Photo Attorney

May 31, 2007

Bonus Round for Copyright Infringements

Some photographers think it is unfair that they must register their photos with the U.S. Copyright Office to be eligible for statutory damages when infringed. But when analyzed in relation to damages awarded in other lawsuits, the result is that statutory damages are a bonus for which photographers should be appreciative!

When you timely register your copyrights (at least before they are infringed or within 3 months of being published), you may elect to seek statutory damages instead of actual damages. Actual damages usually are the standard license fee plus profits of the infringer from the infringement, but only if the court thinks your proof of those profits are not too speculative. Statutory awards can range from $750 to $30,000 per infringement based upon what the court believes is necessary to deter the infringer from future infringe­ments. They can be as high as $150,000 if the infringement was willful or intentional. Statutory fees usually amount to much more than actual profits so being able to choose between the two is optimal.

In other lawsuits, such as ones for car accidents or for breach of contract, you are usually eligible only for "compensatory" damages. Those are what will compensate you for your loss. For example, if a bride cancels her wedding, you are paid what you would have been if you had shot the wedding. You don't get more than the contract price. If you are in a car accident, you will recover your medical expenses, your car repairs, and possibly recompense for your pain and suffering. Seldom will you be allowed to recover additional "enhanced" or "punitive" damages unless the acts of the defendant are reprehensible.

In sum, compensatory damages in other lawsuits are roughly equal to actual damages for copyright infringement. You are being compensated for what you should have been paid. So when photographers register their photos and have statutory damages as an option, we're actually getting a bonus! Register your photos today!

Take my advice; get professional help.
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