question about photo websites

I currently have Canoe Zoom Browser software on my computer, and was considering posting my photos to Photobucket, Webshots, or Picasa, etc. for the ease of posting them either here or other forums.Do I need to go with one or can I post right from my current software? I’m thinking some forums require one of the above. My question is this: Do these photo sites allow others to pirate your photos? Is there some mechanism to prevent this. I’m not being snotty, I’m not a professional photographer, but do have some really nice shots and wouldn’t appreciate some lazy stock photographer using my pics to make a profit. Probably sounds paranoid, but I do remember someone posting here a while back mentioning that photos they’d taken ended up showing up in places they didn’t authorize. Just wondering.


If it’s on the Internet…
… it can be stolen. Plain and simple.

preventing photo theft isn’t easy
the best thing to do is put the appropriate metadata in your images and register your images for copyright protection. You still own the copyright without registering the images. But, if someone uses a registered image illegally you can get a lot more money from them for use of your image. If you find some one has used an image that is registered to you then send them an invoice for the use. Remember to charge appropriately - at least $5000. Be sure to take screen shots of the illegally use as well - just in case it does go to court.

I have had three images used illegally. The first time I asked them to stop using it - they complied. The other two times I sent them invoices. One company paid immediately, the other went to court - I won big time. It might not seem worth the hassle to go to court, but the images were stolen and someone else was making money off of my work.

Some websites (like Facebook) require you to give the company limited use rights when you upload images. It is part of their service agreement. Make sure you know what you are agreeing to before you upload photos.

One last point - IF you find your work illegally on a stock companies website (and you did register) send that company an invoice with a letter from your lawyer. Charge the stock company $100,000 for the use of your image. A good stock photo can make 6 figures in sales over the course of its life before it becomes public domain.

It can work the other way too, Leigh
We use webshots, and several years ago we got some unique shots of what was a pair of mystery (to us) terrapins who were mating, out in the Florida keys (salt water), in about six inches of water on a oyster bar.

When we got home we looked them up and found them to be Diamondback terrapins.

We posted several of the shots with a lot of other pictures on our florida Trip pics that year.

About six months later we got a real nice e-mail from a biology professor who was writing a book on the different Diamond Back terrapins and he wanted to know if he could use a few of the pictures in his book.

We told him to go right ahead, and about a year later we received in the mail a copy of the book and in the credits at the front of the book he had listed Nanci’s name and also under each of the pictures.

I have always been a lover of reptiles and amphibions, and the book ended up giving me a wealth of information on the Terrapins which I previously knew very little about.



sugmug does some .js to prevent people dragging out, but as mentioned, if someone really wants it, they can pull it from memory.

Adding a “water mark” using image editing software may be the most aggressive way to prevent theft.

Also, as pointed out, read the terms of service to your sharing site, as you may have given rights by signing up.

Make sure the images you post are
low resolution. Low resolution files are fine for viewing on a computer screen but if printed to more than 4x6 look terrible. They would be of little value to someone trying to sell them. Low resolution (small) files are also much quicker to up and download.

Marc Ornstein

Dogpaddle Canoe WEorks

Custom paddles and cedar strip canoes

On the company that immediately paid the invoice, was it a substantial amount (over $1000)? On the court case, how long did it take, and how much did you invest in legal fees before you actually saw a cash return? You say you had a big win, is that like $10,000+?

Also, how did you find out who was using your pics?

I’ve got much the same feelings about use of my photos, but I finally decided just not to worry about it. I like taking pictures and posting them, and I like having other people look at them, so I figured the risk of piracy just goes with the territory. Also, the odds seem pretty slim with all the billions of images siting on the web. It doesn’t seem worthwhile to dilute my pleasure by spending time trying to catch the unlikely case where a pirate picks one of mine.

Thanks all for the input!
Great story Jack, don’t know if you’ve ever read any of Jack Rudloe’s or Archie Carr’s books; great turtle books.

Great suggestion Marc! Thanks!

And Memphis, I agree with what you’re saying as well, I do like sharing with others,and life is really too short to worry about such stuff;-)Marc’s suggestion about the res. size is really a good one.


My view
I look at it that same way as Memphis described in his reply. I like to take photos, and my friends like to look at them. My photos are not professional quality, even if some of them are pretty good. The odds that someone is going to “make a profit” from pictures I take seems pretty slim. In any case, there is so much illegal activity in the world, does it make any sense to insure that a few photos out of billions are not available to be stolen? Not to me, and if I made sure that a few photos out of billions were not available to be stolen, the people who like to see what I’ve been up to wouldn’t see them either. As to posting low-resolution shots, I hate that and it’s almost as bad as not posting. What’s the point of even posting photos if you deliberately make them crappy-looking? I appreciate when others post photos that can be seen in large format, and I do the same for them. I haven’t seen many photos that are even worth paying much attention to if they look like a bad photocopy of a postcard.

On that note, I’m seriuosly considering quitting Webshots because they no longer allow photos to be seen full-size. SOMETIMES Webshots will allow you to see a larger image than the one that first comes up and sometimes they won’t, but when they do, it will be a lot smaller than the original, unless the original is only moderately sized to begin with. One thing I like about Flickr is that you have the option of seeing more than one size of the enlarged photo. How large a photo they will display depends on whether or not you are a paying member, but for two dollars a month I don’t think I’ll worry about it.

here ya go…
The company that immediately paid the invoice was a large company (the largest of the three) and the amount was over $1000. They paid up because they knew they broke the law, they knew it was an easy win for me, and they knew I could have charged them a lot more.

The one that went to court was a small company. I contacted a lawyer and had them draft a letter to go with the invoice. When they didn’t respond I started legal proceedings and they got a summons. I spent about an hour with the lawyer before the court date. On the ‘big’ day I spent less than an hour in court. It was open and shut - very simple. Me - here is a screen shot of the image on their website, here is a brochure with the image, here is the proof that the image was taken by me and registered. Here is an industry standard guideline for using photos in that manner and in that size, plus damages. Them - we bought it from a stock photography site, but we can’t find the receipt, and we aren’t sure of the name of the company. Judge - pay the man (5 figures).

I found out about the use in different ways. One I found myself by searching for images that might be similar to mine to compare. A friend tipped me off on another. And the last one was the result of testing a visual search engine based photo protection software package.

Interested if you collected on the court
settlement … and what portion the attorney took. …

Does not seem worth the time to me.

your query could not be more timely
I happen to be currently engaged in a legal dispute with a kayak manufacturer over an image of mine that he published without my permission.

I post my images on ( since Webshots webpage is utterly annoying with the stupid pop ups.

To protect myself I watermark my images and do not allow downloading of my images from flickr site (there is such function).

However the images can still be screenshot and can be used for e-publications.

The image of mine that was published without authorization was watermarked.

The kayak company cropped the watermark.

While you can register the copyright on your images it is not necessary.

Any original artwork is automatically copyrighted for free to the author.

No need for registration and no need to pay anybody to do so.

Berne convention protects an individual for copyright internationally without registration

(from Wikipedia: >>The United States only provided copyright protection for a fixed, renewable term, and required that in order for a work to be copyrighted it must contain a copyright notice and be registered at the Copyright Office. The Berne Convention, on the other hand, provided for copyright protection for a single term based on the life of the author, and did not require registration or the inclusion of a copyright notice for copyright to exist

part 2
Since the kayak company is not willing to pay the invoice I have produced (stating that they have received the image from somebody else) I am suing the company for using my image without authorization

That was me
I posted photos to a members-only group and someone (NOT a photographer!) stole photos from basically everybody who put photos there. But that’s not the real problem–he went way over the fair use provisions when he distributed our photos all over the Internet with no authorization. We only found out a year after the fact and he “forgot” where he had sent them.

But as I stated, this person is not a photographer and he has a record of violating various laws. I think that a real photographer would not stoop to such sleazy tactics (just as a real paddler would not steal someone else’s boat).

My website has dozens of fence photos
…and there are a few styles and items I don’t have up I wish I did. The problem is, I have a rule, if I didn’t build it, it isn’t going on my site. I could use stock photos or even steal them from other sites but that’s just not my way.

I don’t do anything to protect the photos, maybe I should.

My kayak and nature photos on Picasa I’m none too worried about. If I luck up and get a good shot, I want someone to steal it.

With the advent of digital photos, I never print and rarely go back and look after my initial viewing.

collected on the settlement quickly
the lawyer was a referral through a professional association so the fee was very low. The association keeps lawyers in each state on retainer and negotiates a lower fee because of volume. The fee was also low because the case was pretty straight forward - they were caught ‘red handed’ so to speak. It wasn’t even much of a trial - I have waited in line longer in traffic court to get a ticket reduced.

It was worth it to me - the 5 figures I made off of those images were about half way to 6 figures.

BTW, stock photo companies make most of their money invoicing people who use their images illegally. If the images are registered it is very easy to win a court case.

You don’t need to register BUT
if the image is registered you can recover actual damages (normal usage fees), punitive damages, and legal fees. If it is not registered you can generally only recover actual damages (normal usage fees). Usage fees are some what standard in the photography industry so the court decides those fees.

Also, when the image is registered it is a clear cut case. When it is not registered it is more involved and requires more time from your attorney.

Had your image been registered you would probably not be in a legal dispute and you would be able to recover more money.

You can also register batches of images. It costs $45 to mail in a CD of images. The images only need to be low resolution and small size which allows you to fit 100’s of images on a CD.

I Use PBase

– Last Updated: Dec-10-08 2:52 AM EST –

I've used them for I guess about 3 years now. No pop-ups, adds, or spam, just pictures. The pics posted on P.base are copyrighted to their owners. Also, I reduce the size of the pics I post to make it quicker to upload and so they take up less space. I believe P.base is about $21, $22 bucks a year, but the site is so easy to work with both for me and others who I show my pics to. Having used Webshots et al, I would pay even MORE if I had to to use P.base since I like it so much better.

Here's one link to P.base itself and one to my galleries; mine are very LOW QUALITY when compared to some of the professionals who use P.base! WW

UPDATE on copyright infingment
While it took a few email exchanges to establish my rights (the kayak company was rather ignorant of copyright laws, or so they appeared to act) the account has been settled.

It certainly helped to quote a few sections of the Copyright Act and implication of breaching it, one of the parties involved in the unauthorized use of my image agreed to pay in view that a court case would have cost him way more than just my fee for the use of my image.

Regrettably I might have created an enemy but I certainly don’t like to have my property stolen.

good for you and glad you settled
Once you establish copyright it is usually a pretty simple case. As I mentioned before it is pretty straight forward when someone is caught red-handed. Most of the time people who infringe on copyright will settle out of court - as you found out.

You shouldn’t have made an enemy - you did nothing wrong or unethical. Some companies and magazines think everyone should give them photos in trade for the exposure and photo credit. In most cases that is just arrogance on the part of the company.

BTW, look up the Orphaned Works Act.

It is a pretty good reason to register your work.