Protecting and Prosecuting Your Images

admin, 09 March 2012, No comments
Categories: Legal
Tags: , , , ,

You’re sitting in your easy chair and surfing the web. You’re not paying much attention, until you see it. It’s your photo, but you did not post it there. You can’t believe they used your photo without your permission.

Do you care? Maybe your photo is being used by a family to decorate its news page. Maybe it’s being used to sell a product. Does that make a difference to you?

If the answer to both questions is no, then read no further. If the answer is yes to one or both, then pay attention.

Creating and Owning Your Copyright

A copyright is created at the moment the work is made into a fixed form. For photographers, it happens at the click of the shutter. The image then is protected by a copyright regardless of whether it is recorded on film or digitally. Copyrights give the owner the exclusive right to do, or to authorize others to do, specific things to the property. Specifically, the copyright owner has complete control to reproduce the image, to prepare derivative works based on the image, to distribute them by sale, rental or lending, and/or to display the image.

The photographer who clicks the shutter owns the copyright. The only exception to this rule is when you shoot the image in a work-for-hire condition. This relationship is created only in two situations: (1) when you are an employee hired to photograph for your employer, such as a photojournalist who is an employee of a newspaper; or (2) you are hired to photograph pursuant to a contract, and the contract specifically includes the provision that the copyrights to the images you shoot for the contractor belong to the contractor.

You own the copyright even if you don’t register it. Registration does not give you the copyright. The copyright is established when you take the photograph. Registration is only a legal formality that gives you certain additional rights.

You can only transfer your copyright in writing. Giving a slide to a publisher, giving digital files to a client or selling a print does not transfer the copyright. While these acts grant what is called


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