Do you copyright your work?
This is a tough one. In the U.S. technically the work you create is already owned by you when you create it. But if a lawsuit is involved, if you didn’t officially register your work with the Copyright Office, you may have a harder time winning the case.
Most artists recommend copyrighting work, but when it comes to doing it themselves? Well, that’s not always the case because in reality, copyrighting is expensive and, frankly, a pain in the ass.
No. Everybody should copyright their work. If your work is stolen and it’s not copyrighted, it’s a lot harder to sue somebody.[I don’t] because it’s a lot of work . . . [a]nd it’s gotten more expensive.
I have a little bit of trust in the universe. Whatever happens, happens. You know, you read about those crazy stories of photographers who have a photo stolen, they’ve copyrighted it, they go to court and they get a million-dollar check and, like, Wow, that would be cool. But at the same time, that’s not how I want to make a living, by going to court.
I had people steal my photos and paid lawyers to write them letters and 50/50 I’ve gotten money out of it. I’ve never taken it past writing a letter because then it’s pretty expensive to continue to pursue it.
I write a letter where it’s like, You broke the law, you owe me money, this is my lawyer. They can easily never reply, never say anything, then you have to keep pursuing. I never kept pursuing. But sometimes you write that letter and whoever at the company sees it is like, Well, let’s pay him. I’ve always just asked for fair value, nothing more, nothing less.
Copyrighting. It’s a tough one. Because honestly, it would take a lot of work to truly copyright your work through the U.S. government and not many of us really do that. I’ve done it before with some of my more famous work but I still see it all over the internet anyway, there’s no way around it. Once it’s out there, it’s out there.
I had high-res work that you could get on the TGR forum. Somebody asked for it on the forum and some European guy who had published some of my most famous shots put it on there. I was floored. I asked him to please donate to the McConkey Foundation if he was going to take my work. I don’t want the money, but it’s not free.
The CASE Act is up in Congress. It’s an ASMP project and I hope it passes. Because what we would love to see is some sort of sidecar [file] attached to imagery on the internet. Something more like what music’s done so it can be tracked a little bit easier and be protected. I work too hard for my work just to let it go.
Stealing imagery irritates me. It’s so hard for me to put my work online that I’m pretty passionate about even though some of it is 20 years old. But I need to as a photographer. I could do so many “McConkey Mondays” and “Throwback Thursdays” but I’m not really on Instagram and anyone advising me today would probably tell me I’m absolutely nuts. But it’s still kind of working so I don’t know.