Do website rippers infringe copyright?

Generally speaking; if you take some snapshots of yourself, and you upload them to an online social media website, and then someone right-clicks to take those photos AND then places them elsewhere on another social media site without your permission — is that copyright infringement? I think this has become a major problem especially with site rippers that can take entire directories of photos and place them elsewhere. What rights stand on this situation?

Sally on May 16, 2012

Good question, Sally. You own the copyright to your snapshots. An individual can probably right-click, save, and repost your snapshot in a similar situation without your permission under “fair use.” However, if a “site ripper” is doing this en masse for financial gain of some sort, then this would not be fair use. Such a situation may be similar to the Kinko’s ruling, which found copyright infringement when a company has an overall profit motive for copying.

fair use, case law: Kinko’s

Comments

Comments


Reply by Mitz

October 16, 2014

I shot a wedding a little bit of go for a relative. There was no contract because of family ties. I uploaded a couple to Facebook for the bride and tagged her bridesmaid in them. The sister of the bride who was one of the bridesmaids broke off my association to the image. Downloaded it, re-edited my work, then uploaded it again on her Facebook as one of her own images. She tried to tag Bass Pro Shop with no association to me. Even though the bride knew that I did want those watermarked and I was the one to send those images in to the store, where I shot the bridal party. I knew that all my work is copyrighted, so I have never bothered to watermark any of my images for Facebook. Now they are trying to tell me that my images fall under public domain because I posted them on my Facebook page, and the bride and groom own the copyright of the images & she is allowed to do what she wishes with my images. Is she right?


Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

November 3, 2014

Hi Mitz,

Isn’t it nice when you help out at a wedding, then have someone steal your work?

You took the photo so you own the copyright to it — you alone have the right to say where, and where not, the photo can be copied.

The photo does not fall under public domain, regardless of online posting (such as Facebook), that is a feeble excuse for her illegal action. The bride and groom do not own the copyright — you do because you took the photos and you did not sign away the copyright to the happy couple. The sister of bride is not allowed do do what she wishes with your images since they are your property.

You can easily get the photo removed from websites. Go to whatever website the photo appears on and find the legal section. There will be a page to request removal of the photo. This is a legal requirement of image-hosting sites, called a DMCA Takedown Notice. The website is required to respond quickly, and most sites generally do.

Someone removing your credit is a federal offense. This is a violation of the anti-circumvention provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. See copyright management information (CMI).

Re-crediting the work to herself is worse and demonstrates that the “infringement was committed willfully” (17 USC §504(c)(2)), allowing statutory damages up to $150,000. (Unfortunately this would not be available to you as the copyright was not registered beforehand. But she might not know that and it sounds good in a letter.)

You could ask a lawyer to send a “cease-and-desist” letter, with the threat of a federal lawsuit. That would get her attention.

Best wishes,

Andrew


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