Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Photo Copyrights (Number 1)

As I expected, school will mess up posts this week a little.  My apologies!  I will try to get a system lined up so that we don't miss any photography while school is in session!!  :)

Yesterday, SouthernSass asked an excellent question in the comments section - "How do you copyright your photos?"  Now I'm not sure if this meant the actual legal copyright or just the watermark that I have put on my pictures.

So, I'll answer both!!  :)  I know, I'm awesome.... no applause, please, just throw money...  ;)

(Sorry, I get a little nuts during the school year!)

The first question - How do you legally copyright your photos?

There were a lot of important things I learned over the course of several library books this summer.  Specifically, while we all realize that a photo is the artistic property of the person who took it and it's illegal for someone else to use it without your permission, that doesn't mean you are protected from copyright violation.

In order for you to be protected you must register each and every photo individually with the federal government's Copyright Office in the Library of Congress.  (I'll tell you how at the end of the post!)  :)

Of course, I'm referring to USA laws here.  I don't know about the laws of other countries, but I assume they are similar.

Let's give an example....

Example 1:  John Doe posted a beautiful photo of a flower on the internet.  Several months later, he sees this exact photo in the background of a billboard advertisement for a local company.  John Doe contacts the company to complain and insists that they remove his image from their ad or pay him the money that he should have received for it.  Since John has not registered his photo with the federal government's copyright office, the most he can hope is for the company to agree to remove his photo from their ad.  If they do not voluntarily remove it, he could hire a lawyer to sue them and make them.  However, without that registered copyright (even if there's a copyright logo written on the picture), the most he could see from a lawsuit is the removal of the photo and any money that was actually paid to someone for the picture.  There is NO money that should have been paid, or damages or court costs....  just what was actually spent - and you'll need to find a receipt to prove that it happened!!!  

Because of this, many people will steal photos and get away with it.  As you can guess, John Doe will not press any charges because he will spend a lot of money on lawyers and expenses just to get a photo removed from an ad and not see any kind of reimbursement.  If the publisher of the ad is the one who stole the picture, they didn't pay anyone for it.... No money paid = no money for John.

Example 2:  Jane Doe has many pictures that she would like to copyright, so she registers them with the Copyright Office in Washington, DC.  When she is surprised to find that someone has used her photo just as they did John's, she calls an attorney.  Because her photo is registered, her attorney can file suit, have the photo removed, sue for the amount of money that should have been paid for the use of the photo (whether or NOT it was actually paid to anyone),  sue for court costs, attorneys' fees AND pain and suffering damages!! 

For this reason, I have come to find that professional photographers don't mind posting their photos on the internet.  They do not fear someone stealing them.  One photographer even commented that, as long as the copyright watermark is left on the photo, it is free advertising for him.  If the photo appears in a way that would have earned a significant amount of money, they call their attorney.  Often, the issue is settled out of court once the offender finds out what they are up against!

So - we return to the question, HOW do you register your copyright and your photos with the Copyright Office?

Go to this link here and you will find the official form for registering Visual Works of Art.  The instructions are on the form.  You will need to send a copy of each and every photo you want to register, but they can be thumbnails instead of full-size files.  It will need to be big enough that a judge could look at it and the offending image and recognize that they are indeed the same.  You can register as many photos as you can fit on a single disk (or one zip-file if you file online) for one fee.  (current fees are listed at  Right now, it is $35.)  One of the books suggested burning images to a DVD because you can literally fit thousands of photos on one.

NOTE - The registration of the photo must have occurred BEFORE any incident of wrongful use in order to be copyright protected.


I hope this answers your questions somewhat.  It's turning into a long post, so tomorrow I will walk you through how I watermark my images in Photoshop Elements.

And because I don't think I ever want to have a post without a photo, here's one from our trip to Worlds of Fun.

Remember this movie????  :)

Much Love to All,



SouthernSass said...

Thank you so, so much for the post and answering my question - you are the best! :)

Tiffany said...

Anytime! Glad I am able to help in some way. Let me know if you have other questions!! :)