Copyright infringement runs rampant on the Internet. You would be amazed at how many people believe that because an image is on Google, that it is in the public domain and can be used free of charge however they want.
You can never fully protect yourself from a copyright infringement, but there are measures that photographers can take to potentially minimize the infringements that occur. Watermarking your work, similar to an artist signing his or her painting, is one such method. And in the Internet era, this may be a wise idea. Here are four reasons you should watermark your photography and graphics.
Watermarks Assert Copyright Ownership
Many everyday people claim not to know that photographs are subject to copyright. Under the law, they are subject to the same statute as any other work of intellectual property, such as music or books. And while watermarks or attribution have not been required on photography for over three decades, it may still be a good idea to place a watermark on your image. Why? Because many lay people, when they see someone’s name or logo on something will at least stop and wonder if someone is asserting ownership to the image. This factor alone may deter members of the public from using an image if it is marked in some way.
Sometimes, you go “viral.” This may be a great thing for a photographer or blogger, but it is not a great thing if you have no identification on your image, and no way for anyone to credit you or reach out to you as the owner.
Should you have the fortune to go viral, watermarking is a great way to ensure brand recognition and that the due credit comes back to you and your brand. This is a great passive marketing tool, as you just have to let social media do the work for you. But if you don’t watermark, then you cannot capitalize off of your hard work…but someone else may.
Alleviate Claims of “Innocent Infringement”
Courts in various jurisdictions have stated that if a copyright infringement occurs, and an image has a watermark on it, the infringer cannot claim innocent infringement. Typically, one of the first excuses that I hear as a copyright attorney is that the usage was innocent and should be subject to lesser damages. However, it is hard to make that argument when someone’s name and/or website is right on the image, because the infringer is on notice that someone is asserting copyright ownership of the image. This alleviates the claim of innocent infringement, which was unlikely anyway. And, in fact, it may make the infringement a willful one, because again, the infringer was on notice of ownership and could have reached out to the rightful owner for permission.
Build in Copyright Management Information for DMCA Claims
Lastly, there were certain laws enacted to afford additional protections to those who attempted to protect their copyrighted work in the public. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is one such law. There are stiff penalties afforded if it is proven that an infringer intended to remove and conceal copyright management information from copyrighted material. Copyright management information, or CMI, includes metadata included with photography, technological measures to protect work, and watermarks. So if you have watermarked your work, and someone removes the watermark, they have committed a DMCA violation and are liable for added damages.
So there you have it. There are four reasons why watermarking your photography is a good idea. It’s okay if people have to wait a few extra minutes before you post that amazing photo on Facebook or Instagram (no one knows it’s not really instant, by the way). So protect yourself, protect your work, protect your business, and protect your brand by watermarking your photos.
Need help registering your copyrights or need help with a copyright infringement? Contact us here and we can assist you with your legal needs.
Nothing is in this article is meant to be construed as legal advice; it is merely informative and educational. And nothing in this article creates an attorney-client relationship between you and Hughley Smith Law.