It’s Your Work: Prove It


Story Updated 04/08/09 (see end) Jon Engle is a graphic designer from New Mexico. He has done work for many TV shows and TV networks as well as countless Web sites.

However, a recent series of events has put Engle’s reputation at risk. According to a post in Engle’s blog, a stock art site has accused him of copyright infringement. They have presented him with an $18,000 bill, threatened him with a lawsuit and even contacted his previous clients, claiming that he was under investigation for infringement and that the work he did for them “may have been stolen from their client.”

The problem, according to Engle, is that he created the works himself and that he believes someone uploaded them to the stock photography site without his permission, and in violation of that site’s terms of service. But the company, feeling that the uploads were legitimate, are aggressively protecting what they see as their intellectual property, using their copyright attorney.

However, it doesn’t matter who is in the right in this case. For either side to clear their name, they are going to have to prove that the work is theirs. Unfortunately, as Engle admits, this will not be a simple matter as he “would never have thought to plan for something like this”. Though he has some incidental proof, namely upload dates to LogoPond and metadata in the files themselves, these are hardly ideal since Engle is not completely sure when the images were lifted.

Engle’s story highlights the need for writers, artists, photographers and other creators to be aware that there are a million ways their work could come into dispute and to prepare for such a situation in advance. The end goal is be in a situation where, no matter what happens to your work, you always have proof that you created it first. [Read more…]