What do the pros do?
All right, all of this sounds wonderful, but what do working professionals actually do? I can’t answer that question for most of my colleagues, but I can tell you what I do—or, more to the point, what I don’t do. I don’t bother registering my copyrights, because I think opportunities for successfully suing someone over online theft are few and far between, and getting real money is extremely unlikely, so even limited time and money spent on registration fails my cost-benefit analysis. I don’t spend any time doing Google Image searches to see who is stealing my work. And I don’t watermark my images, as discreet watermarks are incredibly easy to remove, although when posting to social media sites I usually include a border around the image with the image title and my name, but that is mostly because I think it looks good. I actually think watermarking is a good idea, if for no other reason than to make sure that when your photo gets shared by others, people will know if belongs to you (I’m thinking of starting to watermark for this very reason). Overall, I tend to take the “free advertising” approach to most Internet infringement, and consider worrying about the rest as a waste of time.
Here’s a real world example which helps explain my attitude. One of my colleagues called me several years ago to let me know that an electronics store in Portugal had stolen a few of our images and was using them to sell computer monitors online (basically, they had superimposed our nature images on the photos of the monitor screens). His initial requests to the company had gone unanswered, so he spent several days organizing his Facebook followers to bombard the company with nasty messages until they stopped using his photos. He suggested I do the same. I asked him only two questions: How much time did you spend doing this? And did you make any money? The answer to the first question was “too much,” and the answer to the second was “nothing at all.” I decided to simply not bother. Instead of wasting time for nothing more than a moral victory, I instead spent my time productively building my business. Even if I had all the appropriate legal protections in place, the time and money invested in suing someone in another country, and the subsequent distraction and disruption this would have caused to my business, would probably have not been worth the eventual payoff. In short—to me at least—the juice is simply not worth the squeeze.