“Orphan Works” Legislation is currently floating around Congress and this legislation essentially gives pirates a free pass to S-T-E-A-L photographs if they can’t locate the creator. Simply put, my good friend former ASMP President Clem Spalding describes “Orphan Works” as “Finders Keepers, Losers Weepers.”
Orphan Works will essentially strip the guts out of Copyright protection taking away punitive damages in the event your images are stolen if the thieves can prove that they tried but were unable to to locate the creator. Editorial Photographers is one of over 20 photo associations around the globe opposing Orphan Works.
To put the impact of Orphan Works in simple terms – it would be akin to enacting a law that makes it ok to steal from the local convenience store as long as no one was behind the register and then if the cops actually catch you with the goods, the thief would only be liable to pay for the goods that the stole without any penalty for the theft.
It is absolutely essential that you embed your copyright and contact information in the metadata of every single image that leaves your computer. You can locate this while in Photoshop or Bridge by selecting File>File Info. Every photographer should fill in the following fields:
Using “Save for Web” certainly optimizes images for quick web loading, however it generally also strips out all the metadata that helps safeguard your images from piracy. In the latest version of Photoshop CS3 (version 10.0.1), the ‘Save for Web’ feature now gives your the option to ‘Include XMP’ in the Save for Web dialog. When this option is enabled, all XMP data – including the creator copyright and contact info – is included in the optimized file.
In addition to embedding Metadata to your files, I’d also suggest a visible copyright on the images. I’ve never really liked the look of slapping watermarks all over images, so I decided to follow my friend Seth Resnick’s suggestion of creating a border around the image an placing the copyright notice in the border area. As part of the Photoshop batch actions I run to create web images, I add an extra 10-15 pixels to the bottom where I place the copyright notice. The idea is to treat this as a design element – not a distraction.
Most importantly, if anyone were to steal an image (and hopefully that won’t happen) cropping out the copyright automatically elevates the theft a willful copyright infringement which is subject to the harshest penalties. More about copyright can be found on the Editorial Photographers website.