No Win, Just A Copyright Resolution

Not sure I’d call it a win. Maybe resolution is more like it.

Almost two years ago I photographed an assignment for a client. Those images were then published with a feature story by the client.

Well, the subject of that feature story in turn took those images and used them on their blog. 

I had no idea.

Monthly, I do a search for my images online to find unauthorized uses. Generally, I don’t have issues, but most folks don’t realize that the copyright information is embedded into the actual images which make it easier to find when people use our work online. 

Seventeen months after the photo assignment I was doing my monthly search and found a blog post with my images on this company’s website. Seems that the basic info had been stripped away from the images making them a bit harder to find in a basic search. 

So, here I find two of my images on the site in a blog post as well as one of those images being used as the featured post photo. The site also included the reporters feature story without permission. Once I realized it was unauthorized I made a frame grab. Why? To make note of the date and to show my work on their website. That’s potential evidence. For down the road…if necessary in a copyright infringement lawsuit.

From wikipedia, the definition of copyright infringement is “the use of works protected by copyright law without permission for a usage where such permission is required, thereby infringing certain exclusive rights granted to the copyright holder, such as the right to reproduce, distribute, display or perform the protected work, or to make derivative works.”

That is exactly what happened in this case. Company B took my images from Company B, who paid me to make pictures at Company A and placed those images on Company A’s website. It’s a clearcut violation and easy to prove. Remember, I have evidence in the frame grabs.

If the copyright is registered with the US Copyright office before the infringement or within three months of first publication, the owner of the copyright may be eligible for up to $150,000 per image in statutory damages and attorney’s fees from the copyright infringer. Remember that! $150,000. Per. Image.

So, I reach out to these folks via email. In the email I explain that my work is on their website and if they have purchased a license to use the images on the site to please provide that proof. I already know that they did not purchase a license since it would have to go through me. So, I hit send. Email sent.

No response.

A week later I try again via email.


No response.

I then found the Facebook page for these folks. Reach out then by Facebook message.

Finally a response.

They did apologize for the unauthorized use and ask that I send them an invoice. I do send them an invoice. Although since the work had been online for over a year and a half the price for the unauthorized usage was substantially more then it would have been normally. After sending the invoice, I wait. And wait. And wait.

One month goes by, then another. All the while, I’m emailing these folks and getting blown off. Sending invoice reminders. Nothing. This goes on about 6 weeks. I then email them and let them know I’d like to resolve this without taking them to court. Again…nothing.

About three weeks later, I start preparing myself for the court battle. Gather all of my evidence, which had been frame grabbed as soon as I first saw the images on the site without permission. My plan at this point is to reach out to the NPPA legal team and see where they can help with this issue. They would usually be able to recommend a copyright attorney in my area.

That didn’t happen. It wasn’t necessary.

In a last ditch effort, I had emailed the contact person at the company that had used the images without permission. It said, “Are we going to resolve this, or will I have to take legal action?”

In a matter of minutes, I received a response that claimed the email had gone to spam. They’d like to take care of this as soon as possible. Can they send a check?

I sent an address with instructions on who to make the check payable to to make sure they had the information needed. Three days later, I have a check in hand for the amount that I had been requesting for 3 months. Now, if they were having trouble receiving my email, they sure hadn’t had an issue receiving the invoices. The amount was correct. Leading me to believe that what happened in the past three months is that they must gave spoken to their attorney and found that since my images were registered with the copyright office I could seek up to $150,000 in damages for each infringement. Now that is something I was trying top avoid. Sure, $150,000 per image sounds great, but my goal was to be fair.  They, as well as myself, are small businesses. I didn’t want to hurt a small business. The other thing is it very well could have been a long drawn out court battle, which no one wants. Especially me. I want to make pictures not battle for the rights to images.

The good news is that I was paid. The bad news is that it keeps happening. Most people don’t or can’t understand that they can not just take someone’s work and post it on their website without permission. 

We need to educate folks about copyright law.

This has happened to me before, and is one of the reasons that I do look online once a month to protect my rights. I don’t like doing it, but it has to be done. I love making pictures, but do not want to be giving the work away for free when my daily cost of doing and staying in business is as great as ever.

Most times I walk around with $5,000 worth of gear just to make a single picture. That doesn’t even begin to address other costs of doing business. There’s health insurance, liability insurance, vehicles, insurance, computers, software, etc… The list is almost endless.

Granted the company finally paid for the unauthorized use, but I had to invest so much time and effort into protecting my rights I don’t really feel like a winner.

I just want to make pictures and not have to worry about protecting my copyright. Problem is that in this day it is almost impossible.

They key here for photographers is to make sure you register your copyright. It gives you a lot more ammunition if an infringement ever happens to you.

Know your rights. Protect your copyrights.

So, instead of a win I’ll just call it a resolution, until next time.

US Copyright Office

NPPA Article by Attorneys Alicia Calzada and Mickey Osterreicher
Suing for Copyright Infringement? 10 Things to Consider

PPA Copyright Resources

Hey! That’s my photo!!

A few months ago I was made aware of a school that had pulled one of my images from a clients website and then used it on their website with a press release. I won’t mention names, but let’s say it was a school that could afford to have purchased a usage license.

When I saw the unauthorized use, I wasn’t surprised that it had happened. In my experience, people tend to think if something was published online, it is in the public domain. Not true. The author owns the copyright. This means that if someone, even the subject of the photograph, wants to use the image in any other way they must receive permission from the original author of
the photograph. Plain and simple.

In this case, the image was registered with the US Copyright office. All I really wanted was for the school to admit they had done something wrong and apologize. And that is what I expected when I emailed the communications department. The email that I sent basically asked how they had received the image as well as permission to use the image. If they didn’t have permission or a license for the use I’d be happy to sell them a license to use the image on their site.

I assumed they’d get back to me, play dumb, apologize and remove the image. So, I wait. And wait. And wait.

Two days later I see that my image has been removed from their site, but no response from their communications director. So, I then sent another email which thanked them for removing the image, and also asking where I should send the invoice for the “unauthorized” 9 months of use on their site. Yes. It was on their site for 9 months before it was brought to my attention.

Again. I wait. No response. Four days later I email the communications director saying I would appreciate a response.

Wait another three days. Finally, the communications director gets back to me. Tells me where to send the invoice, but no apology. No excuses. Nothing.

So, I invoiced them $100 for 9 months of use on their website and added another $50 for unauthorized use.
Could I have pursued more? Probably. Would it have been worth it? Probably not.
Fact is that the image really doesn’t have much value other then to the people that pilfered it for reuse. It’s an image that was published with a story on one of the school’s athletic teams. The reality is that the players in the image won’t be moving on to a big college, so the value of the imagery as far as reuse is somewhat limited. The reasoning behind charging the rate that I did was to make a point that people can not pilfer a copyrighted work without paying for it.

Funny thing is that if the school had just asked if they could use it, I probably would have said yes and gave it to them as a non-profit contribution.

I am still waiting for the apology.

Cooper Digs Snow

On Sunday, Cooper had a field day in the snow. This little dude loves, loves, loves playing in the snow. His biggest bit of fun is when he gets to play “snowballs”. For that, I make a nice sized snowball and throw it. he chases and tries to catch it in the air. He then proceeds to eat the dean thing. If he can’t catch it, he will bury his head into the snow until he comes up with it. Not just any bit of snow, but he will find the snowball that I threw his way.
Very cool smart little doggie.

My Pic On Pierre’s Christmas Card….Finally!!

After 30 years, I finally have had one of my images on my old friend Pierre‘s Christmas Card. The image, which shows Rodney, Pancake and Pierre on Rittenhouse Square during a live broadcast celebrating WMMR‘s 47th birthday at the station’s old home on Rittenhouse Square April 29, 2015 in the Wellington Building. Pierre's Christmas Card with my image from Rittenhouse Square

It was a nice Christmas present from something that I just went and shot for fun.

I Am The “Image Hostage” and “The Hustler”

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I probably tweeted about this a while ago, but now I am finally getting around to posting a link to one of the interviews I did with Elaina Ransford last summer about some of my nightmare business experiences as a photographer. One of the worst, which was a three day shoot in NYC, was mentioned in The Freelancer by Contenly. Contently makes software to empower publishers, creatives and readers.

Speaking of Contently. Check this out, especially if you’re a freelancer. It’s a quiz for the freelance. Well, it’s actually geared towards a writer, but it may help you figure out which kind of freelancer you are if you don’t already know.
I’m “The Hustler.”

Here’s another article I was quoted in a while back from the New York Times about wedding photography.

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Video Still On Page One

Well, I finally did it. A1 of todays newspaper featured one of my images. That’s happened before, many times over, but never from a video that I had photographed. One of the problems with shooting video and stills is that eventually, you come upon a situation where you’ll have to decide on video or stills. Inevitably, you’ll be shooting video and a moment pops that makes great video as well as stills. Last night I was shooting video as well as stills as patrons at the Iron Abbey in Horsham, Pennsylvania watched the USA vs. Ghana World Cup soccer (or football if you feel that way) match. One minute into the match the USA teams scored. The crowd in the bar went wild. At the time, I was shooting video. I’m thinking, this is some great video. I’ll get some stills next time something interesting happens. And…..nothing. For a while. As the clock ticks, I worry about meeting my deadline since I still had another assignment and video to edit from earlier in the day. After about 45 minutes waiting for something to happen, I though that I’d better go edit the pix and get them in. In essence, I gave up due to deadline restrictions. Previously, I had a conversation with one of the editors about the necessity of doing video first and if I had to I could pull a frame from the video and use it as a still image. If you shoot fast enough, it is possible to do. Once that thought entered my head, I had a plan. Pull the best moment from video and use that as a still image to go along with the other still images from the event. Those were mostly of people waiting with baited breath for another goal that the USA team scored about 80 minutes into the game.

Upon editing the stills, I whittle them down to the best 3 images, but am lacking that “moment” when the USA team scored. I needed one more with jubilation. I open up Adobe Premiere Pro and load the raw video into the program. While looking at the video, I see the sequence where fans went crazy after a goal. I think, “That’s what I need!!”

Now how do I pull it? Google search: Yeah!! Now I know how to do it. Thanks Adobe Press! Export the video. Place the image into the folder with the other edits. Then caption in Photo Mechanic. Now opened in Adobe Photoshop… and praying that it will look good. It was shot at 3200 ISO so I was worrying about grain. It actually looked OK. Tweaked it a bit in Photoshop. Had to resize it a bit, but all in all, I was happy with the result. I’d do it again if I had to. Did it work? Yes. Is it acceptable? Yes. Am I looking forward to pulling a still from a video again? No. A still image is a still image, a video is a video.

Here’s the final image and video.

Can you spot the still?

Ring Flash Pocket Wizards

My old friend Jon was selling a bunch of Pocket Wizards. Went over today and
picked up all of them. Then proceeded to play with them the rest of the day.
For those who don’t know what Pocket Wizards do, they are remote triggers
for flash or cameras which enable the photographer to not be tethered to a cable.
I most always trip over my own stinking cable, so this is a great thing. No more
tripping and knocking things over.

HARTSVILLE, PA - MARCH 28:  Artwork is seen through a ring flaw head March 28, 2014 in Hartsville, Pennsylvania. (Photo by William Thomas Cain/Cain Images) (William Thomas Cain)

HARTSVILLE, PA – MARCH 28: Artwork is seen through a ring flash head March 28, 2014 in Hartsville, Pennsylvania. (Photo by William Thomas Cain/Cain Images) (William Thomas Cain)

HARTSVILLE, PA - MARCH 28:  Pocket Wizards are seen through a ring on a table March 28, 2014 in Hartsville, Pennsylvania. (Photo by William Thomas Cain/Cain Images) (William Thomas Cain)

HARTSVILLE, PA – MARCH 28: Pocket Wizards are seen through a ring on a table March 28, 2014 in Hartsville, Pennsylvania. (Photo by William Thomas Cain/Cain Images) (William Thomas Cain)

From the studio at Wilmington University today. We were shooting in the studio and
this is a demo to show or remind students how the lights should be placed.

NEW CASTLE, DE - MARCH 28:  Lights are set in the studio for a shoot March 28, 2014 at Wilmington University in New Castle, Delaware. (Photo by William Thomas Cain/Cain Images) (William Thomas Cain)

NEW CASTLE, DE – MARCH 28: Lights are set in the studio for a shoot March 28, 2014 at Wilmington University in New Castle, Delaware. (Photo by William Thomas Cain/Cain Images) (William Thomas Cain)

Had to throw this in of a recovering Cooper. Looks much better today.

HARTSVILLE, PA - MARCH 28:  Cooper the cocker spaniel is recovering from a boo boo March 28, 2014 in Hartsville, Pennsylvania. (Photo by William Thomas Cain/Cain Images) (William Thomas Cain)

HARTSVILLE, PA – MARCH 28: Cooper the cocker spaniel is recovering from a boo boo March 28, 2014 in Hartsville, Pennsylvania. (Photo by William Thomas Cain/Cain Images) (William Thomas Cain)

Making one black and white image a day for a year using my old Nikon D1 and a 17mm lens.

Family Portrait Photography Shoots

Over the course of a few days last week I had a few photo shoots.
Here’s some of the images.
Click the links to see the galleries.

Das Family Portrait Photo Session Newtown, Pennsylvania Photographer

Can you tell if this was lit by natural or artificial light?

Allot of times photography is about finding the light. Sure a good subject helps, but the right light can make an image pop. That was the case when I photographed the Das family in Tyler State Park in newtown, Pennsylvana recently. For the first 10-15 minutes of the shoot I walked around with the couple placing them in various nooks and crannies of the park until I found the perfect spot. My goal was to make the couple look as though I had lit them with studio strobes. I believe that’s what I achieved in the image below.

Full gallery @

I Don’t Like Pictures of People Crying

In almost every photography class or lecture I show students images from my portfolio. It contains a bit of news, sports, entertainment and feature photos. This is shown to prove that I’m not some kind of lunatic and I actually do know how to make a picture that captures a moment that tells a story. Last night, I taught a basic photography class at one of my workshops (Cain Images Photographic Workshops). Everyone seemed to get what I was speaking about and learned how to use their cameras better in manual settings. After the class, a woman pulled me aside. And here I was thinking she was going to thank me for the class. But, no. She whispers, “You know when photographers take pictures of people crying. I don’t like that. It’s invading their privacy.” I’m pretty sure she was referring to this image.

Mourners Remember Well-Known Trauma Surgeon Killed In Iraq

My response was, “Do you think we like making those kinds of pictures? See the full post