May 14, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

Copyright part  1


To start the new  blog on my newest website,  I wanted this to have some substance and be educational for those that watch my photography as well as for many of those newbies that are in the industry.  So if you are a model, designer, photographer or agency etc, I thought I would first blog about copyright and some of the major changes in the industry.  Let me preface that I am not a lawyer, but have researched this to some degree for 15 yrs in doing photography.  I am  taking a very beginners basic look at this first as I have had many of you ask me questions with regard to copyright.

With the advent of digital photography, everyone has a camera today and is wanting to be known as a “photographer’ in some way shape or form.  New models decide to pick up a camera so they can be infront of and behind the lens.  Average Joe got a camera for Christmas and is shooting everything in the house just because its fun.  A mom with 4 kids just can’t put the camera down and now everyone wants her to photograph their children or family portraits.  These are just a few scenarios I have come across over the years.  In many instances, the person with the camera really doesn’t know the legalities behind the images they are taking and nor does the subject/model.   This can present some major challenges and relationship/business constraints later. 

I have seen new photographers post many of their images to social networks  of families, children, or whatever in hopes to get paid for the job or get paid for prints.   Often, the subject knowingly or unknowingly takes the images uses them and reposts/prints them wherever they please often without approval of the “photographer”.  Being new, the photographer has no idea of their copyright is being infringed.  Or they are aware of the infringement, they just do not know what they can or cannot do or say.

So what is copyright?  Copyright is a legal device that gives the creator of a literary, artistic, musical, or other creative work the sole right to publish and sell that work. Copyright owners have the right to control the reproduction of their work, including the right to receive payment for that reproduction. An author may grant or sell those rights to others, including publishers or recording companies. Violation of a copyright is called infringement.  

So how do you copyright an image taken with your camera?  You don’t, it already has a copyright.  Once you press the shutter, that image now has your copyright.  No one can publish, produce, print, reprint or copy the image without your written consent.  You don’t have to submit paperwork or anything for your image to have a copyright. However, there are advantages in filing for copyright. If filed before infringement in the case of a dispute, you would be able to sue for punitive damages (in addition to compensatory damages).

There are some caveats to that statement above.  For example, if I shoot the photo at a private event or some public event that is paid for by a sponsor or governing entity, then there is gray area in that copyright.   Lets take for example a photographer that decides to go shoot a local fashion show without being invited or given written consent to do so.  According to several discussions I have been having with lawyers recently, there is a co-copyright to that image.    That photographer then would need written consent in using that image for commercial use or even in some cases for their own use.  They would not be allowed to redistribute, sell, or give images to anyone according to the co-copyright.  I am still researching this example because in today’s market, there could potentially be a ton of law suits based on this scenario.  Regardless, it just means that photographers and everyone need to be aware of the copyright discussion and what their legal rights are or are not.

In today's world, copyright is an ongoing discussion with social networking and many issues that have arisen with how images are used, electronically stored, and infringed.  Below are some recent examples to get familiar with;

A fellow photographer friend of mine is always on top of blogging this:

Part 2 coming next week.


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