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Artists, don’t be a David. Protect your copyright with Pixsy

Copyright infringement is an artists nightmare. As creators we spill blood sweat and tears producing work, only to find someone has used it without consent or payment and at that point it can suddenly feel like a David versus Goliath battle.

In the last two months alone we’ve written three articles all connected to copyright infringement. The latest featured Italian artist Alessia Babrow who found the Vatican had used her work without permission.

As a result, we received commentary from Kain Jones, CEO of Pixsy regarding the Babrow infringement:

Kain Jones, CEO of Pixsy, said: “This case highlights, yet again, the importance of obtaining a proper license and permission before using the work of an artist. Copyright law protects the creator of a work (be that illustrations, photographs, or other creative content) and gives them full legal authority to decide how and when their content can be used. The responsibility is on the party that wants to use the work to seek permission and a license from the creator – anything else is a copyright infringement.

“The fact that Ms. Babrow and her lawyers tried to contact the Vatican on several occasions to bring the matter to their attention and resolve this, highlights what we see on a daily basis; large organizations believe they have the upper hand against creators. Unfortunately, the law does not agree. As the Vatican generated revenue from the unlicensed use of Ms. Babrow’s work, damages would seem fair and in line with copyright law.

“Artists and creators make a living from being able to license their work, and organizations are increasingly looking for original and creative content to use. This has to go hand-in-hand; we must protect the value of creative works, pay a fair price and encourage the creative eco-system to continue to grow.”

Now at this point we’ll be honest. We’d never heard of Pixsy, but from their response and website they clearly know their stuff so, we got in touch with Kain Jones to find out more about them and how they can help when it comes to copyright infringement…

So what is Pixsy? Pixsy is an online image protection platform, which allows photographers, artists, and designers alike to easily track down unauthorized use of their work and take legal action against copyright infringement to recover fees and damages.

We combine a market-leading image monitoring solution that functions like a reverse image search, with a powerful dashboard to review all matches and provide solutions for legal enforcement.

Creators using Pixsy are free to review all their matches and decide what they would like to do with each one. They can make use of our Takedown tools to send automated legal takedown notices (translated to match the law and language of the recipient), or submit the case to Pixsy for matches used commercially, in which case we will work to recover compensation. Pixsy’s in-house team of copyright experts and a partner network of over 25 local law firms provide this service on a no win, no fee basis. This means it’s free to submit cases and we will only charge a fee if we are successful.

Pixsy’s dashboard gives you a simple overview showing where your images are being used (source: Pixsy.com)

Pixsy integrates with over 15 image hosting platforms to automatically import new images as they are uploaded to help creators save time thanks to one automated workflow. Among these image hosting platforms that Pixsy integrates with are Instagram, Flickr, SmugMug, Tumblr, EyeEm, Photoshelter, Google Drive/Photos and Dropbox. We also integrate with the US copyright office to streamline registering images for additional protections in the US, which is important for any creator to do no matter where they are located.

When did Pixsy launch and what is your background? Pixsy was founded in late 2014 by photographer Daniel Foster. His images were being used without his permission, and when we contacted some companies he was told “what are you going to do about it… sue me”, so he did. But he quickly found out that this is complicated and expensive because he was managing lawyers directly, and not something a creator wants to be doing with their time.

Since then, we have grown to over 100,000 clients and enforced over 130,000 copyright infringement cases around the world.

Kain Jones, CEO of Pixsy, has a background in the arts, technology and business
(source: Pixsy.com)

My background (Kain Jones, CEO) is in technology, business, and the arts. I started my career working in opera, ballet, and musicals so appreciate the skills that go into artistic creation – including touring internationally with Cirque du Soleil. I then moved into managing technology projects and companies. I love leading Pixsy as we support creators every day, from every corner of the world, enforce their rights and stand up to the big guy. Internally we have the goal of being the Robin Hood for creators and photographers. We celebrate every time we can help recover funds for our clients. It’s a unique business, because for every dollar we earn, so does our client.

Have you seen an increase in copyright theft? Yes. We have 100,000 creators on our platform, with 125 million images being monitored, for which we have uncovered over 350 million matches of our clients’ work. The majority of the industry estimate that 85% of images online are without a license or permission.

With 3 billion images being uploaded to the internet each day, and 85% of which are uploaded without permission, we can clearly see the problem is growing. In addition, platforms such as Pinterest, where there are big copyright issues, are seeing more users uploading content that is likely not their own.

Pixsy will flag any images found on the internet that match your work allowing you to pursue legal action (source: PIxsy.com)

Do you think companies are using artists’ work without permission due to a lack of knowledge surrounding copyright law or are simply hoping to get away without paying? Our view is mixed. Lack of knowledge around copyright law is a big problem; there seems to be a general misunderstanding that if you can find it on the internet (e.g. Google search), then it’s free to take and use. Films, music, and video went through a copyright knowledge reform years ago during the times of Bittorrent with big movie studios and music labels suing individual downloaders.

Images and art have not yet had the same education reform. Due to lobbying with Google and other industry bodies, some sites and warning labels are starting to appear next to content to warn this might be protected by copyright and to contact the creator/owner – this is a good first step forward.

During our copyright infringement work, we see on a daily basis that many companies are simply hoping they don’t get caught. We are even aware of large corporations allocating budget for copyright infringement cases, rather than licensing it upfront. Most companies actually get away with it, because the majority of creators feel powerless to take on companies and infringers. As a small creator, you likely don’t have the funds, know-how, or appetite to get into a legal battle.

At Pixsy, our mission is to make monitoring and enforcing creators’ (artists, photographers, etc.) rights easy, accessible, and low cost. We believe that until there is an industry shift of creators starting to push back and enforcing their rights, companies and copyright infringers will keep trying to get away with it.

Why do you think so many artists seem to be struggling with copyright infringement? The barriers to monitoring and enforcing rights are a big put-off. Before platforms like Pixsy came along, the only option was to try and catch the infringement on your own, perhaps trying manual, one-by-one Google reverse image searches, and contacting a lawyer on your own, at your cost and risk.

Many creators feel powerless to take on a large company and they are scared of getting into a messy and expensive legal battle. Often, individual creators who contact companies or infringers simply get ignored, because without the threat of legal action, most companies don’t feel the pressure to resolve it. Copyright law exists to protect the creator, but it can also seem confusing for most people without legal knowledge. In reality, copyright law is refreshingly clear – if there is no licence or permission in place, then using it is an infringement of the creator/rights holder’s rights. 

This law is basically universal across all common law jurisdictions and protects the creator no matter where they are located (for instance, UK creators have the same protections for US infringements as a US creator would have).

Thanks to the power and speed of the internet, the problem of copyright infringement is global (and growing). Monitoring needs to be on a global scale, and enforcement options need to be available in markets where resolution is possible. This is exactly what Pixsy is here to provide.

Pixsy will assist you with legal action, displaying the status of each case (source: Pixsy.com)

What advice would you give artists (other than using Pixsy) to help protect themselves from copyright theft? We have some great articles on this very subject that will be helpful, including:

The Ultimate Image Protection Guide: 13 Tips To Prevent Image Theft

How To Find Stolen Pictures Online: A Practical Guide

Monitor where and how your work is being used. When you see misuse, take action (which should involve getting the content removed or getting compensated for the infringement).

Clearly mark all your work with your copyright information (name, website, and any permission information, such as “All Rights Reserved”). Watermark your images. Embed your images with copyright information in the EXIF metadata.

Have a clear professional website where potential clients or image users can view your work and reach out to you to license. Ensure this website is well indexed by search engines so that your website (which should include all the clear copyright notices) is the main source when people look for the content.

Doing these things not only helps to protect individual artists, but the whole creative community. Until more creators engage in monitoring and enforcement, the business of image theft will go on unchanged.

You don’t need to be a David any more…

We’d like to thank Kain Jones for taking the time to respond to our questions with in-depth responses which will hopefully provide useful and actionable information for all artists.

During our communication, Kain also provided us with a wealth of links to success stories and further information, all of which can found on Pixsy.com.

As artists it can feel incredibly daunting to try and take on a large corporation single-handed. Not only is it time consuming, mentally exhausting and stressful but then there is the large financial costs of hiring lawyers to fight on your behalf.

Armed with the right knowledge hopefully that burden will feel less like a David versus Goliath battle… and although we know how that story went, surely it makes more sense to have specialists like Pixsy fighting your corner?

3 Comments Leave A Reply

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3 thoughts on “Artists, don’t be a David. Protect your copyright with Pixsy

  1. I’m all for photographers and other creatives protecting their work from theft, but the way Pixsy does it is completely unethical. They send demands for hundreds of pounds out to every teenage blogger or non-profit who makes a typo in the attribution of a Creative Commons image. That isn’t “protecting copyright” it’s predatory behaviour that’s causing misery to ordinary people who have just made an honest mistake. Creative Commons licences were never intended to be used in this way – indeed the latest Creative Commons licences have been updated precisely to stop companies like Pixsy doing this by giving people 30 days to correct an attribution mistake before they can be hit with legal action.

    In my case I run a neighbourhood site that provides information for our local community. We’re completely non profit and have no income so we use Creative Commons images and always do our absolute best to follow the rules. On one occasion we accidentally linked to a WikimediaCommons page instead of the photographer’s personal Flickr account. We got a demand for over £600 for that, no opportunity to correct the link, and threats of being taken to court if we refused. It was incredibly stressful, I barely slept for a month, and it just about ended our site. I’ve no doubt the way Pixsy operate is going to have even worse consequences for vulnerable people who simply can’t afford a £600 fine like this.

    This isn’t some niche case or the fault of one rogue photographer: going after minor mistakes in Creative Commons attributions is the core of their business. In fact Pixsy is largely useless for tackling real image theft as it relies on a response from the person who used the image. The real criminals have the ability to hide their identity or cover their tracks so can’t be taken to court (something Pixsy rarely does anyway). Pixsy just focuses on pressuring people like me who will respond with threats and are guilty of nothing more than making a typo.

    1. Hi Jennifer,

      Thank you for sharing your experience it is much appreciated. We have forwarded your comments on to Pixsy and hopefully they will come back with comments regarding this matter. Kind regards The CreativeFolk team.

    2. Hi Jennifer,

      As promised, we got in touch with Pixsy regarding your experience and they responded as follows:

      At Pixsy, our aim is to uphold the legal rights of photographers and creators. We offer our clients tools to issue takedown notices right from their account to have the image removed (a viable outcome for personal or non-commercial use of an image), or if our client finds a case of commercial copyright infringement this can be submitted to Pixsy as a case with instructions from our client to pursue this.

      We have key criteria to accept a case, such as it must be commercial in nature. If we find that a case is not commercial or is against a registered not-for-profit (and if they reach out to let us know this information), we will contact our client and coordinate any next steps. It is often difficult to assess the not-for-profit status of a website if there is little contact information or information about its setup or registered status.
      It’s important that any user of an image ensures they have the right permissions/authorizations before using the image, and permission is granted in return for attribution then they follow the instructions carefully.

      To help inform the internet community about copyright and how to use images correctly, we have built an academy section on our site which is dedicated to informing and educating not just image owners and creators, but also image users, of laws surrounding copyright and intellectual property. For instance, this article explains how to correctly attribute images to avoid legal proceedings. Meanwhile, this article goes into detail about how to verify and image and identify the copyright source to ensure attribution is given to the right person.

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