This is a subject that the majority of people are miss informed on. I posted this question on my personal Facebook page and wasn’t surprised by most of the responses. Some were close to what the actual law’s state some were off and some were some where in the middle. If you are a photographer, you’ll eventually run into people who are on the PAIN IN THE ASS end of this spectrum. The photo is of them or their loved ones and they automatically believe it’s their photo… in it’s entirety. I can sympathize with them to some degree and certainly see how they may “believe” this to be true. But…it’s not. Ultimately, rights can pretty much be governed by a contract signed between both parties. And depending on local laws, sometimes a verbal contract is enough.
The not so informed truth being… if there is no expressed written contract agreement, a photo is copyrighted and owned by the photographer the second it is created. What does this mean? he/she is the sole owner unless they are an employee of a company which had been contracted to shoot said photos. (Work for Hire). This isn’t to be confused with someone hiring a photographer to shoot some photos, A common misinterpretation of the Work for Hire status. “Your clients are hiring you as an independent contractor—not an employee—so the workfor-hire claim does not apply.” (PPA.com). It might confuse some into thinking the photographer is getting something (money) for nothing. It’s more along the lines of protecting his/her lively hood. Without these laws, people could (and have attempted) take their photos and resell or use for commercial use and profit off another one’s work. This isn’t to say you can’t find a photographer who would be willing to write it in their contract to transfer ownership. You’ll find PLENTY of amateur or newly starting photographers bend to this at the will of their clients. ex “$200.00 and you get all digital files and copyrights!” If you see anything close to a deal like that, RUN! You’ll probably end up with crappy photographs and end up paying more to hire a real photographer to get it done right.
This subject can go into many details and avenues of discussion, especially now in the day of “digital” photography. Clients will often get a proofing gallery to review images and start downloading the proofs and posting them to their Facebook or blog. FYI, that BURNS photographers up! Most proofs are unedited copies which won’t depict the photographers true and final edits. Like any artist, they usually don’t want their work shown to the public until completed. Printing is a whole new subject matter. Let’s keep it simple in terms most will understand. If you purchase a movie dvd, can you legally make copies of this dvd or copies of a cd of music? Can you purchase a song digitally then copy and hand it out to all your friends?? Same principle applies to photographs. If you must need a print, be sure your photographer gives you permission or go through them to get the print you need. A reputable lab will actually require you to have a release from the photographer before they’ll print.
Personally, I’ve never really had any big issues with this. *knock on wood I’ve had a photo or two used, but it wasn’t anything I would have not allowed in the first place. Sometimes, it’s good exposure that can lead to more work or money down the road.
Useful Copyright links
- www.ppa.com/copyright – (highly recommend professional photographers to join the PPA!)
- A good article on the popular site – Pinterest by Mansurovs Photography Group – (My take on pinterest to come later…)
… more to come on this topic as I learn new things myself!