Photographers have complained plenty about online copyright infringement, but so far, the problem hasn’t driven many to quit the profession, or discontinue posting images online.
Nature photographer Alex Wild says he’s had enough, though. In an essay titled “Bugging out: How rampant online piracy squashed one insect photographer,” Wild says infringement of his work has contributed to his decision to quit photography for a position “less prone to the frustrations of a floundering copyright system.”
Wild asserts in the essay, recently published on arstechnica.com, that “For practical purposes, the Internet has become a copyright-free zone.”
He goes on to provide a long list of unauthorized commercial uses of his work, and describe the futility of his efforts to stop it. “I send, on average, five takedown notices to Web hosts every day, devoting ten hours per week to infringements. Particularly egregious commercial infringers get invoices,” he says. “Copyright infringement drains my productivity to the point where I create hundreds fewer images each year.” Just ignoring the infringements is a bad option, and so is suing them, for several reasons he explains. For one, his business competes with “uncredited copies of my own work.” As he explains, “Who wants to pay for an image that is already everywhere?”
Wild concludes by calling for copyright reform that provides “reassurances that the mere act of participating online won’t force [artists] to choose between bankruptcy and chasing infringers through the rabbit hole of ineffective copyright enforcement.” Which is just the kind of reform that photographers’ trade groups have been chasing for years through the rabbit hole of Washington politics.