and intentional’.

All of this assuming that Dan Heller is right, of course. I don’t have any reason to not believe him but I wouldn’t plan my financial future on his advice, either, simply because I’ve got no way of knowing how authoritative he is. But I’d observe that his advice certainly motivates me to continue to attach those copyright borders, ugly though they be.

3 Responses

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  1. matt said, on August 20, 2007 at 6:28 am

    Which begs the question, do you register your photos with the copyright office?

    Nice photo btw.

  2. Paul Butzi said, on August 20, 2007 at 1:57 pm


    Actually, there are two questions.

    1. SHOULD I register my photos with the copyright office? Yes, I should.

    2. DO I register my photos with the copyright office? No, because I am a pathetically lazy and keep putting it off.

  3. sandrine said, on August 22, 2007 at 9:31 am

    I love this photo… Simply beautiful!

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