In Copyright Basics, I quickly mentioned that if you placed a copyright notice on a digital file and it was removed, that you might have an additional reason to sue your infringer. Today, I want to dive into this law and how it can help you protect and enforce your copyrights.
What is Copyright Management Information (CMI)?
The law spells out some very specific information that is considered CMI.
- The title and other information identifying the work, including the information set forth on a notice of copyright.
- The name of, and other identifying information about, the author of a work.
- The name of, and other identifying information about, the copyright owner of the work, including the information set forth in a notice of copyright.
- With the exception of public performances of works by radio and television broadcast stations, the name of, and other identifying information about, a performer whose performance is fixed in a work other than an audiovisual work.
- With the exception of public performances of works by radio and television broadcast stations, in the case of an audiovisual work, the name of, and other identifying information about, a writer, performer, or director who is credited in the audiovisual work.
- Terms and conditions for use of the work.
- Identifying numbers or symbols referring to such information or links to such information.
- Such other information as the Register of Copyrights may prescribe by regulation, except that the Register of Copyrights may not require the provision of any information concerning the user of a copyrighted work.
How will you most likely include CMI in your images?
- Placing a visible watermark on the image containing the copyright notice information.
- Including copyright information in the metadata of your file.
I won’t go into the technical details of how to do this, but here are a couple helpful tutorials: add watermark in Photoshop, add watermark in Lightroom, add metadata information in Photoshop and add metadata information in Lightroom.
Why should you care?
As I mentioned at the top, if you upload your images with a visible copyright notice and/or copyright information embedded in the metadata of the file and either of these are removed by the infringer, then you might have an additional reason to sue (or legally speaking an additional cause of action).
In order to qualify the “bad guy” must do one of the following without your permission:
- intentionally remove or alter the CMI
- distribute the CMI knowing that the CMI had been altered or removed
- distribute the work knowing the CMI has been altered or removed
and reasonably know that by doing one of these things, they will disguise their copyright infringement.
As an added bonus, to get the benefits of this law your images do not have to be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office.
Plus the penalty under the law is pretty stiff, it allows you to recover $2,500 to $25,000 per violation and requires the bad guy to pay your attorney fees and costs.
Trap for the unweary: Terms of Service
Many companies, including Facebook, make removal of the copyright management information okay under their terms of service. For example, Facebook terms of service explicitly allows them to strip the metadata from any images that you upload.
Because of this if a bad guy takes your image from Facebook, the CMI was altered with your permission, so the bad guy would not be distributing the work knowing the CMI had been altered without your approval.
So for images you upload to Facebook you might want to have a visible watermark as well, since Facebook’s terms of service doesn’t give them permission to crop that out.
Does this make it more likely that you’ll include a watermark on your images? Why or why not?