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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?


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