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Copyright Basics

Photographers: You Should Understand how Copyright Relates to Pictures You Take

Copyright means you have ownership rights to your photographs. They are your property and, therefore, you should have control over them.

At its core, copyright bestows four exclusive rights:

  1. The right to reproduce and copy the picture
  2. The right to create work that derives from the picture
  3. The right to distribute the image however you see fit (sell, lease, loan, free-for-all)
  4. To publicly display the picture

If you are a photographer with copyright, the rights above are yours. YOU own and control the use of the picture.

Do Photographers Always Copyrights When They Take Pictures?

Generally, as soon as photographers take a picture, they own the image’s rights by way of copyright. It exists automatically at the moment the picture is created.

The exception to this rule is when a photograph gets taken as part of employment or a for-hire agreement. In those situations, the copyright, though created immediately, can belong to someone other than the photographer.

Is Copyright the Same as Creative Commons?

No. creative commons is a type of license that the copyright holder can give to someone, free of charge.

Creative Commons licenses give limited permission to someone to use a picture. The photographer retains the copyright but gives someone permission to use it for free but with limitations.

The person who uses your photograph must abide by the terms of the creative commons license.

What is Public Domain?

Copyright law provides that specific works are made available for everyone (public domain) to use freely. Some pieces become public domain over time, while others may do so immediately.

Works become part of the public domain for one of the following reasons:

  • the creator did not satisfy the statutory requirements needed to have copyright (applies only to work published before March 1, 1989)
  • it is a work of the U.S. government
  • the term of copyright has expired

When one of these three factors are present, the work is public domain.

Do I Lose my Copyright if I Don’t Register With the U.S. Copyright Office?

No. You do not have to register your copyright to retain ownership of your photographs. Copyright exists automatically when you create the picture.

However, if someone violates your copyright, you must register if you want a chance to obtain statutory damages for copyright infringement.

Is it a Crime When Someone Violates my Copyright?

Some copyright violations might be criminal, and they are included in the Copyright Act. Usually, however, the government prosecutes only egregious cases.

What Can Photographers do When Someone Violates Your Copyright?

Photographers have choices when they suspect someone violates their copyright. What are some of them?

You can do nothing – It is possible that you don’t care about copyright infringement, even though you are not receiving payment for your work. But, consider the fact that you are allowing someone to violate your legal rights. Copyright laws exist to protect you. It is up to you to invoke that protection and maintain control over your work.

Request photo credit – You can ask the person or entity that used your photograph to give you credit for your work.

Prepare a takedown notice (DMCA) – Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, when your picture is used on the internet, you can request its removal due to copyright violation.

Hire a lawyer to send a cease-and-desist letter – Having experienced photography copyright lawyers send your takedown notice and a cease and desist letter can go a long way toward resolving your copyright infringement issue. Not only can we ensure the infringement stops, but we can also attempt to negotiate a fair resolution of your claim.

File a lawsuit – You and your copyright infringement lawyer might choose to file a lawsuit against the entity that violates your rights. If you decide to pursue this option, it is essential that you speak with Sanders Law Group. We dedicate our practice to representing photographers around the globe and other creative professionals, in copyright infringement cases.

Call Sanders Law Group, For Your Copyright Needs

Are you a photographer looking for experienced, dedicated copyright infringement lawyers to represent you? Look no further than Sanders Law Group. Call us today for a free evaluation of your copyright claim.

You can reach our copyright lawyers representing photographers at 888-348-3090.


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