Have you ever heard of a thief stealing an object from a store then blaming the store because it had “maliciously” placed said object on the shelf for sale, all but inviting theft? If you haven’t heard of this argument then welcome to the reality most people occupy, except for one social media star with a following of 60,000 people.
YouTube entrepreneur Dan DaSilva is probably having a bad day, if the Internet comments section and photography publications everywhere have anything to say about it. Of course, there’s a story behind it all and is it ever a tale of our times.
According to DIY Photography, Dan DaSilva was sued in court for using a photographer’s copyrighted photo to sell merchandise on DaSilva’s Shopify e-store.
A fairly open and shut case, really, that is until DaSilva decided to take the tale to his YouTube channel wherein he recounted being sued by a “malicious” photographer who uploaded and copyrighted his images in order to “entrap” people like the YouTube entrepreneur.
While there are rampant abuses of copyright protection, there are few stories about malevolent photographers adjudicating with abandon after ensnaring unknowing victims through Google image search (in fact, enforcing copyright can be an expensive proposition, as the article “US Congress Debating Copyright Small Claims Reform Bill – Great News for Independent Photographers” describes).
So either we have found the world’s most diabolical photographer, or we have a mundane case of theft of copyright with subsequent enforcement by the legal system.
But let’s put the microphone in Mr. DaSilva’s hands and see what he has to say about it all: “To put it into context, the reason I was sued was because I used a picture that I found on Google Images. Now, I should have known better, yes, in my position I should know better. But, again, I never really thought that there are malicious people out there that […] maliciously put pictures on the Internet. [People] that copyright pictures that they take and what they do is they’ll get like a copyright on it, and they’ll put it out on the Internet, and it’s freely available on the Internet […] and they literally, some people specifically do this as a job.”
That went well, as the Internet’s wrath has shown.
Let’s be clear, to enforce copyright, a photographer often needs to have deep pockets (or be backed by those that do). Further, becoming a professional photographer is not a cheap proposition, even if you discount the time it takes to hone the craft. Quality equipment can cost tens of thousands and competency can take years.
As DIY Photography points out, the YouTube entrepreneur is under a variety of misconceptions, chief among them that copyright requires registration and that copyright enforcement of stolen photographs is lucrative enough to sustain a business doing just that.
Copyright is strengthened by registration but is understood to take effect upon creation of the work, at least in the United States. The photographer that sued DaSilva held the copyright in the state of California according to his video.
Also, copyrighted works need not identify themselves as such to be protected by US copyright law.
In other words, if you did not create it yourself, you do not own the copyright to it. If you wish to use it, you must pay a royalty or obtain the creator’s permission. It is a quite simple concept in both practice and in reality.
Let’s not think Dan DaSilva was without competent legal counsel, however, as DIY Photography notes he was told to “not post this video” in which he rants about copyrighted images. Luckily for us, it gives the photography community a chance to have a discussion about copyright and how stealing a photographer’s work impacts that person’s livelihood.