We have all heard the horror stories of peoples work being stolen and reposted on social media or used by a company for some purpose without the creators permission. Does it really matter in the long run and will it make a difference to you and your work?
Let me start off by saying that I defend to the ends of the earth, a creators rights and the laws that we have in the United States to protect us content creators, and the legal process to recoup monetary settlements for this abuse. The issue is that unless you are an attorney or know someone that is, you may just be swimming up stream.
The reason for this is because the United States Government has not made it easy for us as content creators to do anything about copyright infringement. Social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, & Twitter certainly do not help either. They tend to do nothing in regards to infringements. You may ask how I even know that and I am going to tell you.
In the last couple of years I have had these issues happen more than I like to admit. There was a wrestling promotion that used one of my photos as a background for their advertisements, a bar in Poynette WI. use a photo for an advertisement, and numerous other infractions that I was never able to be compensated on. The reason that you have a hard time getting compensated on these issues is because attorneys that specialize in copyright don't want to deal with these small claims because they don't feel there is anything in it for them.
So does this mean you should just stop posting your work? The answer is absolutely not. We live in a digital age, where more people than not feel that if the photo is online it's free game to use in anyway that they want with no repercussion. While this is a downfall of our industry, the social media outlets are also what we use to get our content out to clients and potential clients.
If you look at almost any other industry whether it be apparel or race car parts, there is always someone out there looking to take advantage and short cuts. Knock off Rolex, Nike, purses, and the list goes on. I look at this the same way that I now look at infringement. I put in the work and someone else makes money off of it. At some point I had to realize that this is the way it is if I want to show my work to anyone buy myself.
Now I read about other photographers that say they will no longer post online. They say that they will watermark right through the middle of a photo. What is the point of posting a photograph online if you have a great watermark through the middle of it? I want people to see my work, not a giant watermark. Clients and potential clients want to see your work, not you watermark.
What is a creator to do though? The first things that you can do are to make sure that you go into the menu and add copyright information via the camera. Next, if you are using Lightroom, after you import, select all and sync metadata. Enter in all the information you want and when you export, do so with all the metadata.
Now if the offense is something so bad that you have to take action then by all means do so! Read the copyright laws and understand your rights as a creator. Contact an attorney, after you gather as much information as possible. I have found though if you send the offender a letter with a bill, you may be able to settle without ever going down that road. Also, don't let the offender bully you. They will tell you that you have to register the photo for copyright laws to apply, and that's a flat out lie. You created the work, it's your work, protect it.
Last thing to think about though, if you are a professional content creator, how exactly are potential clients going to see your work if you refuse to post it online because of your fears. There is a chance that by trying to protect a photo you are losing business to those that don't spend so much time stressing about it. It's all about picking our battles and informing the general public. Stop losing clients and just keep continuing to create content!