[by Bruce Katz]
• •The magazine art director was on the phone, he told me that that my photo he licensed for the cover last month is now in an ad running in the magazine–just a friendly heads up… Yikes!
• • My wife looked up from her laptop and casually mentioned that my photograph of the cute seal sunning itself on a Manhattan dock is now being featured on one of the big “news” aggregator sites – very cool, but I had licensed that image to a different news site…
OK, now what?
My first action was to document the infringing usage: collect printed copies from the magazine, take screen shots with relevant time stamps for the web use, make a list of folks to call for referral to legal council (including ASMP’s attorney) and prep files for the copyright office since I was still within the 3 months of first publication window. Now I was ready for the next step. But the next step was different for each case:
The magazine ad was a bigger use and could potentially justify involving a lawyer. I left a simple factual email and voicemail with the proprietors – How did they come to use my image in their ad? Wishing to keep all options open, I did not mention copyright, legal action, or fees, just the need to contact me ASAP to resolve this question.
When the proprietors called back, I learned that they had both worked in advertising prior to starting their current business, and were genuinely upset that this had happened. In the span of an afternoon we figured out that it was all an unfortunate mix up. I decided to offer them a retroactive license at market rates, and also offered to extend the license for an additional fee if they wanted. They chose the latter and sent me a check via fedex the next day.
For the aggregator site, I emailed the “reporter” credited on the story. This time, I took a direct approach and asked to whom I should send the invoice for their use. I received an apology from the reporter for using the photo without proper license. They took the photo down. I followed up her email with an invoice for the 16 hours of use on their site (the fee was a no-brainer). The following morning I received an email from their finance department – did I take Paypal? 10 minutes later the bill was paid.
Done and done!
There are times when involving a lawyer or even filing suit make a lot of sense, but for smaller infringements, knowing enough about your rights to handle the negotiation yourself can get you the outcome you want faster and at a way lower cost.
Bruce Katz is a NYC based photographer who feels lucky to have resolved these problems in such short order. www.Brucekatzphoto.com.
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