image monitoring

Copyright-theft at a bargain price

Stealing copyright-protected pictures online is a punishable offence. But what is the punishment for stealing such a picture? Or a hundred of them? Find out what infringers can expect, and how you can protect your images from them.

Ever since the first human civilizations took root on the Earth, stealing has been regarded as a crime. Even in ancient times, theft was a punishable offence, and more often than not, retribution was brutal: taking something that wasn’t rightfully theirs could be punished by cutting off a thief’s hand, or worse.

Today, the punishment of theft in most societies is more appropriate to the seriousness of the crime and is usually punished by a fine to be paid by the thief, or in worse cases, incarceration. The more serious the crime, the heavier the punishment.

Unless you’re stealing lots of IP-protected pictures online, because in that case, you could get a volume discount and pay much less. At least, the German District Court of Frankenthal seems to think so.

The court case

In 2019, the owner of the webshop zunft.de detected by accident that a competitor used his picture of a product on their own webshop without consent. After some further digging, the IP-right holder discovered that the thief had not only taken that one picture, but almost two hundred (180 to be exact).

The right holder took the case to court, demanding compensation and the removal of the infringing images. He based his calculations for compensation on the regular fees for using copyrighted pictures in Germany, as published and updated annually by the Federal Association of Professional Image Providers.

According to this database and the duration during which his images were available on the competitor’s website, he filed for a sum of 700 euro per image plus 100% in damages for the unlawful use. This means 1,400 euro per picture, and altogether 250,000 euro for the whole collection.

Unfortunately for him, the court had other ideas.

Cheaper by the dozen

In its verdict on 20 July 2021, the District Court of Frankenthal decided to apply a discount on the penalty. Since the infringer didn’t use one but quite a lot of pictures, the court believed that if these pictures had been acquired and used legally, the buyer would get a discount.

Based on the usual discounts photographers give to clients who order a larger amount of pictures, the court ruled that using 180 images merited a discount for the copyright-infringer as well. Instead of the 250,000 euro the right-holder asked for, the court ordered the infringer to pay only 60,000 euro compensation, about a fifth of the original amount.

The attorney of the IP-right holder believes that this verdict endangers the investment of webshop owners into quality images. The court regarded the thief as a regular businessperson buying images instead of a copyright-infringer who stole the property of others.

In this regard, it would be best to treat IP-infringements as crimes against physical property. As he said, “a store owner wouldn’t get discounted compensation from a thief just because they stole quite a lot of things.” (translated from German by globaleyez)

Image monitoring to the rescue

Aside from the obvious logical problem where the court treats the infringer as a regular customer, did you notice any issues? Well, we did: how the IP-right holder noticed the infringement “by accident.”

Stealing a picture (or any type of brand imagery like a logo) online takes about two seconds. For skilled thieves aided by software, even less. With minimum effort, infringers have already helped themselves to quality images to enhance their sales at your expense, or even worse, impersonate your brand to consumers.

A person in a hoodie typing on a laptop
A person in a hoodie typing on a laptop

When unchecked, these infringements can cause your brand significant losses of revenue, trust and reputation. But do you think you’ll be able to stumble upon all those stolen pictures and brand imagery by accident?

We don’t think so. In fact, as the internet grows by 3,000% each year, it’s virtually impossible to discover infringements by accident.

So let’s act on purpose. globaleyez’s image monitoring service does just that. Our powerful software tools crawl the internet, looking for brand imagery and copyright-protected pictures. Extensive filter options allow us to separate authorized users from infringers, as well as small timers from the big fish. We can do continuous or one-time monitoring, or anything in between.

Stop infringers from stealing your copyrighted images. Contact globaleyez and find out how we can protect your brand.

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