£27k from ©hasing

DON'T MESS with the Hoff! Photographer David Hoffman spent two evenings last year looking for his photos on the web and following up on unlicensed use. A year later, he's recovered £27,000 in fees. "It's boring red-eyed work, slow and tedious; taking screen grabs and making notes", says David. You can read the details of his online adventures on the Editorial Photo UK website at www.epuk.org/The-Curve/491/enforcing-your-copyright.

David's armoury of online tools to hunt copyright theft includes the search engine www.A9.com and www.touchgraph.com - which shows maps of the internet with "relationships" between sites. Then www.whois.net tells you who owns or registered which site; and www.amazon.com turns up a surprising number of photo credits from books, some of which are unlicensed uses.

Other tips are: concentrate on subjects where your photos will have predictable words in the title or caption; and record unlicensed web use by filing screen-grabs with dates. And, as elsewhere in journalism, you can't claim anything if you've "assigned" your copyright!

David's finds included BBC Worldwide using pictures after their licence had expired; a shipping insurer; some "rather large charities"; and eight pictures on Stoke-on-Trent City Council's site. When he alerted them that they had one of his pictures on their site, they removed the other seven. After paying David's invoice with a 75 per cent uplift, Stoke City stole another of his pictures.

Apart from a donation to a local charity for street kids by a copyright-abusing Indonesian radio station at David's request, David didn't hope to get much from outside the UK, and found registering his copyright in the US a particularly difficult task.

But some London Freelance Branch members have wrung money out of copyright abusers abroad. Writer and LFB Committee member Andrew Mueller has extracted money out of copyright abusers based in Australia, Germany and - after paying a Calcutta lawyer what it would cost to send one letter - from India.

The principle that you get double your money when work is used without permission almost made it into European law, so it's worth the NUJ continuing to lobby at the international level. We are hoping to persuade the International Federation of Journalists to promote a system of mutual support in small claims courts - whereby unions in other countries would agree to offer the same kind of support they give their members - but it's still a long way off being formalised.

You could also try reporting recalcitrant UK-based copyright infringers to your local Trading Standards Officer - via www.tradingstandards.gov.uk - who now has formal responsibility for copyright infringements.

The London Freelance Branch meeting on Monday 10 September will look at how to pursue online copyright thieves. We plan to have a live demonstration of tracking down infringers, and have hopes of hearing from David Hofmann.

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