Photo Attorney

Mar 30, 2006

Is Posting on the Web Worth the Risk?

Posting photographs on the internet is a risky proposition. They are easy to steal even if you take steps to prevent their theft. Your copyright notice can be cropped out of the photo. A copyright notice placed across the photo impedes the viewer's enjoyment of your work. Metadata with your ownership information can be stripped from the file. "Right-click" copying that has been disabled can be overridden. You may never discover unauthorized uses of your photos to sue for infringement.

So should you stop posting your work on the web? I hope not.

The purpose of copyright law is to improve society through advancement of knowledge. Copyright law gives a monopoly to the author to encourage the author to share the work. If you don't share it, society won't benefit from your work.

While the internet makes it easier to steal, it does not excuse it. Neither should we accept it as a consequence.

Take reasonable steps to protect your work. Include your copyright notice with the work. Imbed your copyright and contact information in the metadata of the file. Tell viewers that they may not download or copy your photos without permission. Use services that track your photos on the internet. Review your website logs to discover hotlinks and frequent hits. Be diligent in looking for and prosecuting infringements. Register your photos with the US Copyright Office to increase your damage awards.

But while the risk of theft is real, most of it is minimal and/or harmless to our photography. We should not be irrational with our response. The more important risk is if photographers stop sharing their work at all.

Take my advice; get professional help.