Skip to main content

Do Schools Teach Students About Photo Usage and Copyright Infringement?

'55 Volkswagen Beetles
I know I've discussed the issue of copyright infringement and stolen photos before, but last week I had a few other instances occur so I thought this would be a good time to discuss it again. Here's what happened last week:

I did an online search for my most-often-stolen photo (not the one pictured here) and sure enough: three more instances of the same photo pilfered without my permission. One website was a high school blog. Another site was a college website (their student online newspaper, actually) and the third was a news/entertainment-type site.

I sent all three infringers my standard DMCA takedown request letter via email. In the email I explained that I am the copyright owner on the photo, they are committing copyright infringement by using the photo without my written permission and provided links to the photo on my website. Before taking further action, I requested that they either remove the photo immediately or send payment - a very reasonable fee for one-time digital use. (I have yet to have anyone actually choose that option, of course). Both the high school and the college removed the photo immediately, replied to my email with an apology and both mentioned that this would make a great "real life teaching opportunity" for their students. I agreed and used that as my chance to throw in my two cents' worth in my email reply:

I'll date myself by saying this, but I graduated college in 1992 - just about the time the internet was becoming a big thing. I remember learning about plagiarism and copyright infringement in school, but prior to the internet as we know it today, it wasn't nearly as prevalent as it is today. And I don't know if it's adequately explained in schools these days. It's too easy for kids to think, "I found it on Google, so it's free to use." Everything is copyrighted by the respective owner. Basically, if you didn't create it, you don't own it. (With the exception of certain Creative Commons licenses or works in the public domain.) I've gone to the trouble and expense of registering my photos with the U.S. Copyright Office. The artist loses money when their work is used without permission vs. what would otherwise be paying customers. This issue of copyright infringement is something all photographers (as well as other artists) struggle with constantly. 
While I do know quite a few photographers who file lawsuits over infringement cases, I've found a polite email or phone call to the website owner or their Internet Service Provider will suffice. A time-consuming process at times, but something that comes with the business, I suppose.

At the time of this writing, my photo has been removed from two of the three websites. However, I'm still waiting to hear back from the news/entertainment site. I laughed at the irony of seeing "© 2013. All rights reserved." in the footer of their website. (Not on the actual photo, but in their footer content.) They didn't respond to my email request, so I sent the official DMCA takedown request to their host provider. As I understand it, by law they're required to act. We'll see what happens.

If any teachers are reading this post, I'd be interested in learning if copyright infringement and how it relates to photo usage is taught in schools. Is that a standard part of the curriculum? If not, why?

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Paying It Forward

We all live in a world where it's easy to hide behind the relative anonymity of a computer screen and keyboard which, unfortunately, brings out the worst in some people. After reading a troll-ish response to someone in an online photography forum recently, I have a few things to say.
I think it's safe to say with 100% certainty, that there is not one professional well-known photographer who at some point didn't start from the beginning. Yes, some people may be born with a more innate talent than others, but they still have to practice their craft. Practice. Fail. Practice. Fail. Practice, practice, practice. One day the technique is perfected, and you begin to see improvement. Work hard to be the best you can be. Whatever your craft or profession. In terms of photography, not one of us picks up a camera one day and becomes a world-famous photographer the next. We all have to start somewhere: asking questions, learning from other photographers, reading books, watching videos…

Where Do You Draw the Line on Image Alteration?

This article from Digital Photography School raises a great question: Where do you draw the line on image alteration? There are many gray areas that surround this debate, and it seems fairly subjective for each photographer. Some photographers go crazy with overdone HDR processing (something that personally makes me cringe, but that's a topic for another discussion). Some photographers enhance color saturation. Some photographers crop or clone out distracting details. Obviously, photojournalists are quite different from landscape photographers, and are held to a specific code of ethics that may not apply to the rest of us. A photojournalist who digitally manipulates a photo of a scene can create an entirely different view of an event they're covering. Some interesting examples and discussion are available here.
While I have occasionally done some overdone HDR for a specific purpose, it's rare that I do that. However, one edit that I do frequently do is cloning out power lin…

6 Things I Love About Photography

I enjoy capturing something in a moment that will never be the same again. The subject may remain, but the way it looks at this particular moment, will never be exactly the same in the future. I've learned over the years that if something catches my attention, make time to take the photo then. Don't wait. I've discovered that an interesting dilapidated building may get torn down. Or access to it may change. Nature may take over, obstructing the view with weeds. An engaging bit of graffiti may be painted over.

I take joy in doing something that has been a part of my life since I was a kid.
When I was growing up, my parents had a darkroom in the basement. I spent many afternoons hanging out with my dad, talking with him and watching him develop photos. Seeing a photo magically appear on the paper after emerging from its chemical bath fascinated me. I'm very fortunate to have a close relationship with my parents and we still enjoy taking photos together - even today when w…