Ugh, I just spent way too much time dealing with a copyright infringement of one of my soap photos. It’s just another one of those things that you never think about when you’re thinking about starting your own business. But when someone steals your work, and then you have to deal with getting them to stop, that time you spend is money.
So, I’d like to save you a little time (and money) and point you towards some useful services and information to help you deal with copyright infringements of your work.
Did you make it? It’s yours.
According to the US Copyright office, 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.” So as soon as you write something and print it or upload to your blog or website, it’s yours. While you don’t have to register a copyright to be protected, you will have to register a copyright if you want to sue someone for infringing your copyright.
Protect your work: find the misuse.
There are things that you can do to protect your work, short of copyrighting everything and heading right to court. A great blog post by Joshua Dorkin lists steps that you should take to find any of your stolen work. Plus check out the sample “cease and desist” letter: handy when you want to sound like you mean business!
And if you’re afraid that your images may be getting stolen, Chris Martino’s blog post explains two easy ways to search the web for your photos. If you find any misuse of your images, you can use the tips in Joshua Dorkin’s article that I mention above to deal with that, too.
Protect your business: don’t steal.
So, it turns out that another soapmaking teacher was (and still is as of this writing) using one of my photos to market one of her soapmaking classes. Really? How sad is it that you’re a soapmaker and you won’t even use photos of your own soap? But she decided that it was worth putting her business at risk, rather than upload one of her own photos. Not the wise decision, I think.
Don’t have a good photo of your own? There are lots of great ways to get free or low-cost ones. Flickr has a Creative Commons section loaded with photos that the owners have offered up to be used by others. And stock photo sites like iStockphoto and Fotolia have thousands of photos that you can use for just around $1.
UPDATE: After sending a complaint to the website host, the whole site had been taken down temporarily. Website hosts are very careful about not being sued for hosting copyrighted material, so they are your friends if this ever happens to you. The site is back up now, but without my photo.