What is Copyright?
It is a property right - the ownership of one's creative work. Copyright owners have full control over what happens to their works of art. Owners of copyright may grant permissions to other parties for use of artwork, transfer copyright, or even sell their copyright. If one violates said Copyright, it is called an infringement.
A few examples of infringement:
- Selling/publishing an image, artwork, or creative masterpiece without granted permission or obtaining ownership of the Copyright.
- Manipulating the image (placing a filter, editing it, etc., without permission).
- Downloading photos or 'sneak peeks' without permission
- Claiming the artwork to be your own when in fact it belongs to someone else.
You Have Hired a Photographer and Received Your Photos - Who Owns Them?
This is a fantastic question, and something I have felt compelled to discuss with my clients to educate more folks. We live in a digital world and as a Photographer, it is very common for people to misunderstand copyright. It is common to think that because you purchased a package with a Photographer, you should be able to do whatever you want with the images delivered to you, right? Wrong. The copyright belongs to the photographer from the very moment the art is created (the moment I press my shutter button), and the copyright remains with the artist unless it is transferred to another party by putting it in writing and having the owner sign it over. I personally have copyright fees, and will be happy to discuss those fees with any clients that is interested in fully owning the copyright to images. When I sign over my copyright, I no longer have the right to share, publish, or use those images in any manner, because I am no longer the owner. However, when a client doesn't want to pay for the Copyright, I ALWAYS provide a License of Use.
What is a License of Use?
License of Use is a contract in which a Photographer grants you permission to use the images they have captured for you. For example, when I take Family, Engagement, and Wedding Portraits, I provide my clients with a PERSONAL LICENSE OF USE. Below is an example:
"I give you specific permission to use the images to make prints for personal use, to display on your personal computer, and to publish on your personal website or social media. Without first obtaining permission from the author, you may not: resell the images, use images for advertising, submit these photos to newspapers, publishers, or photo agencies. If used for any of the above with granted permission, it is required the author of the photos receives proper recognition and the copyright be purchased. "
When I photograph commercially for businesses, we discuss what their plans are for the images. Will they be using them solely for their Website? Will they be using them to publish in a magazine, on a Billboard, or using these images on material they will be selling to their consumers? This is where I would provide them with my COMMERCIAL LICENSE OF USE. Below is an example:
"I give you specific permission to use the images to make prints for commercial use, to display on your commercial computer, and to publish on your commercial website or social media. Without first obtaining permission from the author, you may not: resell the images, use images for advertising, submit these photos to newspapers, publishers, or photo agencies. You may not grant another commercial or small business to use these images without granted permission. If used for any of the above with granted permission, it is required the author of the photos receives proper recognition and the copyright be purchased. "
Now, depending on the businesses intent for these images, a license of use can be granted for publications in newspapers, magazines, and for advertising. That will be discussed prior to our session.
What About Social Media?
This one is tough. We live in a world today where people think it is okay to re-post another's work on their own Instagram, Facebook, Blog, Pinterest, etc., without first obtaining permission. It's a digital world now. As a Photographer, I document Weddings, Businesses, and Families all of the time. When I have photographed at Venues, the Vendors think they automatically get a right to your photos for their own Marketing. This is not the case. It is up to the Photographer as to whether or not they want to share THEIR images with you. At my own wedding, my Make-Up artist wanted to use the images from my Photographer on her Instagram. Instead of saying, "Heck yeah! Use away!", I responded, "I am okay with it, but please obtain permission from my photographer first." Guess what?! She asked, and my photographer granted her permission! SO SIMPLE.
As a Photographer:
- You have the right to refuse to give Vendor's my images for their own marketing use.
- You have the right to put an expiration on the License of Use.
- You have the right to ask for a signed contract prior to granting a third party use of my images.
- You have the right to be compensated for your art, hard-work, time, and expertise.
When I first started in this industry, I granted permission all of the time for Instagram/Facebook re-posts, because I was attempting to gain exposure. Now that I am well established, and know my worth, I am not desperate for the exposure. I now require Professional Businesses that want to use my photos for their own marketing materials to pay an investment fee of $25.00/ image they want to share. I provide them with a 'License of Use' and take my watermark off the image. They didn't pay me for my time, but they will compensate me for my work they want to display. Again, SO SIMPLE.
If I see someone is sharing my images without paying the investment, I will request payment. If the other party declines to oblige, I will send a cease + desist letter to them. This is my lively-hood, and how I and many photographers put food on their table, a roof over their head, and more. It is our job. You wouldn't work for free, so please respect that this is a Photographer's Artwork that belongs to THEM. It is their intellectual property, so if you want to use it - pay them.
When I photograph for Branding Photography or Businesses that need Marketing Material -
I am making art for that business that hired me, and solely that business. If another business wants access to those images for their own Marketing, because they were used as a Vendor - I am happy to discuss options for purchase with them. Also, how is it fair that my original client paid top-dollar for the use of these images and another business gets to use them leisurely for the marketing at no cost? Not very fair at all. What about the Photographer? They were paid for their time and work by one consumer, but the other business wants to consume for free? I think not. It is about valuing the Producer's skill, ability, time, and their expertise. Please don't be the person that does this.
How to Avoid Infringement + Stealing Someone's Intellectual Property:
- Inform your clients - this is my attempt right now, but will continue to educate each one of my clients for years to come, because I believe it is so important.
- Put it in your Contracts - Consult your Attorney - Cover all of your grounds necessary to protect yourself.
- Mark your prints
- A Copyright tag line
- Ask permission! Not sure if you should ask permission? Ask anyway - you may save yourself from copyright infringement.
- Don't manipulate a photograph, image, or piece of art by re-editing, modifying, or slapping a filter on the image.
To educate fellow consumers about Copyright Law, because chances are at some point in your life you will either purchase or come into contact with an Artist, Photographer, or Creative. I want to share some knowledge on this stuff to inform folks that may not know or understand copyright law, and to hopefully help other creatives gain the respect their artwork deserves. Integrity is so important and something hard to come by these days. Be a good person and respect the hard-work of others - by doing this, you will go far!