When you were in elementary school or middle school, how many of you all used to cover your papers so no one would copy your answers? *raises hand*
Yes, I was that kid and it explains my Type A Personality at an early age. Was I a nerd or a geek? Don’t know, don’t care! I just know I studied way too hard to let somebody copy my work.
One thing I do know is how hard it is to run a business, and how hard it is to create all of this content for your readers. I know I struggle with blogging. It’s a lot of work.
And those who make their bread and butter off of blogging and creating content, I know it makes your blood boil to see someone stealing your work and taking the credit for it! Photographers, this goes for you too. I can only imagine someone using MY PHOTOS that I worked so hard to create and edit, and pass it off as theirs.
According to The Verge, Instagram has ONE BILLION followers on the site. ONE BILLION! That means there are 999,999,999 people who can steal your photos on Instagram and pass it off as yours. Although we can’t stop the thieves, we can deter them!
And in this blog post, I am going to give you 5 ways that you can protect your Instagram pictures and deter copycats from stealing from you.
1. Register photos with the Copyright Office
Registering your photos with the Copyright Office is the #1 way to protect your Instagram pictures. I have given you some of the benefits of registering your photos with the Copyright Office, like statutory damages and attorney’s fees.
Here are other benefits for copyrighting your photos:
• To file an infringement case in court, you MUST register your work. If a registration has not been filed, then you are SOL. Well, kinda. If the infringement happened within that three months, you can still register and then file suit. If the infringement happened and three months have passed, you have forfeited the big bucks (i.e. statutory damages and attorney’s fees).
•If you file an infringement suit, and you are already registered, the Copyright Office is going to assume you are the owner. That’s one hurdle that will get you closer to winning your case.
• Registering your photos with the copyright office will establish a record with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection for protection against the importation of infringing copies. Has nothing to do with IG, but who doesn’t like learning more!?
2. Use the copyright symbol to protect your Instagram pictures
Put a copyright symbol on your photos. This puts the public on notice that you created this photo. Although you don’t have the same protections as when you register your copyright with the Copyright Office, the copyright symbol may deter people from using your photo.
Also, if you register your photo with the Copyright Office within 3 months of publishing your work, this includes publishing to Instagram, you can be eligible for costs, statutory damages, and attorneys fees if someone infringes on your photo. But make sure that you register the photo within 3 months. If you don’t, you may be giving up attorney’s fees and statutory damages, if you decide to sue someone for infringement.
Format for your copyright notice: © 2019 Company Name or Author Name. All Rights Reserved.
3. Watermarking your photos to protect them from poachers on Instagram
Another way to protect your Instagram pictures is to watermark your photos. Watermarking your photos also lets others know through your watermark, that you were the original creator of the photo. However, we all know how easy it is to download a picture and remove the watermark from the photo. There’s so much technology that is being used for evil, although intended to be used for the good. But if someone does takes off your watermark, they are determined to steal from you. That’s why copyright registration is important, because you can sue the infringer.
4. Report the infringement to Instagram
Instagram already has there own way to report if someone is infringing on your copyright. It is unclear if your copyright has to be registered, but you can probably reach out to them directly to get a little bit more information.
However, if someone is impersonating you on Instagram, you can reach out to Instagram and show them your ID and they will take down the account.
5. Send a cease and desist letter
There are literally companies that look for people who infringe on copyrights and trademarks. So if you notice that someone is using your Instagram pictures, you can send the company or user a letter directly. You should ask them to take down your work and demand compensation since they stole from you.
But word of advice, if you aren’t ready to go to court, don’t go threatening people with a lawsuit and asking for an exorbitant amount of money. And remember, if the photo isn’t registered with the Copyright Office, you may only be able to get actual damages (which are harder to prove), and not statutory damages and attorney’s fees.
Bonus: Did you know that you can protect your photos by putting the metadata in your photos?
If you edit your photos on Photoshop or Lightroom, you can add copyright information to the metadata of the picture. From my understanding, Instagram removes the metadata automatically from your photos. But you can still use this method on your website to protect your photos. Although, poachers can still remove the metadata, it’s another way to deter those from stealing from you. And if they don’t know about this method, your metadata will still be on the photo as proof that they have infringed on your copyright. To find out how to put metadata on your photos through Lightroom, click here. To find out how to put metadata on your photos through Photoshop, click here.
Have more questions about registering for a copyright or cease and desist letters? Reach out to Wilson Murphy Law and let’s talk.