COPYRIGHT

Many of you may know by reading my blog that I’m not well with words. I came across a blog post and asked for permission to use her words about copyright. The photos I give out are my work and what represents what I see. And most importantly I spend hours editing and I don’t want to see my work being worked on, changed or altered because now it does not display “my work”. I’ve had people ask me to bring down the cost by not editing my photos…shooting and editing go hand in hand as well as using a professional lab to print your photos.

Yesterday morning I was browsing through my messages on Facebook. I ran across a previous client and was thrilled to see one of my photos as her profile photos! But then I noticed that something was off about the photo. The colors on the thumbnail were off. So I clicked and started browsing through her profile and saw the album. The album of the photos I had taken of their session, each one re-edited, each one a not so great rendition of my work.

 

I was NOT happy.

 

My worst fear was that someone would look at those photos and my name would be brought up. I was so ashamed. I felt defiled and disrespected, and spent the day trying to figure out what I should do, in tears and sick to my stomach that someone thought they could make my work “better” with their “editing”.

This also had me thinking… Why would  someone do this? Don’t they know that a photo taken by someone else and altering it is against the law? Don’t they know anything about copyrights?? After a brief conversation with my dad, it was obvious that most people have no idea about copyrights and why they are so important.

So let’s begin to debunk your thoughts on Copyrights with seven basic questions and answers:

1.) What is a copyright?

A copyright, according to the US Copyright Office is, “a form of protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression” (U.S. Copyright Office). This covers published and unpublished works. Basically, as soon as my shutter clicks, that photo the camera recorded is now copyrighted because I created it, I am the original “author” of the photo.

2.) Who owns the copyright?

Whoever clicks that shutter owns the copyright to that photo. That’s it. That’s all. Of course, there’s always exceptions. For example, if a photographer is second shooting a wedding, they may  have signed a contract handing the rights of the photos that they take over to the primary shooter. However, this is a fairly uncommon occurrence.

3.) But I’m in the photo! I paid you to take these photos for me! Shouldn’t I own the copyrights?

No. Just as the actors that are in the movies don’t own the rights to the movies, because you are in the photo, you do not own the rights to that photo. Another example, Da Vinci owns the rights to the Mona Lisa, not the model herself. As harsh as this might sound, it is not YOUR creative work, it is the photographer’s creative work.

4.) So what CAN I do and what can I NOT do with copyrighted photos?

The answer to that question is entirely up to your photographer. For my own work, I do give a print release so that you can print the photos I have taken of you wherever you want. Some photographers put restrictions on what labs you can and can not use because they want their work shown in the highest quality. Things I do NOT allow are editing of ANY type of the photos and you may also not use them for commercial or competitive uses.

5.) What is the difference between a “print release” and a “copyright”?

A print release  is a form of limited copyright release. It gives you permission to make copies of your photos for your family and friends, but that is the extent of it. You wouldn’t be allowed to put the photos in a pageant competition or whatnot and you wouldn’t be allowed to use them for your own small (or large) business without prior written consent from the photographer.

6.) How can I get the copyrights to the photos?

I am sure a photographer would be willing to sell their copyright use to you… for a pretty heavy fee. Transferring the copyright of a photo means that the original owner of that copyright would never be able to claim it as their own again. They can’t use it in their portfolios, in advertisements, etc. But most importantly, that photo will no longer be theirs. Without that copyright, they no longer have any claim to the photo or what is done to it. This is why copyrights are taken VERY seriously. If a photographer says that they will give you the copyrights of the photo, keep in mind that they will never be able to use it again as any use of it becomes a copyright violation.

7.) What happens if I violate the copyright laws?

If you take a photographer’s photo, whether you are in it or not, and proceed to violate that photo (use it for your business, claim it as your own, edit it, etc) then the photographer has every right to take you to court and sue you for copyright violation and breach of contract. It is not a happy occasion, and no photographer EVER wants to do that, but we are fiercely protective of our work. You will receive letters reminding you about the copyright laws, but if you continue breaking them, then legal action can, and most often times will, be taken.

There are very few circumstances where you, as the client and consumer, will ever need full rights of the photos you have had taken. If you wish to use them for competitive or business reasons, just ask your photographer to draw up a separate contract or print release to give you permission to. Some photographers may charge a fee for this, but it is minimal in comparison to what could happen if you are found violating copyright laws. These are laws in place to protect our work, our creative development, and we do take them very seriously.

I do hope that this helps clear up any confusion on copyrights and print releases. Please check out the links below to find out more about copyrights and what all they cover.

http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ1.pdf

http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-general.html

http://www.ppa.com/findaphotographer/copyright.php

 

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