There’s nothing better than receiving an email with a $2500 paycheck attached to it out of the blue.
That was my cut of a settlement that Pixsy was able to secure on my behalf from a single unauthorized use of one of my photos.
If you’ve ever had one of your photos published without a license (and who hasn’t), I am going to try to explain why and how you can get paid (in cash not credit) for the unauthorized use of your creative work.
If you’re not familiar with Pixsy, they are a reverse image search engine with an in-house team of licensing experts as well as a global network of law firms that help photographers recover monetary compensation for unauthorized use of their work.
For copyright infringement cases where Pixsy is able to collect payment, a 50% royalty is paid to the photographer. (Considering all the work that goes into actually securing payment, I personally think that 50% is totally reasonable.)
Pixsy, can also be used to simplify the process of sending DMCA take-down notices for cases where you don’t want to pursue payment but just want your work removed from an infringing site.
For the record, am not associated with Pixsy in anyway. I just think that they offer a great service that all photographers and creative professionals should know about.
UPDATE: If you’re interested in joining Pixsy we have arranged for a special invitation code for DIYP readers. Please click here to join!
Why You Should Pursue Payment for Copyright Infringement
Before we get started, photo theft is never a good thing.
Every single time that a photograph is distributed without permission or monetary compensation to the photographer it harms the entire photography industry.
Eventually, tech companies will be forced to take copyright seriously and build copyright protection into their platforms – but until then, it is up to all of us to police copyright infringement as best we can.
In the past year I have submitted twenty copyright infringement cases to Pixsy. Ten were determined to be untenable, seven are still pending, one was unsuccessful and two were resolved and paid out.
For the two cases that Pixsy was able to resolve, one infringer paid $1400 USD and the other paid $5000 USD, out of which my cut was 50%.
Those sums are much higher than the infringers would have paid if they would have just legitimately licensed the images in the first place – and you can be guaranteed that they will never publish another image without permission again.
I do feel mildly bad for the person on the other end who is going to be held responsible for these significant payments. Image theft is so mainstream that they might not have even realized the magnitude of what they were doing – so rampant copyright infringement harms both sides.
How You Can Get Paid For Copyright Infringement
Of course you can go after copyright infringement on your own. You can even hire a lawyer and go to court if you want. But unless you’re talking about a very large fish with a major violation, its probably not worth your time and effort.
I have tried to pursue the kinds of infringement cases that Pixsy routinely goes after on my own in the past. However I was either totally ignored, or sent a terse F$#k Off And Die letter by a corporate lawyer. (Its way better to have the lawyers on your side.)
However, it is important to recognize that Pixsy is not a magic bullet.
There is a very small portion of copyright infringement cases that are financially viable.
Essentially, you have to identify an unauthorized use that is blatantly commercial by a relatively large corporation located in a jurisdiction with modern copyright legislation.
The bigger the ability to pay and the more blatant the violation, the higher the settlement.
Unfortunately, you can’t currently pursue compensation for publication on social media networks, or theft by internet spammers and scrapers or websites located outside the reach of modern copyright law (ie. China, Russia etc.).
It’s also not much use to pursue compensation from small time infringers with minimal ability to pay – such as low traffic blogs and home based businesses (although Pixsy can be used to send DMCA take-down notices).
Things are even more complicated when you are a stock photographer like me – you have to be absolutely sure that you only go after illegitimate use and not people who have a valid royalty free license.
Finally, you need to keep good records of when and where your work was first captured and published – after all if you are claiming copyright infringement, it is up to you to prove you are the copyright owner.
If you are interested in getting started with Pixsy or just want to better protect your work online, you can follow these Best Practices To Protect Your Photography Copyright and Pursue Infringement.
What Do You Think?
Have you tried to pursue payment for copyright infringement on your own?
Were you successful? How much did you get paid?
Would you use a service like Pixsy?
Do you think it’s fair to infringers to have a well armed legal team pursue them for monetary compensation?
Leave a comment below and let us know what you think!