Many photographers take a very strict view when it comes to copyrighting their work and may liberally add watermarks too, but is this always a good idea? Is it always ‘the right thing to do’, if we put the law to one side for a moment? While I completely agree that its important for copyright to be recognised in the legal sense (and find the UK’s ‘Orphan Image’ law rather worrying, there are perhaps times when photographers might be better off relaxing their approach and letting things slide. This is a complicated issue, because everyone’s circumstances are different: there are amateurs, pros, stock image sellers and fine art photographers to consider. I’m therefore going to raise each point as a possible outlook with some questions that we can ask ourselves.
Outlook: Uploading small files to the internet is important to prevent those images being stolen.
Question1. Are your small files going to look good on HD/Retina screens? If not, might this do more harm to your income (assuming you are selling images in some form) than the odd loss due to theft?
Q2. Are you actually selling your images? If not, does it matter if someone ‘steals’ an image that you would not have sold in any case? I say this recognising that the proper protocol would be for the person wishing to use it to contact the photographer. I am certainly not condoning it, only asking about the cost/benefit equation.
Outlook: You should watermark your images to prevent them being used without consent.
Q1. What impact does this have on the viewing experience? My very personal view is that it all but destroys the pleasure of looking at a good image, unless it is a vey discrete edge or corner watermark (that could of course be cropped out).
Q2. How much money do you earn from such images and how? If you earn a very small amount from microstock, which gives you more pleasure; the sales success (entirely understandable of course) or the knowledge that people are jsut enjoying your images, even if that means nabbing a few here and there for screen-savers?
The challenge these day is that screens are getting higher and higher in resolution and one only needs to do a screen snip of a well-sized image to have something that could be used on a website or perhaps even made into a postcard print. Personally, I feel that I gain more from posting 1200-1500 pixel files than I lose from the potential of image thefts that would never have translated into a sale of a small file in any case (and at a low price at that). But I am not in microstock and were I, my outlook would surely be very different.
It goes without saying that I do add copyright info to all digital files and I would take the appropriate action if I found one of my images being used without consent. Depending on the situation and response from the person responsible, that action might range from doing absolutely nothing to legal proceedings, but I am certainly not out scouring the internet looking for transgressors. I know some people feel much more strongly about it than I do and take rigorous measures across the board. I also know that some take a remarkably lenient approach and happily make very large files available on flikr for public download, so…
…what do you do? What’s your view? Have you caught anyone using your images without the appropriate permissions and what did you do? Do you knowingly make images you are proud of available for others to download, view and print at will?