Are Photographers dealing with copyright infringment issues?

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by braxus, Apr 5, 2007.

  1. braxus

    braxus Member

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    I posted this a year or two back on another forum, and thought I'd see what people have to say today here. I work in a lab and we have a machine that makes duplicate prints from prints. I'd say on some days almost 40% of the prints people want to make are copyright portraits they had done (mostly new or recent photos). We would tell the people they cannot duplicate such photos because of the law and stealing from the photographer, etc. I often see people get their proofs they just picked up from the photographer and instead of ordering prints through them, duplicate all the proofs (whether prints or off disc) as many as they want on our machine. Some people try to hide what they are doing from our staff. I even recall one guy being told several times he cannot copy those prints and he would not stop his work on the machine. He even came to the counter with all the copies in an envelope he brought and expect he'd let us charge him for them. We ended up taking the prints he made and sent him in his way. Some people do not care (they tell us this even) they are copying photos they are not allowed to. I had a customer say she'll just come back when Im not there to do the photos again. Another customer heard us talking about the professional photos she was duplicating, she took the prints and ran. She never paid for them and has since been in again. We see people scanning their pro prints at home and trying to sneak them through an order done online.

    I'll add the lady that stole the prints- we knew the photographer so we informed her what was happening. She called the customer and said she was in breach of the contract and made her pay in full all charges for every print she made at our lab. We still never got paid for our prints that the girl stole.

    Some photographers are smart and only let the customer see the proofs at the place of business, not releasing the proofs to the customer. Most places dont do this however. I can see wedding photographers especially effected by all this since they often let the proofs go to the customer for viewing.

    So quite honestly how can any photographer make a business go today when many people are so dishonest by not paying the photographer for the work he or she did for them? Do people really expect for the pro work that is done they should sell their prints for the 19 cents labs charge for prints made off a roll of film?
     
  2. copake_ham

    copake_ham Inactive

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    Probably the day after the first copying machine was sold - someone was using it to violate copyright laws!

    It's only gotten worse and will only get even more worse.

    That said, if I were a wedding photog these days, I would only give the client a disk with JPEG basic images on it. If they want to rip you off the "price" they pay will be mediocre pics that will never print well.

    I don't have any good suggestions, however, for how to prevent the in-store situations you are encountering. Nowadays, most people are "petty larcenous" at heart.
     
  3. bjorke

    bjorke Member

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  4. braxus

    braxus Member

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    Bjorke,
    Im talking about photos that are typically done in a studio like in department stores, or photos people bring in on stamped CDs or wedding proof books.

    We always ask for the release, especially if its on a CD. We've seen a few releases from discs, so we then know they are legit. Some stores like Sears are pretty good about giving us releases on paper for prints/CDs they made for their customer.

    As for photographers that print their own work at our lab, we get to know them real quick after a few times seeing them.

    Also most labs in our area take the same rule as to not copying professional work, so its not just our lab.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 5, 2007
  5. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    When I worked at a camera store, we had photo duplicating machines (the Kodak CopyPrint machine). The solution we had was that the machine was NOT self-service. It required an employee of the store to assist the customer. That way, if someone wanted to copy wedding proofs, we could say No, and cut them off at the pass. If they complained, we could refer them to the store manager, who backed us 100%. Once we had someone who had hired Monte Zucker to shoot her wedding try to dupe his proofs in our store. She should have thanked us for stopping her. Monte can afford to take someone like her to court, given what he charges per wedding. We got a lot of folks coming in with Olan Mills portraits trying to copy them as well. Those got sent right back out the door, as Olan Mills is known for sending their own employees in to minilabs to see if the lab will copy the prints with the Olan Mills stamp on them, without a release. They then turn around, file court papers, and come away $10,000 fatter in the wallet per violation.
     
  6. patrickjames

    patrickjames Member

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    This is a pretty grey area of the law. I think the best thing to do as a photographer is to charge up front and then let the people have a dvd with the images to do with whatever they want. There is no good way to police this otherwise. (I am talking about the average person, not agencies or corps. etc.) A lot of photographers have it in their business plan to charge less for their time and then try to make a killing on reprints, which people resent. I am also avoiding any express/implied warrantees this way as well. What if that digital file gets lost or corrupted? This way it is not my problem.

    Charge up front and then let them be.

    Patrick
     
  7. braxus

    braxus Member

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    Problem is the law itself would need to be changed, or at least every photographer would have to agree to your business model. Until either happens labs will still be confronted with having to deal with people who have such prints/discs and we wont know either way if they can dupe those or not. At least the release tells us its ok to do this, but the customers can still lose that paper. It was easier when there was just negatives. If they had the negs, there was a good chance it was ok to dupe them. I wonder how things will pan out in the future.

    http://web.mac.com/aaronandpatty/iWeb/What the Duck/Images/WTD185.gif
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 5, 2007
  8. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    You know Monte died a few days ago? I had an e-mail from Shutterbug about it. I remember being with Monte on the Shutterbug stand at The Show Formerly Known As Viscomm and we were all talking about our worst fears in photography -- the usual reshoots, etc. Monte capped them all: "Being found out and having to go back to a proper job." A nice guy as well as an interesting photographer.

    Cheers,

    R.
     
  9. eddym

    eddym Member

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    I've tried this a few times, and have yet to get an order from the client. As my wife pointed out, so what if the prints are mediocre? That just makes them think I am a lousy photographer! :sad:
     
  10. winger

    winger Subscriber

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    when I got married, our photographer gave us proofs that were on a pebbly surface. They scanned horribly (I was only scanning to e-mail certain ones - I bought the normal # of prints through the photographer). That seemed like a reasonable way to do it.
     
  11. bjorke

    bjorke Member

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    [​IMG]

    PS: Sorry to hear about Monte, he alwasy seemed like an enthusiastic & decent guy
     
  12. copake_ham

    copake_ham Inactive

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    Hmmm, hadn't thought of that.

    Okay, then include one "dupe" in either highest quality JPEG or as a TIFF to show as a "teaser" for what the rest could look like. :wink:
     
  13. Nicole

    Nicole Member

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    * Never leave proofs with a client.
    * Never sell the negs/digital files.
    * Orders below $2000 - Always get full payment at the time of order
    * Orders above $2000 - Always get at least a 50% deposit and outstanding balance on delivery.
    * Only sell prints 11x14" and larger

    Winger: Scanning prints, "just to send emails" is also copyright infringement
     
  14. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    that is a pretty good policy nicole.
    someone i used to work for way back when used to have me
    barely fix the proofs so if the "client" just took them instead of making
    an order, they would not last very long. she also had a rubber stamp
    that said "PROOF" she would stamp the image with. this was before
    scanners, when the only way to copy something was using a xerox machine.


    a lot of the kiddie-photo mills actually have the "client" sign a copyright form
    that says they understand all the photographs are copyrighted no
    emailing/ scanning or copying, and all the prints are dye-sub printed
    on paper that says "copyrighted photograph" and the name of the studio.

    others know people just want to email "stuffs" to their
    friends/family and for free, they offer a private-link to the company website to email all of the images ...
     
  15. Kino

    Kino Member

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    Wonder if you could overcoat the proofs with a UV excitable ink that would show up on attempting to scan? How about having about a dozen lines of "PROOF --DO NOT DUPLICATE" appear upon scanning?

    Wonder if it could be built into the paper itself, specifically for proofing...

    Ach, I gave a way a million dollar idea!
     
  16. braxus

    braxus Member

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    Kino,
    Older pro prints used to be detected by the machine as professional. Its the newer stuff it didn't read. Of course that was the older model of the machine. The newer one does nothing to stop you. Most photographers today charge the big fee up front which includes the negatives. Only the really high end photographers keep the negs/ files these days for future printing.
     
  17. winger

    winger Subscriber

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    There was no other way to show the proofs to my cousins in Alaska to find out which ones they wanted to buy. And they did buy prints. Which they wouldn't have otherwise.
     
  18. nc5p

    nc5p Member

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    I spent several hours photographing some items that I sold on ebay. I used Alien Bees, umbrellas, light stands, etc. The photos were quite good and detailled. Well, a few months later I was surfing the web and came across the website of the company that manufactured the goods I had sold used on ebay. There on their homepage and catalog pages were all my photos. This place is in Asia somewhere.

    I've heard of ebayers stealing photos from other auctions but a company to steal ebay photos for their main catalog, that's going a bit far.
     
  19. Kino

    Kino Member

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    Hope you emailed them an invoice!
     
  20. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Illegal duplication of copyright material is hardly a "grey area". A photographer owns the copyright to all his/her images unless it is released by him/her. If you choose to license your images away or ignore your copyright, you may certainly do so, but that practice does not invalidate the rights of those who choose not to, nor does it validate thievery.
     
  21. braxus

    braxus Member

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    Asia is notoriously bad for questionable auctions or bad deals. I bought a tape deck off Ebay over a year ago and within months I saw on the same site the exact same photos of the deck I bought on their own auction. It was in Asia. I emailed Ebay and they shut him down. This is why I will not buy goods from that area of the world. Its too risky.
     
  22. patrickjames

    patrickjames Member

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    In reality it is. The copyright laws are definite, but the possibilty of enforcing them is definitely a grey area. You have to cross your T's and dot your I's with the copyright office. I encourage you to try to find an IP lawyer who will take your case if your images are stolen and you haven't registered them. Try to sue the average person for copyright infringement. It is absolutely not worth your time. At best you will find yourself in small claims court with a hollow victory.

    I am not validating or invalidating anything here. It is important for people to understand how the copyright laws work in your favor and maybe not so much in your favor. An IP lawyer will tell you that it is better for you to sue the average person whom we are talking about here in small claims court for breach of contract or the like (you do have a contract, right?) than to try to get him for infringement. This is reality. Copyright cases will only be taken by lawyers when the sums are substantial and there is a good possibility of winning. This is reality. I know of people who have made millions this way, but it is not the general rule. You have to be savvy to succeed in this, but the average photographer, even the average working professional has no idea how it works.

    Any reference to the law being absolute might as well be made in never-never land. In the real world you can be right and it will not matter. The moral is you need to protect yourself up front, not after the fact. I would encourage everyone who takes images for money or who is in danger of having images stolen to educate themselves to what is real. What you believe is pretty much what is perpetuated by people who are thinking from a moral standpoint, or from their soapbox. It sucks getting your images stolen, but it double sucks when you find out that there is really not much you can do about it since you didn't understand the true meaning and scope of the laws.

    I would hope that everyone on APUG reads this post so they can begin to understand what is involved in copyright law and will begin to understand how to protect themselves.

    Here is a link to an attorney's website. This is the real world for us photographers.

    http://www.photoattorney.com/index.html


    Regards,


    Patrick
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 27, 2007
  23. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I did not address litigation, which is always risky. Also, enforcement of copyright is not exclusivly tort. I have on accasion had to assert my rights. I have been successful when doing so. (infringment ceased) I have never attempted to recover money, but would welcome somebody worth suing steal an image and use it in a valuable fashion.


    I shoot commercial. If it wasn't for copyright law, I would be ripped off on a regular basis. In the post I responded to it appeared to me that you were downplaying the significance of copyright law. Perhaps I interpreted it wrongly.
     
  24. patrickjames

    patrickjames Member

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    I wasn't downplaying the importance of copyrights if that was the impression I gave. The problem with copyright with regards to individuals is that it is difficult to enforce. This is not a matter of right or wrong, it is just a matter of economics. This is some of the grey area to which I was referring.

    Regards,

    Patrick