We’ve made a few really exciting announcements in the last month: a new partnership with ImageRights, important updates to our T&C’s, and a firsthand account of just how vital ImageRights is to the lives and careers of photographers all over the web. This week, we’re bringing you another success story from architectural and commercial photographer Eric Bowers, whose gain on the ImageRights platform is further testament to the powerful profit stream that many photographers have been able to access thus far.
Based in the Kansas City area, Eric speaks to the fact that ImageRights is the best and most efficient alternative to messy DIY Infringement Management – something that many ImageBrief photographers don’t have the time or man power to tackle on their own. This partnership, truly, is a match made in heaven. Take it away Eric!
“After a job layoff in 2013, I found myself more dependent than ever on income from my photography freelancing. I began researching search engine optimization (SEO) methods for photography in particular. What I ended up realizing was that, yes – my photography was all scattered all about the web, albeit on business and commercial websites for companies I had never heard of, and to whom I had definitely never sold usage rights.
I started to become overwhelmed with the job ahead of me. Not only were my cash flows tighter than ever due to reliance on photography as my only means of income, but also I could see rampant infringement of my work all over the web. Both out of frustration and a need for money, I began making some surprise visits to the offices of commercial infringers in the Kansas City area – invoice in hand, along with W-9 tax documentation and my Square card reader. This could only continue for so long however, because constantly deferring my own life, as well as the other aspects of running a photography business to deal with infringements on my own, and without legal counsel – was a soul-draining ordeal. I found that when I went in on my own to settle a matter without any kind of formal legal representation, most infringers acted as if I should be grateful to them for removing the offending photo usage, forgetting the fact that many of them had already been exploiting my work for quite some time, one or two years, but often more. With representation by ImageRights, now it is not uncommon for people to attempt to pay me off personally by circumventing ImageRights and their recovery partners.
The range of copyright infringement cases can vary. In instances of ‘Get Rich Quick in Real Estate’ seminars, motivational speakers, and clickbait websites, utilizing ImageRights to monetize these unauthorized uses of my work is a gratifying experience. The other end of the spectrum can include instances such as a church lady convention, promoted by a website that was possibly done for free by one of the attendees or their kids. If I see something that is more of an innocuous use such as this, although still technically an enforceable infringement, I take extra time to think about approving the case upon assessment.
A major recurring theme in infringement recovery unfortunately comes from website design firms or freelancers who land their clients in legal hot water because they are accustomed to harvesting ‘free’ website photography and graphics from Google Image Search. That bargain-basement quote from a site designer is only affordable if their clients don’t get hit with infringement claims resulting from their festooning their website with copyright infringed photography and graphics.
Since getting started with ImageRights over a year ago, my own business income from copyright infringement settlement money has become the most consistent and reliable income stream for my freelancing operation. It is not an understatement at all when I say that having this stream of income is a game-changer, because it allows me to weather the inevitable troughs in income from assignment photography and stock license sales while still having enough money on-hand to meet fixed expenses.
In my own case, I didn’t become a professional photographer until well after the digital photography revolution – when the old business models of photography were turned upside down. Many have bemoaned the abundance of photographs in existence now, putting downward pressure on photographers’ pricing power with clients. Although this is a problem that remains for all in the business, there is also much higher demand for quality photographs now in this age of the Internet, and this can be seen by the rampant unauthorized usage of many professionals’ copyrighted works. Many tend to assume they are entitled to exploit whatever Google shows them in an image search result. Despite infringement settlements and the threat of litigation being at best an imperfect solution for all involved parties, being able to quickly monetize copyright infringements has become a vital part of my own business. Because stock agencies such as Getty Images build a ‘right of first refusal’ into their contracts with photographers, I have found that is in my own best interest to tend to my own SEO for photography in order to maximize my direct stock image sales, while also having the ‘hedge to the downside’ of ImageRights and infringement recovery built into my operation, as opposed to having a stock agency reap the rewards of infringement recovery dollars.”
Thank you so much for sharing, Eric.
Do you have a story about your own experience with copyright infringement? Share in the comments below!
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