Your work: Your copyright

Ugh, I just spent way too much time dealing with a copyright infringement of one of my soap photos.  It’s just another one of those things that you never think about when you’re thinking about starting your own business. But when someone steals your work, and then you have to deal with getting them to stop, that time you spend is money.

So, I’d like to save you a little time (and money) and point you towards some useful services and information to help you deal with copyright infringements of your work.

Did you make it? It’s yours.
According to the US Copyright office, your work  “is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.” So as soon as you write something and print it or upload to your blog or website, it’s yours. While you don’t have to register a copyright to be protected, you will have to register a copyright if you want to sue someone for infringing your copyright.

Protect your work: find the misuse.
There are things that you can do to protect your work, short of copyrighting everything and heading right to court. A great blog post by Joshua Dorkin lists steps that you should take to find any of your stolen work. Plus check out the sample “cease and desist” letter: handy when you want to sound like you mean business!

And if you’re afraid that your images may be getting stolen, Chris Martino’s blog post explains two easy ways to search the web for your photos. If you find any misuse of your images, you can use the tips in Joshua Dorkin’s article that I mention above to deal with that, too.

Protect your business: don’t steal.
So, it turns out that another soapmaking teacher was (and still is as of this writing) using one of my photos to market one of her soapmaking classes. Really? How sad is it that you’re a soapmaker and you won’t even use photos of your own soap? But she decided that it was worth putting her business at risk, rather than upload one of her own photos. Not the wise decision, I think.

Don’t have a good photo of your own? There are lots of great ways to get free or low-cost ones. Flickr has a Creative Commons section loaded with photos that the owners have offered up to be used by others. And stock photo sites like iStockphoto and Fotolia have thousands of photos that you can use for just around $1.

So, is your business worth $1? Or would you rather risk being sued and tarnishing your business image?

UPDATE: After sending a complaint to the website host, the whole site had been taken down temporarily. Website hosts are very careful about not being sued for hosting copyrighted material, so they are your friends if this ever happens to you. The site is back up now, but without my photo.

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14 thoughts on “Your work: Your copyright

  1. Thank you so much Ruth for addressing this issue in a blog post so others can benefit from your research. As you know, we are both battling the same person in this case, but as we searched our site for additional offenders, unfortunately we found a lot more. Not something I want to be spending my time on, but unfortunately I don’t think it’s wise to ignore it either. It’s really appalling that people would do this… especially others in the SAME business. It’s really mind boggling to me – what are they thinking – that it’s okay to rip people off? Ugh.

    • I have the feeling that people just don’t understand how much time it can take to deal with a situation like this. We could all get so much more work done if everyone followed the rules!

  2. Good article. You mention battling someone over your photo…do they actually claim it’s their own or they just refuse to replace it with one of their own? I’ve had people use photos of my stuff on their website before, but when I asked them to remove it, they did.

    • Hi Erica,
      I’m just starting the process with this website that is using my photo. So we will see how that turns out. But I have had some very snippy replies in the past to requests that my blog posts be removed (or at least attributed) from other people’s blogs. In one case, it even turned out that the owner of the blog had PAID someone to write the blog post that had, in fact, been plagiarized from me! That blog owner was very happy that I had contacted her.

  3. Ruth hey! So good to see you in Portland and I enjoyed your class!
    I just want to say thank you for sharing this. I’m not copy worthy yet but have a few soap friends who are so I passed this along. Thanks so much!

    • Hey Pam! So glad you liked my talk at the HSMG conference!
      You may not think you’re worthy, but as soon as you start a blog or have a website, it can happen to you, too. (Although, I hope not!)

  4. Sorry to hear about your encounter with another soapmaker who stole your photo! Thank you for sharing the experience to help the rest of us guard against this and/or learn how to deal with it. I’ve wondered how to search for stolen images since it’s so easy to download any image, so the links to the other blogs are very helpful.

    I too took your class at the soap conference last week and am excited to try making soaps with other liquids. Thanks!

  5. Great post, Ruth! I’ve had problems with the same woman in Florida for the past two years. She even had photos of students in my home studio on her website claiming that it was her class. I love that you shared the process and all the great resources to use! (Hopefully one of these days she’ll get her own photos and ideas.)

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