Product photo copyright infringement

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Product photos or visuals are some of the most obvious tools when it comes to presenting an offer or promoting a product. It is difficult to imagine the promotion or sale of services and goods via the Internet without them. Photos appear in online catalogs of enterprises as an element informing Internet users about the company's activities or as an element of an item description in an e-shop. Although the copyright to such photographs is most often held by the entrepreneur whose goods they represent, it is not obvious to every Internet user.

The web is often understood as a shared space, and images found by the search engine as ready for download. Rival companies often resort to such behavior, thus violating good merchant customs. However, please note that unauthorized use of the photos constitutes copyright infringement.

Photo as a subject of legal protection

Like musical or literary works, photographs are protected by the provisions of the Act of February 4, 1994 on copyright and related rights. The Act provides a general definition of a work that is subject to copyright protection: it is any manifestation of creative activity of an individual nature, established in any form, regardless of its value, purpose and manner of expression. Product photography must therefore be individual and creative - it should be unique and unrepeatable in some way, and also be the result of the creator's thought processes.

It may seem that such features belong rather to artistic photos, but the shot of a specific product, the composition of the photo and the arrangement of the object made by the photographer are the elements that prove the individuality and creative nature of the photo. These are actually the only requirements that must be met by product photography in order for the creator to enjoy the full copyright. Moreover, he is not obliged to indicate that he does not allow the use or copying of the work - refraining from such activities is the legal obligation of website visitors.

Infringement of copyrights to the photo of the goods - amicable proceedings

Despite the restrictions contained in the laws, the authors' copyrights are infringed, and photos of their products can be viewed on many other portals. What can be done to prevent such abuse?

First of all, tag photos. The Act does not require such a step, but signing a photo or placing a watermark on the photo of the copyright holder will clearly suggest that the photo is protected. If the photo has appeared on another website despite tagging it, the copyright holder of the photo has many options. They are indicated primarily by Art. 79 of the Copyright Act - according to him, the person whose copyright has been infringed has the right to demand that the infringer discontinue such actions, remove their effects, redress the damage, if any, and issue the benefits that the infringer has obtained.

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It is worth starting negotiations with the person using the photos with a written summons to refrain from infringing the copyrights to the photos. Such a letter should contain a detailed description of the violations committed by the other party. It is best if they are documented - screenshots of both your own website and the page where the stolen photos appeared can be useful here. Printouts are also good to date, because copyright infringers often remove content from their websites that is the subject of claims by the rightful owner.

The summons to refrain from acts infringing copyrights may also be extended with a summons to redress the damage, if the letter's address has suffered such. The Act specifies how it should be repaired - on general terms (i.e. by physically removing the effects of the violation) or by paying a sum of money in the amount corresponding to twice, and if the violation is at fault - three times the appropriate remuneration. The amount of remuneration is understood as the sum that would be paid by the infringer in a situation where the authorized person would give him permission to use the work.

Infringement of copyrights to product photos - litigation

If the other party does not react to the letter, you can refer it again through your lawyer. However, if this time it does not trigger an appropriate reaction, the entrepreneur may notify the prosecutor's office about the infringement of copyright - according to Art. 122 of the Copyright and Related Rights Act, the prosecution of crimes related to the unlawful distribution of a work takes place only at the request of the aggrieved party.

Such notification should be made orally or in writing. The prosecutor's office will take further steps to punish the infringer. If someone is misleading as to the authorship of all or part of someone else's work, and this is how you can post on your website photos to which another person has rights, the court may impose a fine, restriction of liberty or imprisonment for up to years 3.

Regardless of the notification of the prosecutor's office, a person whose copyrights to the photos have been infringed may claim damages before a civil court, relying on art. 415 of the Civil Code. It says that anyone who caused damage to another is obligated to repair it. This provision is quite general, which gives the complainant a great deal of discretion in determining the amount that would correspond to the damage.

He must define it in money, and also make it plausible that this amount corresponds to the damage he suffered, but if he lost a significant amount of money through the unlawful use of the photo, the infringer is obliged to pay it. Art. 79 sec. 2 of the Copyright and Related Rights Act also specifies other possible demands of the aggrieved party - he or she may demand that the person infringing the copyrights to the photos has one or more times announced in the press or otherwise publicized the court's ruling.