If you’re like me and share your photos online in any capacity, you’ve probably had at least a few stolen by unscrupulous people for use on their websites or for other promotional reasons. Usually, you’d deal with this by finding the violator and either sending an invoice or filing a DMCA takedown. Unfortunately, in my experience, invoices sent generally mean invoices ignored. Of course, you could always hire a lawyer to go after copyright thieves, but that usually takes upfront capital, which can mean a fair amount of money out-of-pocket with no guarantee of a reward. And running down copyright violators on your own can take a lot of energy and time.
Time and energy that I don’t have. Nor do a lot of people.
So, what do I do about copyright thieves?
I recently discovered Pixsy.Com, a service that searches the web for violations, lets you choose the ones worth pursuing via their service, and goes after these for resolution.
It’s pretty easy to use and doesn’t take a lot of time or effort. Once you’ve signed up, you can sync your Flickr, SmugMug, Instagram or other social accounts or upload a batch of photos.
They then periodically scan the web for uses of these photos and present potential matches in an easy-to-use interface for you to browse.
From here, you can reject false-positives, confirm if the use of a photo is okay or submit a case.
When you submit a case, you provide some background information on the image, such as when and where it was taken as well as when you first published it on the web, and Pixsy goes to work. They evaluate your submission for feasibility of pursuing based on whether or not they feel it will result in payment as well as if the amount of payment is worth the effort.
If the image is accepted into the resolution program, they contact the violator via email, presenting them with documentation of the violation as well as an invoice. If this is ignored, they eventually start calling the violator until they get resolution. If they don’t get a response from a thief, they will consult with their associated legal firms as to whether or not it’s worth filing suit.
If they get resolution, they keep 50% as their fee, which might seem high, but I think it worth it for me not to have to mess with.
And it’s been pretty worth it for me. In the few months I’ve been using their service, I’ve netted of $4000 in fees for only a few hours of my time. And while direct licensing of there photos would’ve made me more if the violators had actually bothered securing a license instead of offering their usual excuses (“my web guy did it” or “I found it on Google Image Search, so I thought it was free”), it’s more than I would’ve made had I tried to do this on my own (which would be $0 because I’m a) busy, b) lazy and c) don’t have a law firm with which to send scary letters on my behalf).
The one caveat I have, however, is that Pixsy only operates in certain countries. So they’ve been unable to hunt down Metallica’s thievery of one of my photos because the record label that actually published the CD with the violation is based in Greece, outside of their operating area. To resolve this, I am looking at other legal options.
So, if you’re a photographer who doesn’t have time or energy or money to pursue pirates on your own, I highly-recommend giving Pixsy a try.