For several decades, visual art studies have been suffered from what we might call ‘Benjamin syndrome’: a belief that social changes could be deduced from the technological development and the will to draw the fault line of the ongoing digital seism.

Far from being critical, this statement is particularly true as concerns professional photographers, who are the most affected by copyright infringements. “Rete Fotografia” has recently presented a conference on the subject (Media e copyright, fra condivisione virtuosa e utilizzi illeciti), the 25th of May 2015, in the building of the Lombardy Region, Milan. Italian copyright law makes a difference between “photography as intellectual property” and “simple” photography. As the lawyer Carlo Eligio Mezzetti declared: “We are in a phase of changes and potentially overcoming of limitations of domestic legal system”. A public commission, on July 2014, submitted a survey to citizens, photographers and institutions concerning the Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society. They received more than 9,500 feedbacks on themes of public interest such as the right of reproduction, communication and distribution of images. Successively, the “Reda Report” made some proposals on the development of copyrights in the Europe zone: the improvement of contractual positions of authors by feed aggregators (e.g. web search engines); the formulation of a unique European copyright law and the adoption of the American “free-use images” example for pictures used for non-commercial purposes. As a consequence, proposals of “Reda report” aim to create one legislative package for the digital single market (copyrights, VAT, etc.); to find a European solution, equal for all, as concerns territorial restrictions through the use of geolocation tools for contents in different countries; to adopt a unique copyright transfer agreement for images on the web. The legislative process – whose developments can be followed on www.europal.europa.eu – might optimistically be concluded, according to Mr Mezzetti, within two years. In Italy, the growing need for a protection of copyright led to the creation of a web portal that allows the reporting of illegal use to the AGICOM authority (www.ddaonline.it). Photographers are definitely divided on the practice of sharing or not images on their website or through social networks. How is it possible to invest in photography sharing and at the same time protect authors’ rights?

A possible answer is given by Tommaso Grotto, CEO of Kopjra, an Italian company whose aim is to interconnect authors and content distributors and automate making effective control operations of unauthorized use of images on the web.

One of the most reliable ways to protect your photographs is metadata (EXIF keyword input, terms and privacy condition setting www.emboddedmetadata.org) and fingerprint (TinEye, picscout, imagerights, mypicguard) or watermark (Digimark, c-registry, adptools, plumamazing, Uconomix). Unfortunately, some of them are really unpopular amongst certain photographers, such as Settimio Benedusi, who takes sides against the use of trademarks because they could damage the aesthetic integrity of the image. Some good practices for protection of images are, for example, do not forget to associate, when you share your pictures on the web, your IP License; identifying website users; using robots tracks for image indexing; prevent from downloading your photos with html, css, javascript (www.copysafe.com). The analysis of the circulation of photographs on the web (here you are some of the portals available for this activity: images.google.com, copyscape, pictriew, stolencamerafinder.com) brings to light that the best social network to publish photos is Google Plus, because your metadata are completely preserved. If you suspect a copyright violation, you can verify by means of the portal www.who.is, while the forensic evidence can be found through www.surety.com. In order to protect intellectual property and privacy, Kopjra – already partner of Telecom Italia, Tesla Consulting and of the Media Integration and Communication Center (MICC), University of Florence – is working on the creation of a website to identify those who violate the law, to collect forensic evidences and to ask for the advice of a team of lawyers. As Tommaso Grotto announced: “We are already collaborating with MyTemplArt project in order to find some solutions for photographs and video art protection, offering a secure data archiving system.”

Protecting photographs as an intellectual property is complicated and tracking images on the web is not enough. Photographs should be certified. It should be always declared if a picture is part of a limited edition portfolio and it is better if it is part of a whole project. If the success of a picture is always due to its widespread distribution, its identity protection is due to a secure data archiving system.

Deianira Amico

This post is also available in: Italian