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Old Mar 25, 2005, 2:11 AM   #1
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Hi all, not sure if this is the right forum for this or not, but thought it might be a good place to start. I took pictures of an event last week and a local news station used some of them in a story they did last night without my permission. (here is a link to the pics http://www.denverunderground.com/photos/caffeine2005 ).

It seems to me that this is a clear case of copyright infringement, and that I am entitled to compensation from the news organization for the use of my photos. I haven't filed for Federal Copyright Protection yet, but does that matter? The pictures are still my property right? Or wrong? Any insight from some of the pros out there would be much appreciated.


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Old Mar 25, 2005, 2:16 AM   #2
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I am very curious! I know there'a at least ONE lawyer kickin' around here. This should be good. Thanks, best regards,

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Old Mar 25, 2005, 2:45 AM   #3
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JamesB - Although this is a site from the UK it may hold some interest for you:

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Old Mar 25, 2005, 3:41 AM   #4
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I'm not sure if this is the right forum, but the way I understand copyright laws, if you can prove that these were your photos, and that the new photographer did not and could not have taken the same pictures at the same time, then you certainly have a case. If you think it is worth it, contact an attorney. The first step will probably be a letter to the news org requesting compensation. If all goes well, that is all that should be necessary.

In an unguardedly candid moment, an attorney once told me " Justice costs money - How much can you afford? "

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Old Mar 25, 2005, 5:59 AM   #5
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JamesB wrote:
Hi all, not sure if this is the right forum for this or not...
Actually, this forum is for posting photos that you want critiqued(so that we can all learn to take better photos with the input of others). ;-)

I'll move this thread to the General Q&A Forum, where you may get more responses.

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Old Mar 25, 2005, 8:01 AM   #6
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Not being a laywer, you should not take my comments as "legal advice". These are only my opinions.

From your description, this is a no-brainer.

They had no right to use the pictures in a commercial venture (the paper.) The only risk for loosing it is if someone else claims to have taken the picture (VTphotog's comment about someone else not having been able to take the picture.)

Go read the federal law about copyright. Just google search it, you'll find it soon enough. Technically the picture is copyright'ed the instant you took the picture, and I do not believe you are required to put anything on the picture to claim that right. How much you will get will vary widly, and you should read about what you should do to make sure you get the highest possible reward. Do it today, there is a time limit involved here.

The only reason I see to bring in a lawyer is that will increase the chance that you will get a large award. Or if they settle, get them to settle for something more reasonable. Of course, after they take their cut you might get less than if you approached them directly.


ps. I would also try to figure out how they got it. That is a big question to me, and it says something about them. Did you put it on the web and they took it? Did you offer it to them and they rejected it and then used it? Who do they give credit to when they published it? They must have given credit to someone.
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Old Mar 25, 2005, 8:07 AM   #7
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Thanks for the reponses so far. The UK article was pretty good.

My first instinct was that a major news organization would know better than to use a photographer's photos without their consent. Therefore, I was wondering if there is some loophole that would circumvent the copyright laws for a news story? Hopefully not, as I'm more than a little upset by this. I certainly will try to work something out with the party involved first, so any advice on how to do that on my own is much appreciated. If I don't get a satisfactoryresponse I'mprepared to seeklegal assistance.

I guess the next question is, what's a fair amount? I haven't sold any of my work before, so I have no idea where to start. $100, $200, $500 per picture?

Jim-thanks for moving the topic! The Critiques forum is one of the only ones I visit and there are some great posters in there, so that's where I went first. It won't happen again!:-)
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Old Mar 25, 2005, 8:10 AM   #8
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Eric- just to clarify, they used the pictures on a newscast on TV, not in the newspaper. The only place the picture is available for viewing is on the internet, at the site I referenced in my first post. They must have taken them from there.
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Old Mar 25, 2005, 8:42 AM   #9
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James. I am a lawyer, but because of my work, I cannot give legal advice (it would be unethical to give "legal advice" over the internet without talking with you and fully understading your situation anyway). But I can give you some information about US copyright law.

The author of a work has copyright in "original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression."

17U.S.C. § 102(a). (Availavble here.) Such works include photographs, whether in printed or ditigal form. See id.

You do not have to register the work to receive copyright protection; however, you may have to register before bringing an action. See 17 U.S.C. § 411(Available here.)If you do not register, then you do not have access to certain types of damages--particularly statutory damages (damages that you can receive per infringement without having to prove any actual losses on your own) and attorney's fees . See 17 U.S.C. § 412 (Available here.) (Note that you may be able to register up to three months after first publication to qualify to receive statutory damages and attorney's fee awards. See § 412(2)).

You need not provide a copyright notice on the original image; however, the defendant may be able to bring a defense of "innocent infringement in mitigation of damages." See § 401(d) (Available here.)

Because the person you claim infringed is a media defendant, they might assert the defense of "fair use" 17 U.S.C. § 107 (Available here.) Of course, there are many other defenses and arguments the media defendant may promote as well.

Copyright law provides that, as damages, you can receive an injunction (prohibiting them from using your work again), actual damages (economic losses), statutory damages (a fixed sum per infringement between $750 and $30,000 "as the court considers just"), costs of the action, and attorney's fees. See generally 17 U.S.C. §§ 501-06 (Available here.)

Whether you would like to maintain an action (or take a nonlegal action such as writing a demand letter) is up to you. My only advice is to seek legal advice. Because of the attorney's fee provisions of the copyright act, an attorney may be willing to take your case on a contingent fee basis. (You may be able to reach a settlement simply by writing a demand letter, either from your attorney on your own behalf.)

I hope this gives you a place to start. Good luck!

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Old Mar 25, 2005, 8:57 AM   #10
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Thank you very much Perendosi! That helps a lot. I'm not looking to fund my childs college education here, but I would like fair compensation for the use of my photos. It looks like the thing I will have to watch here is the definition of Fair Use. Is it simply news, or is it trying to catch viewers, ratings, money... etc? I hope I can reach a fair agreement on my own, but I may certainly need a lawyer if they balk.

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