Copyright Laws for Photographers

Today’s post is written by my assistant, Kathy… Everyone deserves a Kathy! I don’t know what I’d do without her as my awesome right-hand gal!

© is the universal symbol for copyright and we’ve all seen it used everywhere we are.  Articles, movies, websites, you name it, we can probably find it.  But what does it actually mean?  How do you get a copyright for your own use?  And more importantly…what do you do if your copyright is violated?

The best thing about copyright law is the fact that as soon as you create something, it is under copyright! From the U.S. Copyright Office website “Copyright Basics”:

Copyright protection subsists from the time the work is created
in fixed form. The copyright in the work of authorship
immediately becomes the property of the author who created
the work. Only the author or those deriving their rights
through the author can rightfully claim copyright.

This means that as soon as something is created, it’s copyrighted.  Some places will say that you need to include the copyright symbol on your work for it to be copyrighted.  Or that you need to register it.  Neither of these are correct.  It is true that it is possible to register your copyright.  Again, from the U.S. Copyright Office’s website:

In general, copyright registration is a legal formality intended
to make a public record of the basic facts of a particular copyright.
However, registration is not a condition of copyright
protection. Even though registration is not a requirement for
protection, the copyright law provides several inducements
or advantages to encourage copyright owners to make registration.
Among these advantages are the following:
• Registration establishes a public record of the copyright
claim.
• Before an infringement suit may be filed in court, registration
is necessary for works of U. S. origin.
• If made before or within five years of publication, registration
will establish prima facie evidence in court of
the validity of the copyright and of the facts stated in
the certificate.
• If registration is made within three months after publication
of the work or prior to an infringement of the work,
statutory damages and attorney’s fees will be available to
the copyright owner in court actions. Otherwise, only an
award of actual damages and profits is available to the
copyright owner.
• Registration allows the owner of the copyright to record
the registration with the U. S. Customs Service for protection
against the importation of infringing copies. For
additional information, go to the U. S. Customs and
Border Protection website at www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/import.
Click on “Intellectual Property Rights.”
Registration may be made at any time within the life of
the copyright. Unlike the law before 1978, when a work has
been registered in unpublished form, it is not necessary to
make another registration when the work becomes published,
although the copyright owner may register the published
edition, if desired.

So you can see, registration can be worthwhile but is not necessary to copyright your images!  The fees to do so can we seen at this link: http://www.copyright.gov/docs/fees.html At that link you’ll see a breakdown of each and every fee option and what they relate to.

Copyright.gov is an amazing resource.  Well-laid out and comprehensive, it can help take the guesswork out of what copyright is and how to protect your information.

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  1. Krystal says:

    I have seen this information about copyright but what I am wondering about is the future of enforcing it. I can’t count the number of people who have said that they have had pictures lifted off a site or blog. I have also heard of a few that have had a whole blog copied. I am wondering what the future holds for preventing that from happening.

  2. Maggie says:

    Thanks for the info! Always good to be educated about it and be able to educate clients as well!

  3. Leah Remillet says:

    There are awesome resources for Copyright Information including a FREE kit put out by the PPA. Just go here: http://www.ppa.com/copyright-advocacy/free-copyright-kit.php

    You do have to register to have access, but it’s free so very worth all of the awesome knowledge.

  4. VSP says:

    Leah,
    I just thought I would let you know you have an absolutely wonderful blog. The information you post on here is great and with the combination of guest bloggers there is always something new and exciting! I just thought I would comment because, I don’t usually, and I’m sure there are tons of people who come by, check it out…a lot, and don’t really say much. Keep it up! You’re awesome!

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