Copyright and Watermarks

A while back, we walked you through tips on how to take a great product photograph with your phone. But! There was one key topic we didn’t dive into back then: when you take a photograph – you own it! It’s yours! It is officially your intellectual property. 

This might sound…pretty obvious, actually. But you might be surprised at the misunderstandings and misconceptions that are out there. Now, there are a lot of wonderful people on the internet who do things like create beautiful floral crafts to put out in the world. That said, there are also the kind of people who will just take a photograph that’s not theirs and use it for their own promotional and marketing purposes. And since that photo is, in fact, your legal property, that’s illegal.

Well! The good news is there’s a whole system set up to protect you from stuff like this. That’s right. Today, we’re talking copyright law.

But First, an Important Message

We’re treading into legal waters here, and I want to make it as clear as possible: I am not a lawyer. This does not constitute legal advice. I am pretty well researched on the topic, but the closest I’ve been to being a lawyer is enjoying the occasional Law & Order marathon. So please – take this as general guidance, but for true legal matters, you need to work with a professional attorney.

And One More Message

Here we’re talking about copyright laws specifically as to how they pertain to product photographs you take for your business. Copyright law is a large and complex beast. For instance, you can’t take a picture of a person and share it publicly without their consent. And commercial usage rights are a whole other can of worms. So while we are happy to dive into those other topics in the future (let us know in the comments if you want us to!), today we are focused on the photographs you yourself take of your products and finished pieces. With that said…

What Exactly Is a Copyright?

Like I said up top, simply taking a photograph affords you legal protection over your creative work. This means that if anyone uses your photograph(s) without your permission, copyright law is on your side. 

Basically, if someone is using your photographs without permission, you have recourse options on your side.

What Should I Do if Someone Passes off My Work as Their Own?

This can be a multi-step process.

The first: reach out to the offending party and politely but firmly tell them that they are using your copyrighted work without consent and to remove the photograph(s) from any social media sites or their website. Give them a 24 hour deadline. With any decency, they will comply, and that will be that.

But let’s say you’ve got a non-compliant person on your hands and they won’t take your photos down. What then?

Well, then you report them. Here are the reporting links for various social media platforms:

If you’re having issues with any other social media platform, a quick search should find you the right form.

Your final recourse is legal action. It should hopefully be as simple as a cease & desist letter but could end up in civil court. If the actions before this did not rectify the situation, at this point you will want to consult an attorney to guide you through the process.

How Can I Prevent This From Happening In The First Place?

It is possible to deter copyright theft with a watermark. A watermark is a graphic you put on your image (say, your business name, logo, something along those lines) that indicates that it’s your work. If Jane Doe wants to pass off my work, but there’s a big Oh You’re Lovely watermark right in the middle, people will know she’s being less-than-honest.

Watermarks also come with their own set of issues however. Consider:

  • If a watermark is too small, on a white or solid color background, or in the corner
    Then it’s easy enough for a savvy thief to crop it out, cover it up, or even blend it out
  • If a watermark is too big
    That makes it a bit harder for intellectual property thieves to manipulate. But! Your craft work will be obscured and unclear.
  • If you’ve got the Goldilocks watermark…juuuust right
    This can be very effective for your protection when posting your work on social media pages and in groups that you don’t own since you are generally posting only one or a few photos at one time. When thinking about your own website or social media pages though, a website or social media page SWIMMING in watermarks will look cluttered and could be very off-putting. If you have created a brand “look”, people will begin to know your photography style. We have seen it happen many times in our sola wood flower niche where a fellow florist is able to tell another that their photograph is being misused.

So it’s a balancing game – you may want watermarks that are just big enough to protect your work, but you don’t want them covering your entire website or social media pages. In short, watermarks are a means of protection, but they do require additional considerations.

A Final Note on Watermarks and Copyright

There’s something I’ve noticed that I don’t particularly love when it comes to the thievery of intellectual properties. From time to time, I’ve seen brands (including ours) outwardly acknowledging the fact that they’ve had their copyright protections infringed upon. 

What happens next is a chorus of comments advising on what the copyright owner should have/could have done differently to protect themselves from the theft (and most are along the lines of “use a watermark next time!”)

I think that when copyright theft happens, don’t turn your energies towards that kind of “tsk tsk” to the photograph owner. Instead, be upset with the thief! They’re the ones worthy of judgment, not the person using their own platforms to share a picture of their actual talents!

In summary, remember to protect your property, know what to do when you need protection, and remember to support your fellow crafters if and when they are experiencing any such situation!

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