Landscape Photography
Waylandscape. Fine Art Landscape Photography by Gary Waidson - Castlerigg, The Circle of Fire

What is the real cost of copyright theft.


Someone seemed surprise recently when I described having an image illegally used by someone else on the Internet as “Theft”.

“It's only a picture” they said, “everyone takes pictures from the Internet, what's the big deal?”

I guess if you point a mobile phone at your family and are happy with someone else using it that might be a good point. However, those are not the type of picture that are usually stolen on-line. The types of pictures that tend to be stolen are those once in a lifetime images that make people go “Wow”.  Those kind of pictures often take time, skill and effort.   There is an investment that leads to those kind of images.

Let's take a simple example. I am on location to take a landscape image at the right time to produce an award winning photograph. You might say that was luck but I know that needs planning and commitment.


1 hour of planning 10

1 hour of packing and preparation 10

3 hours of driving  30

Outbound travelling expenses 90

( Fuel and vehicle costs @ 50p/mile )

3 hours on location 30

3 hour driving home 30

Return travelling expenses 90

Total cost of just “being there” 290

( This is a relatively local example within 200 miles. )


I cannot always predict the weather conditions so it might be my second or third visit to the location.

Let's say I'm lucky and get it second time around.  290 x 2 = 580

That does not include any food or accommodation I may require or extra time, flights and vehicle hire if I am shooting further afield.

I need a camera and a lens to actually take the image of course. The kind of pictures I take don't come from a smartphone so a decent camera and lens with a couple of spare batteries comes in at about 2000

But what about the rest of the lenses in my bag? I don't know until I get there exactly which lens I may need so that's another 3000 (Good glass isn't cheap ) and a few hundred pounds of other bits and pieces including a tripod, filters, releases, and bags.

So 6000 is not an unreasonable estimate for what it would cost someone starting from nothing to be able to get one of the pictures I show here.     Perhaps that is what I should charge when someone just steals one of my pictures online then.

Well, that isn't the full story... The images need processing when I get back home and the computer needed for that is not the sort of thing you can buy on the high street. I built it myself from components that cost me well over a grand. If you include the build time, the peripherals and software licenses you wouldn't get much change from 2000

Then there is the time spent editing and processing the files needed to produce the images ( the image you see here required one hundred and eleven exposures all individually edited, processed and blended to make the final image. Not a quick process as you can imagine. )

To learn my craft, I studied photography full time for two years and part time for a year or so before that. At today’s prices that education would cost about 20,000 with living costs on top of that.

Keeping up to date, especially during the change from analogue to digital technology, took a lot of practice, study and reading and I'm looking at hundreds of pounds of books on my shelf.

So when you decide that it would be cheaper to just steal my work to fill your website, rather than actually pay for my time, effort and investment, do not be too surprised when an invoice for about 30,000 lands on your desk along with a letter from my lawyer.

If I do have to take you to court, that will just be the start point of the costs we will claim. Jane, my lawyer, is very good but she doesn't work for nothing either.