One of my worst memories is of being robbed. My wife and I were out photographing some basketball games and when we returned home, we found our door open, our house a mess, and several things missing. I can't fully describe the emotions I felt or mental toll this took on us. Only those of you that have been in a similar situation know what it feels like, that feeling of being violated, your safe place no longer being safe. For weeks I would have this horrible feeling as I approached our home that someone would be there, the robbers returned. It's a horrible feeling. To prevent being robbed, like most of you, we lock our doors, gates, windows, and have a security system in place. We want to make sure we are safe and that doesn't happen again. Many of you photographers, though, are being robbed right now, and don't even know it.
How many times have you been scrolling through Facebook, and you've seen someone post a photo with a watermark on it? How about someone scanning a print you made and then using that digital? I know we've all seen people have presentations or reports with images they just “found” on the Internet. Some of you might have even done this yourself at some point, but it's not right. People have been stealing ideas, designs, and art for the longest time, and a form of copyright protection has been around since 1662. With the Internet and so many things being in digital form, it has become an even bigger problem and harder to detect and stop. Now, people can download music, movies, TV shows, books, and in our case, photographs quickly and with very little fear of punishment. It's not like walking into a store and shoving an item under your shirt and walking out. People tend to think of it as a victimless crime and don't feel the guilt that they would with stealing from a store. Many simply don't even know they are doing something wrong. Something needs to be done to protect the rights of artist, and luckily for us, there is change on the way.
Professional Photographers of America (PPA) has made it their mission to educate the public and photographers, help photographers protect themselves, and push for legislation. On the PPA website, there is a whole section devoted to copyright. There are a ton of resources for photographers to use including a copyright registration guide, letters to send to someone that is in violation, different licensing agreements, and even videos. They even have a tool that guides you on what you should do when you think someone has violated your copyright. It asks you several questions, and in the end, you get a list of steps to take. The only downside to all of this is that most of the resources are only available to PPA members. PPA is a great organization with numerous benefits, so I would highly recommend joining. It is well worth it.
With all the work that PPA has been doing, it is good to see that things are changing. Recently the bill H.R. 1695 was introduced and passed in April. This bill lets the President appoint the Register of Copyright instead of an employee of Librarian of Congress. This means that the person holding the position will hopefully have plenty of experience with copyright law and work to make the necessary changes that is needed. Some people might not like the idea of the President having this power and worry that someone unqualified might gain the position. The good news is that the Senate will have to approve of the appointed person.
Will this bill stop all of the copyright problems? Of course not. There will still be people out there stealing photos, but it’s good to see there is change ahead. Hopefully in the near future there will be more and more changes to protect photographers and other creatives. In the meantime, make sure to do whatever you can to protect yourself, your work, and your income.