Are you reading the right blog?? Yes, you are. I know it’s a strange title but yes, this IS Kimchimari. 🙂
My recent experience of having my Bulgogi photo illegally used by a website and then getting laughed in the face when I sent a request to give me credit, prompted me to write this post. I happen to have a great support system where I can get good legal advice and also being pretty good at researching and sorting out valid information enabled me to resolve the issue to my satisfaction. But this is AFTER the person who used my photo illegally gave me some BS about how my photo was in the public domain and that he had fair use rights and that I needed to prove to him that my image had registered copyright. I mean.. wow…pretty crazy, right? Well, I pointed out how he was totally incorrect and then I also mentioned a possible lawsuit if he does not comply. Well, THEN, he suddenly backed down and removed the image. 🙂
But in doing so, I ended up wasting a lot of time on this matter… Then, I thought – why should I waste the knowledge I gained through this experience? So I decided I should share and help my fellow bloggers on how they can fight for their copyright of their photo images. Most of the information is already out there on the internet but it took me quite some time to figure everything out and put it altogether. Bloggers spend a lot of time and effort on their photos and it is just simply wrong for people to use it without giving you proper credit. Especially if you happen to get a crazy infringer like this one. It is just NOT RIGHT.
In short, I will list issues that are related to the use of photo images online, how to protect your own copyrights and how to fight illegal use of image if they refuse to cooperate.
First, a little background about me and why I am doing this.
So…I was painfully shy when I was a child. When my 1st grade teacher called my name during roll call, I was so quiet in my answer that the teacher would ask the class – “Is JinJoo here? I don’t hear her?!” And my class mates would have to step in and say “Oh, no! Mrs. Lee! she is right here!!!”
And things did get a little better as I grew older but until about 15 years ago, for the first 35 years of my life, I struggled with speaking in public, arguing back when I have been wronged and basically not being able to stand up for myself. Still to this day, I don’t do Karaoke and I would rather not stand out in a crowd if possible. And still, unless I prepare myself, my natural instinct is to just not to fight back when someone treats me badly or unfairly. Sometimes people say it’s because I am just a nice person and don’t like to fight. And that most people will be just as nice to me in return. Yes, that’s true for most cases and I have to say I am truly blessed to have immense love and support from many friends and my family including my sisters, nephews and nieces who help me with my work in so many different ways. But for some cases that’s just not true.
So for me, it was many years of ending up with the short end of the stick – so to speak. Because the world will not always treat nice people in a nice way. You and I know there are a lot of bullies in the world. I decided 15 years ago (yes, first time I stood up to my boss at work and quit) that I will no longer be stepped on or be pushed back just because the other party is stronger, louder and meaner – even though they are completely in the wrong. If you let bullies have their way and walk all over you and you don’t fight back then you just end up internalizing all your frustrations. In which case, you end up getting sick – I mean physically sick. I have experienced that. And not to mention the risk of losing confidence and self-respect on the way.
If you are a blogger and you find that people are using your images without permission and you don’t like it, you have to let them know. Now, WAIT – I have NO problem with bloggers or magazines using my image – I am actually always flattered when that happens – as long as they give me proper credit. BUT, I have a problem when sites use my image for their commercial/marketing purposes without my permission.
FIRST – Reverse image search on Google will find web pages that use your image (How To)
Now, in this particular case, it was accidental. I just happened to search for Bulgogi on Yummly to see what other Bulgogi recipes are out there and I found that my Bulgogi image was appearing with a recipe that was not my own and the yum post was linking back to some beef seller site and not back to Kimchimari! This site had illegally downloaded my bulgogi image without my permission, was using my photo on their web page with no credit, no link back to my bulgogi post.
HOW TO FIGHT ILLEGAL USE of IMAGE
- Take screenshots: As soon as you confirm it is your image, take screenshots of the webpage that is infringing on your copyright – just in case you need proof later. It’s a good idea to include your computer time stamp in the screenshot. Here is what I did. I blocked out the seller logo and url here, not because I want to protect the identity (he does not deserve it and this is the truth) but because I actually don’t want to give the site any exposure.
- Notify the infringement to the site owner by pointing out the illegal use of image along with your requests of what they should do. This article has a great form for such a purpose. I sent email to the owner and asked that they give me credit and link back or take it down if they can’t do that.
- Most reasonable people will comply and either add credit/link or take down the copyright image – which was the case for others except for this guy. And, that’s when you go for the next step –
- Find out the owner and hosting company of the website. If it’s a self-hosted website then lookup the site in Domainwhitepages.com which has a lot of good information. Fyi – Registrant Name is the owner of the site. Organization under Network Whois record is the hosting company/provider of the site. If it’s a blog hosted by wordpress or blogger, etc. then you should be able to contact them directly.
- Request DMCA takedown: If all else fails, you can always request DMCA takedown. DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act of 1998) takedown allows you to contact the hosting provider of the infringing website and the hosting company (assuming your case has sufficient proof) will takedown the website because they don’t want to be liable for hosting such a website. Many large hosting companies such as godaddy now have separate online forms that you fill out for DMCA takedown requests. For me, it just took 5 minutes to fill out a form at Godaddy.com.
- FYI, Godaddy will take down the entire site instead of the particular page or article. Each hosting company handles things differently. So research and be aware that this may happen before you request a DMCA takedown. This is not an action to take lightly so be do this as the last resort.
- Check for any remaining illegal use of images on the internet and notify any other aggregate site such as Yummly of the copyright infringement.
- In my case, Yummly had a yum post that was yummed by someone else who thought the beef seller’s recipe and photo was good enough to post. Well, that was a problem for me because people were looking at my bulgogi image but then was directed to some other recipe which was not mine. And this happened 1000 times already!
- I sent email to Yummly and they took it down right the next day!
UNDERSTAND FAIR USE and PUBLIC DOMAIN
- Some people may claim that they have Fair Use to your photo. They may say that because your photo is on your blog which is public, the image is part of the public domain. NO such thing! For bloggers, your image/photo is in the public domain only if you declare it to be so. Read more about public domain or creative commons here or here.
- Some may claim they have fair use of your image/photos due to the fair use doctrine. That may or may not apply. Basically what that means is that if the purpose of using your photo/image is for the benefit of the public (educational, nonprofit, scholarly, reporting, reviewing, or research) then they are allowed to use it without your permission. Although almost all responsible parties will ask for permission anyway. More info here.
KNOW your COPYRIGHT (this is what I learned along the way..)
- You own the copyright to your photos the moment you press the shutter on your camera. Only exception is under the “work for hire” situation: if you are employee or have a contract to take photos under “work for hire” then they may have the copyright to your photo.
- You don’t have to register the copyright of your photos to have the copyright. But it certainly make things easier in and outside of court if you do have your photos registered. So it’s good to have your photos registered.
- Even if someone bought your image, it does not mean they also bought the copyright. You still own the copyright. They are not allowed to reproduce the image without your permission unless you explicitly allowed them the rights. (More here)
- When you get paid to take photos for someone, be clear about the copyright and have a contract ready. Also know that you as an artist/photographer can choose which photos are given to the client from a shoot. You don’t have to give them all 300 photos that were taken at the event but only the ones that represent the quality that you want to be known for.
- DON’T use images from the internet on your blog without permission. You can actually get sued for monetary damages.
- Upload only low resolution photo on your blog with logo or watermarks added. This was my original mistake – bulgogi photo was my very first photo as a blogger and I thought that it was probably not good enough for anyone to want to use it. I uploaded a high resolution without thinking with no watermark or logo back in 2010. Big mistake. I’m still working to fix this mistake..and others..sigh..
- Register your photos copyright at the copyright office. There are a lot of info on how to file for copyright of your photos electronically at http://www.copyright.gov/eco/. But I had a problem because I have just too many photos and their price is $35 for single and $55 for group. And I would still have to do many group application to make it work for the amount of photos I have to register. But my nephew told me that there is another way – which is really quite odd because it’s available only offline. But it’s a much better option. So instead of filing electronically, you file by paper. This method was created specifically for photographers who have hundreds of photos to register for copyright in this age of digital photography. For $85, you can register up to 750 photographs taken in a calendar year, all in one application!(Read http://www.copyright.gov/forms/formgr_pph_con.pdf)
- Keep your photos organized including your original high resolution images. You just never know when you may need it to prove that you own the copyright of your photo.
- Value your work – if you don’t, no one else will.
- DMCA Takedown Notice info
- Great article overall on “What to do when someone steals your content”.
- Fun chart about fair use
Finally, PLEASE, LET US VALUE OTHER BLOGGER’S WORK by giving each other proper credit, link back and asking for permission.