There is a major problem in the photography industry, and it's the photographers fault. Photographers spend countless hours in the right side of their brain taking photos, then more sleepless nights bringing those images to life in post. They agonize over the processing, feedback from peers, and then publish the images for the world to consume. Sadly 97% of these photographers aren't copyrighting these images making them much more attractive to steal. We need your help to fix this, Adobe.
I love and use a bunch of your products, especially Lightroom. This is why I am going to give you yet another indisputable and free recommendation for a new feature in Lightroom. As I mentioned above, photographers are creative right brained people that need people like you to maximize their left brained work flow with software tools that keep us organized in a logical manner. We need you to help bridge that gap, and it's a large gap, between the Lightroom catalogue and the United States Copyright Office. Photographers don't want to be hassled with the task of dealing with tedious paperwork like registering all of our images yet we want the protection and payout when a business steals our photos and uses them for commercial purposes. In actuality we want to be out shooting natural light portraits shot wide open with milky soft background city bokeh. We want to be planning our next portrait session, or planning our next big commercial campaign, not tedious registration work with the government. We want very little to do with the work that comes after a photo is flattened and delivered. As a matter of fact I am willing to pay a little extra for the convenience of someone else doing it for me while providing occasional legal guidance on infringement issues.
I know what you must be thinking, Adobe, and the answer is no. I don't expect you to get into the business of registering our photos for us nor do I expect the government to get with the times and come out with a super streamlined process for registration through Lightroom itself; although that would be best case scenario. I am a realist and I am going to make this easy on you. I am asking you to make a plugin, feature, or magic button that will FTP a catalogue of my images to a 3rd party service that is in the copyright business of registering my photos while providing me with legal guidance on issues I may have. If you could please make a smart catalogue feature with an upload button that sends the photos and necessary information to a company that handles this process on a quarterly basis, it would be a win win situation for everyone but the people stealing images. I think this is a modest request that could also help the government get a little extra money on the digital photo explosion of the last 10 years. If anyone from the government is listening, you knuckleheads are missing out on the revenue of 350-400 billion photos taken each year, 97% of which are from photographers that don't use your service or care about copyrighting their images.
This is where I am going to blow your mind, Adobe. I did the legwork already and found a company that does this exact thing plus a few more beneficial services that I've been looking for. So I got on the phone, called up the CEO of Imagerights.com Joe Naylor and talked to him of my idea to bridge the gap. Oddly enough he already had that same idea and is working hard to make this a reality but he needs your help to make this a mainstream service.
Don't let us down, Adobe. Image Rights is waiting for your phone call and we are all waiting for this to become super easy and streamlined. Apple, if you are also listening and haven't completely abandoned Aperture, please add this feature for the 7 people that still use this program.
Gary Winchester Martin
About Image Rights
Image Rights will not only assist you in the quarterly and timely registration of all of your image copyrights, but they also have a variety of tools that can discover your images online and recover damages from violations. The company has teams of copyright lawyers all over the world available to represent you at a moments notice. Plus you have 3 options for services from 0$/year to $995/year.
From here on out every image taken by me, and our studio will be registered through Image Rights and we will have the support and guidance of a worldwide team of lawyers. I suggest you do the same so the next time a publication, commercial business, or online retail store steals your image you will have the full support of the law on your side with a team of people working in your corner.
Here is some more information Joe gave me from our discussion.
1. The issue at hand:
- Per a 2010 ASMP survey, less than 3% of professional American photographers register their images with the USCO. I liken it to a sales guy who hates spending time updating his sales database with notes about the day’s sales calls as they would much rather be out there selling more product. A photographer doesn’t want to spend time registering their photos, they want to be shooting more photos. And it doesn’t take a genius to deduce that the percentage of global professional photographers is substantially less than that, even though they too would receive all of the benefits that timely registration with the USCO bestows when faced with copyright infringement inside the US.
2. Benefits of timely registration:
- Not timely registered and you can pursue actual damages and profits derived from the infringing use. When dealing with online infringement, actual damages often boils down to what a license would have cost for that use had it been licensed properly, and the profits derived are notoriously difficult to ascertain, typically due to poor data and/or obstruction by the infringer.
- If timely registered however, then you have the option to pursue statutory damages and attorney’s fees. This changes the whole dynamic. This makes a claim much more attractive to a copyright attorney to take on your claim. The exposure to an unpredictable jury’s opinion on what damages should be awarded (and they could award up to $150,000 per infringement if they believe the infringing use to have been willful) and the prospect of having to pay plaintiff’s attorney’s fees, which could easily run into the six figures if litigated through to trial, serves to economically support the rights holder’s efforts to enforce their rights against an infringing party. So the exposure to those potential costs is what compels an infringing party to enter into good faith negotiations to resolve the claim.
3. Then why doesn’t every professional photographer register their images. The reasons why they don’t are not complex:
- They’re not sure how to answer the questions. For example, 20 years into the internet age, there are still massive vagaries around what constitutes publication. So quite often, they’re just not sure if their images are considered published or not, and if so, what action triggered it.
- For those who have been shooting for years or decades, the information gathering can be prohibitively cumbersome. For example to register a group of published photos, they have to be grouped by the calendar year in which they were published. And you have to provide the file name and the exact or approximate date on which each individual image was initially published. If they didn’t keep good records, then this becomes a virtually impossible requirement to meet.
- Then one of the most common questions we receive is how many images can I register in one filing. You have to dig surprisingly hard to get that answer. And the answers vary based on whether they are unpublished or published and whether you file online through the eCO site or through the mail using the paper forms (which I highly recommend not doing if it can be avoided at all).
- Lastly, the cost often serves as a barrier. While it’s might be one of the most important investments a photographer can make, they may not see how they are going to get the payback on it. And unfortunately, it’s typically too late before you see how it could have helped you when confronting an infringer. In one sense, it’s like insurance. You make the payment to protect yourself from a future event that may or may not happen. If it doesn’t happen, then great. But when it does, it sure does pay to have protected yourself in advance.
4. It’s a workflow issue
- Many of the challenges that discourage or block photographers from registering go away if they just integrate the process of registering into their workflow. Very easy to write, but changing user behavior can be very difficult – and has been the death of many great products. So the answer is to find a way such that registration almost happens on its own.
- This too does not have to be complicated. In the same way that Lightroom allows you to automatically do things to your images once you’re done editing them (catalogue them, upload to facebook or Flickr, etc. you could easily have them automatically dumped to a folder (for lack of a better descriptor) that contains all of your images to be registered next. At ImageRights we always recommend registering images before you publish them, it’s simply easier and can be more cost effective. If you’re work is such that you publish your images immediately, then dump them in a folder and set a timer to register them every two or three months. You have three calendar months from the initial publication date to register with the USCO and to ensure timely registration. We often recommend doing it every two months just in case something comes up and you slip a week or two.
- However, at ImageRights we’re working towards providing solutions that will automatically sweep your queued images. In an ideal world, we automatically complete the eCO registration and present the final draft application for review. We will be able to do this is certain data is contained in the meta data for each photo (author’s name, creation date, publication date if any, etc.). Our current plan is to develop a plug-in for Lightroom; but a tighter integrated partnership with Adobe would serve Adobe’s photography customers well.
How many of you actually register your copyrights with your government versus simply adding a © symbol in your metadata? Comment below.