I have been using an online service called Pixsy to identify and secure payment for the unauthorized use of my work for a while now – with some significant success.
In most cases, Pixsy’s team of licensing experts and global network of law firms are effective in recovering monetary compensation for unauthorized use of a photographer’s work without the need to actually sue or go to court.
A strongly worded letter from a lawyer and the expertise to follow it up are usually all that is required.
However, in some cases the infringing party refuses to pay – or simply ignores Pixsy’s efforts to negotiate a settlement.
The next step is a lawsuit – but this brings up an interesting issue: is it ethical to sue over copyright infringement?
Since we’re all photographer’s here, the obvious answer is yes – of course it is ok to sue over copyright infringement.
But when you look at specific cases I sometimes have my doubts – not to mention that a lawsuit is serious business that can have unintended consequences.
I think when we’re talking about corporate copyright infringement by big business or a supermodel posting an image on social media without permission, suing is obviously a legitimate option (but not without serious risks).
It’s also pretty hard to turn down a potential paycheck that even with Pixsy would likely be in the several grand range.
But in many cases the infringing party is a small business, home based business or just a basement blogger – not a global corporation or rich famous person.
Generally Pixsy won’t bother pursuing a case unless they have confirmed that the infringing party has the ability to pay – but in many cases a settlement of even a few thousand dollars could impose a significant hardship on the infringing party.
Once a lawsuit with lawyers and courts are involved the magnitude of the required settlement goes up exponentially.
Is it really ethical for my lawsuit to ruin someone just because they used one of my photos for some random basement business website?
Sure, they probably realized what they did was illegal, but lets be honest – we’ve all pirated music, movies or software – because we didn’t think that there were any real consequences.
If the shoe was on the other foot and say Adobe sued me for $10K for that cracked version of Photoshop that I may or may not have used when I was just starting my business and couldn’t afford anything else – I’d be pretty upset.
On the other hand, legit stock photography (or even hiring a photographer) isn’t exactly expensive. Plus, I think that it is very good for the industry when photographers aggressively pursue monetary compensation for the unauthorized use of their work. Far too many photographers are willing to settle for a simple apology and acknowledgement. Nuts to that – I want to be paid.
Then there are the risks involved with going to court – the biggest risk being that there is no guarantee you’ll win.
Even with ridiculously obvious infringement cases – like with Richard Prince or the Selfie Monkey – once it’s in court there is no telling which way a judge might rule – and the costs of lawyers are way higher than whatever the original copyright infringement might be worth.
The bottom line is if you are on the loosing end in court – you could be on the hook for the defending party’s legal fees – or you could be counter-sued (although Pixsy is somewhat of a buffer between the photographer and the infringing party if things don’t go your way).
Is It Ethical To Sue Over Copyright Infringement?
What do you think – is it ethical to sue over copyright infringement?
Is it ethical not to sue!?
Is is always ethical to sue or do you think there are limits to who should be sued and who shouldn’t?
Is copyright infringement always illegal – or is the “everyone does it so I didn’t know it was wrong” excuse valid?
Is it worth the risk to get tangled up in a lawsuit?
Is copyright dead?
Do you have a story about trying to pursue copyright infringement?
Leave a comment below and let us know what you think!
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