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Copyright Your Instagram Photos With One Hashtag | #Blockai

By Kishore Sawh on November 19th 2016

From around the end of the first quarter this year, there were a bumper crops of rather noteworthy/infamous lawsuits regarding copyright claims of imagery, and each on perhaps more fantastic than the last. Who could forget Carol Highsmith, a photographer who donated her life’s work to the Library of Congress, is suing Getty Images for “gross misuse” of her photographs and copyright infringement for the neat sum of one billion (that’s a B) dollars. While that one won’t soon be forgotten, cases like that gave voice to those that would be, and it helped bring more awareness to the need for copyright, and the rather inefficient and thus ineffective system in place within out legal system. That, and it gets more complicated since the internet knows no land borders, and international theft of imagery is rampant.

The only truly surefire way to copyright your images is to register them with the US Copyright Office, but not only is it a lengthy and expensive route if you register one photo at a time, it’s tedious, and in today’s business world that travels at the speed of thought, it’s too much. There are tools/services that help; things like ImageRights which does a fine job too, but then there’s Blockai (using the power of blockchains) which seems to be the most forward thinking of the lot, if not perfect right now.

The blockchain is the perfect solution for providing proof of creation. It’s a permanent immutable record. Meaning, once the record is there it’s there forever and will never change. – CEO of Blockai Nathen Lands

We wrote about the system in June of this year, but excitedly, since then they’ve been branching out and incorporating the mediums of today: social networks. First came Twitter integration and now the truly big fish, Instagram. It used to be the Blockai users would go to their homepage, and upload their work in a database which would take down key info about the image, a copy of it, record a timestamp, and Bob’s your uncle. If and when Blockai or you find someone using your imager improperly, you could send a copy of the certificate and issue a cease and desist or DMCA notice, helping the legal case. Now, Blockai users can simply hashtag ‘Blockai’ on the image they put into cyberspace via twitter or Instagram, a comment should appear below the image with a link to the certificate, and the company will take care of the registering and send you the certificate. They’ve simplified the process.



CAF P-51 Mustang. #instagramaviation #aviationdaily #bosea20 #whyifly #blockai

A photo posted by Jim Koepnick (@jim_koepnick) on

As we mentioned before, the true question is does this actually have strong legal footing since it’s not registering with the US Copyright Office, but the team says their certificate carries much more weight in court than a screen capture, and companies and individuals should be much more responsive to an official certificate or notice than the same said screen capture. It’s good to keep in mind too, that just because your image isn’t officially registered doesn’t mean the law isn’t on your side, and you may have time after the infringement is found to file with the US Copyright Office if you have proof it’s yours. Blockai is also free to artists so, why not?

If the company had regressed I may have suggested to skip it, but they seem to be moving forward, and should be incorporating more networks soon. That said, I still believe a serious photographer should consider officially registering their image, even though it can be expensive. But hey, do it in bulk to cut costs.

Check out Blockai here

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A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Neil Caughlan

    A bit irresponsible to label registering with the copyright office as “expensive ” and suggesting it can only be done one at a time. You can register thousands of immages for under $100. This will hold up in court. It is also reckless to send out your own notice to a company. If you have a registered immage that is being infringed on, go directly to a lawyer who specializes in copyright litigation. The infringing party is responsible for your league fees as well.

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    • Kishore Sawh

      Neil, I’m afraid you’re mistaken. There is nothing in the post that states you can only register one image at a time, and, in fact, the closing line suggests to do it in bulk. That said, there are prohibiting factors involved, and sometimes photographers (especially in some genres) will not have a bevy of images in need or warrant of being registered, but in fact have one, or very few.

      Furthermore, stating it’s reckless to send out your own notice is merely your opinion but also a bit of a broad statement. It’s well within your power as an individual, and legal costs involved even for small claims can be sizable for a sole proprietor or small business. The system, as it stands currently, is somewhat stacked against small business operators or individual photographers, particularly if the infringement is debatably small. Copyright litigation isn’t cheap, nor is there any guarantee the case will be ruled in your favor in order to possibly recoup those legal costs – costs that can be incurred just for your case to be assessed.

      Lastly, there seems to be the assumption on your end that all plaintiffs are seeking damages/monetary compensation, when in fact many will just be looking for removal or credit.

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  2. Adrian Nyaoi

    More a watermark than anything; copyright is automatic in most countries. Better to register the copyright with the copyright Office

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  3. Hannes Nitzsche

    I love that here in Australia you automatically own the copyright of your work without having to register it. It seems like such a cash-grab of the US government to request registration (and then charge for it) and it certainly isn’t easy for photographers, especially for those producing thousands of images a year (most of us, I guess)…

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    • Steven Pellegrino

      In the US you also automatically own the copyright of your work. Here’s how Wikipedia describes it:

      “Copyright is automatically granted to the author of an original work (that otherwise meets the basic copyright requirements, discussed above). Registration is not necessary. However, registration amplifies a copyright holder’s rights in a number of ways. Registration is required before a lawsuit can be filed, and registration creates the possibility for enhanced “statutory” damages.”

      Registration isn’t that expensive. I think it’s about $55 for a collection of about 750 photos. It gets expensive doing it one photo at a time ($35 per filing if I remember correctly).

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    • Hannes Nitzsche

      Thank you for the clarification Steven! Interesting to know! :)

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    • Peter Aikins

      Apparently you do not need to register your image in Australia to launch legal proceedings. It sounds like it is a US thing. It is a shame that so much of this stuff is written only from the perspective of US copyright law when the majority of images are being created by people outside that jurisdiction.

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  4. Nathan Lands

    Thanks for writing about us, Kishore!

    Regarding registering with the copyright office, I think it could be useful for readers to know about another announcement. Well known intellectual property litigator and artist rights advocate Jeff Gluck has joined Blockai as an advisor.

    He will help us work towards creating the ability for Blockai users to seamlessly register their claims with the U.S. copyright office.

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