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As a photographer, you know that it takes a lot of work to take that perfect picture.  For some of you photography is a way of living, your daily job, and the means for paying your bills.  Some of you have invested countless time and tons of effort to perfect the art of photography.  Some of you invested a lot of money to learn photography with the hope that it will eventually pay back.  And off course, photography equipment does not come in cheap. Sadly, many people will use your photo without authorization and without giving you the credit you deserve. Fortunately, Congress provides creators with legal remedies to recover from those who have infringed on your photos.

But before you take any legal action against an infringer, you should preserve the evidence that will become the base of your case. If you fail to preserve the evidence, any proof of infringement might be lost and your case will be a weaker one.  Many infringers will delete any trace of their wrongdoing, after they have been put in notice.  And some of them will go as far as to denying any involvement, or even denying the infringement itself.  Knowing how to properly preserve the evidence of the infringement could be the decisive factor of a judgment in you favor.

If you found the infringement over the internet, you should first capture the infringer’s website.  There are many ways you can do this, and most of you have probably done it at some point. But don’t only take a screenshot of the website, you should also preserve the URL and the date of the capture. The URL is the unique web address of the site, and will help identify the site where the infringement was committed. If you don’t know how to capture the infringer’s website including the URL and the date of capture, here are two simple methods you can use.

The first one is using the “save as PDF” capabilities that Google Chrome provides. Most people already use Chrome as their web browser, but if you don’t, you could easily download it for free. Once you are in the infringer’s website, open the print menu, just as if you were to print the website. You can do this by right clicking on the site and pressing “print”, or you can use the “Ctr+P” command (Windows), or the “Command+P” (Mac).  The print window will appear.  Change your destination and choose the option “Save as PDF”.  Also, make sure that under options you have selected “Headers and Footers” and “Background Graphics”. This step is crucial as it will imprint the date and URL in the PDF. Then click Save and you are done. Now you have a PDF file with the capture of the website, the URL and date of the capture.

The second method is to use a Chrome extension. We recommend the FireShot Extension, and you can download it for free at https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/take-webpage-screenshots/mcbpblocgmgfnpjjppndjkmgjaogfceg?hl=en. After you install the extension there are a couple of options you need to change to also capture the URL and the date. Click on the extension, which should be a new button at the top right corner of your browser, and click on “options”. Then click on “show filename template settings…”.  Under the “Default filename template” space, type “%t – %u – %m – %d – %y”. This will let you save the capture with the URL and the date of capture. Lastly, change the Filename length to 1,000 instead of 100 and save the settings. Once you have done that, you can simply go to the infringer’s site, click on the extension, and press the “capture entire page button”. After the extension has done its job, follow the extension instructions to save the capture as a PDF. The name of the PDF will contain the URL and the date of capture.

After capturing the website you should research the infringer.  Look for information that will let you identify who the infringer is. The infringer could be a company or an individual. Look for an address and person(s) responsible for the site.  Many websites have “About us” sections where relevant information is provided.  Also, look for information that let you identify when your photo was first uploaded.  Look for general information about the website. What is the website used for? Is it a website for a real estate company? Is it a website promoting a product or service? This information will help the attorney determine the amount of damages that you are entitled to. Search the infringer’s website and look for more infringements.

The steps of preserving the evidence and researching the infringer also apply if the infringement was in print.  Try to save as much evidence as possible.  Save the print and make copies of it. Research the infringer and find out as much as possible about their business.

Don’t take infringements on your work lightly. You worked hard for it and you deserve the credit for what you have created.  Prepare your case, preserve the evidence, and research the company.  Once the preparations are completed, contact an experienced attorney who will help you recover damages caused by the infringer’s wrongdoing.