Making Copyright Infringement Claims Is Now Harder for Photographers

Be proactive and copyright all of your work, especially pieces you plan on sharing with the masses.

Being able to share our work with millions upon millions of people is great. You can snap a picture, it can go viral, and someone may even want to buy your work. Unfortunately, there are those who like to skip that last part and just take what’s not theirs. In the past, if you had noticed that your work had been taken illegally you could register a copyright for your work, and then you could start proceedings against the party who infringed on your property. But a new U.S Supreme court ruling has changed all of that.

An article over at the The National Law Review covers the news in great depth, but the gist of it is that if you don’t have a currently registered copyright on your work (not just photographs, but anything) you cannot claim infringement against those who may have wronged you. As stated above, in the past if you found your work had been stolen you could go through the motions to register a copyright and then file a suit, but now you may have to wait months before you can start legal proceedings as the application for the copyright must be completed and not just be on file.

I don’t know of a single photographer who files for a copyright on every single one of their images; the time and money involved would be crazy. Going forward, it will be hard knowing if any of your images are taken without your consent, and you may have to wait up to 6-7 months before you can do anything about it. This might make more photographers bite the bullet and pay the $55 per 750 images to get them registered, especially if the works is really valued. Thanks for the correction!

A lot of damage can be done in that amount of time, and your ability to be able to ever recover from losing that work may be hard to overcome, so the courts will gladly let you pay $800 for the application to be expedited, and an additional $550 dollars if you need to transfer titles. You can then expect your application to be processed in 1 to 2 weeks. How kind of them!

The system is really working against us it seems; they certainly don’t make things easy for those who are wronged. The moral of the story is this; be careful what you share and where you share it. If you really value your work then apply for a copyright on that image and make sure it is fully registered before you even think about sharing it with the world. That seems to be about all we can do.

It’s easier said than done; the temptation to post all of your stunning images is constantly in the palm of your hand. Just remember though that the temptation for those to steal and cause damage is in the hands of those who have no moral code as well. Be careful with your work out there.

Brett Day

Brett Day is the Gear Editor at The Phoblographer and has been a photographer for as long as he can remember. Brett has his own photography business that focuses on corporate events and portraiture. In his spare time, Brett loves to practice landscape and wildlife photography. When he's not behind a camera, he's enjoying life with his wife and two kids, or he's playing video games, drinking coffee, and eating Cheetos.