I sent takedown notices to a store selling phone cases, to Etsy for an artist hawking pirated prints of a fire ant, and to Twitter for an exterminator heading his company account with one of my bed bug photographs.This rate of commercial infringement is normal, as photographers and other online visual artists can attest. I deal with most cases by using a provision of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act DMCA that requires Web hosts to remove infringing content when informed. I send, on average, five takedown notices to Web hosts every day, devoting ten hours per week to infringements. Particularly egregious commercial infringers get invoices.

I actually have let a few of my most commonly infringed images go unenforced. I could not keep up, so I left these as a natural experiment. The result confirmed what I suspected: images that become widespread on the Internet are no longer commercially viable. Thousands of businesses worldwide now use one of my Australian ant photographs to market their services, for example, and not a single paying client has come forth to license that image since I gave up.

Copyright infringement for most artists is death by a thousand paper cuts. One $100 infringement here and there is harmless enough. But they add up, and when illegal commercial uses outnumber legal ones 20 to 1 in spite of ambitious attempts to stay ahead, we do not have a clear recourse. At some point, the vanishing proportion of content users who license content legally will turn professional creative artists into little more than charity cases, dependent only on the goodwill of those who pity artists enough to toss some change their way.

via Bugging out: How rampant online piracy squashed one insect photographer | Ars Technica.

Recommended Posts


  1. so let’s look back on now from, say 2050 .. the internet is ubiquitous .. collective consciousness is well understood …

    what do you think a reader from that time will make of your post?

    stuck in a concept of individuality that no longer has value?

  2. You really ought to sit down with an IP attorney ASAP. (Especially) If you are registering your images. You incorrectly believe these to be “$100 infringements” . What you appear to reference are typically worth many, many times that amount.

    This office alone prosecutes hundreds of such claims by photographers, stock agents and illustrators. You ought not assume that these claims have little to no monetary value. Go see an competent IP attorney ASAP. Your brethren who prosecute these type claims do so because it pays to do so.

    Again, you make assumptions about enforcing your copyrights which are grossly incorrect. You are likely losing money as a result.

  3. Indeed, if one has to issue 5 take downs per day it is high time to consult an attorney. I fear there is some misinformation on the costs and results of following copyright infringement.

    Apart from that a simple measure to reduce the number of cases is to reduce size and quantity of images visible to search engines and to block the usual suspect countries from your website.
    I noticed a dramatic drop in image abuse after Google was blocked from indexing images.

    Once I ran a test posting free images parallel to copyright protected images. The rate of image usage on both categories was the same. People do not care about copyright, they take what is easy to find,big in size and looks good.

  4. The same happens with electronic publications. No one respects copyright. Yet photographers, like editors and writers, need to be paid for work in order to sate their addictions to food, clothes, a roof over one’s head, etc. ;-)

    I’m with you and I wish there were a useful clearinghouse system.

Comments are closed for this article!