Copyrights & Photography

The term “Copyright” is often misunderstood. Especially when it comes to art and photography. The first and most obvious question would therefore be; What is Copyright?

In simple terms, copyright for photographers means owning property. With ownership, you get certain exclusive rights to that property. For photographic copyrights, the ownership rights include:

(1) to reproduce the photograph;

(2) to prepare derivative works based upon the photograph;

(3) to distribute copies of the photograph to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;

(4) to display the photograph publicly;

Found in the U.S. Copyright Act at 17 U.S.C. 106 (http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap1.html#106)

*Who owns the copyright in a photograph once it is taken?

In general, when the shutter is released, the photographer who pressed the button owns the copyright. An exception is when the image falls into the “work-made-for-hire”(also known as “work for hire”) category. A work-made-for-hire relationship is created in two situations: (1) the photographer is an employee hired to take photographs for the employer—an example would be a photojournalist who is an employee of a newspaper but not a wedding or portrait photographer who is hired for one event; or (2) the photographer is hired to provide photographs for collective works or compilations and signs a written agreement that specifically states that the work is to be considered a work made for hire. Therefore, freelance photographers are subjected to work-for-hire status only when they agree to it contractually.

*Copyright Education

1) The moment a photograph is created, it is protected by copyright.

2) The photographer has the exclusive right to authorize use of a photograph during his /her lifetime plus 70 years.

3) Written permission to use a photograph should be obtained in advance to avoid infringement.

4) Infringement is any unauthorized use of a photograph, absent some exemption such as fair use.

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