What are Copyrights in Regard to Photography?

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I have done many similar posts, even a few blog articles on photography, theft, and copyright laws. I do it to educate the public because it becomes a battle or who has what rights to it. The creator inherently owns the copyright but it is viewed as an “our” image for the subjects who are featured in it and believe they have rights to it as well. Which is where some of the struggle of ownership and rights to use start to blur.

Copyright—the exclusive legal right, given to an originator or an assignee to print, publish, perform, film, or record literary, artistic, or musical material, and to authorize others to do the same.

In the case of photography, copyright exclusively belongs to the photographer unless they sign a contract prior too engaging in work that states otherwise. Participants photographed at events or locales do not have an inherent legal right to use any images taken by a photographer unless purchased with rights or obtained permissions.

That is not to say that photographers have full run of images containing an identifiable likeness in it. In most cases photographers will ask for a signed model release— known in similar contexts as a liability waiver, is a legal release typically signed by the subject of a photograph granting permission to publish the photograph in one form or another.

Many photographers will watermark their work for recognition however many viewers will crop those watermarks off or make illegal prints with the watermark maintain without much thought. This is a very common thing with screenshots and online print ordering and a threat to photographers as it detracts from their livelihood. It is such a common occurrence as a photographer I can get on any number of my social media channels and see a photographers post about having caught their images being taken and used.

Taking works that are not your own and using them becomes:

Copyright infringement (colloquially referred to as piracy) is the use of works protected by copyrightlaw without permission, infringing certain exclusive rights granted to the copyright holder, such as the right to reproduce, distribute, display or perform the protected work, or to make derivative works.

Copyright infringement can be dealt with in numerous ways but commonly results in legal actions taken by photographers to recoup their losses.

It is important to note this isn’t an attacking message on any one person or persons. As a photographer my work as been taken and used by individuals as well as companies and corporations. It happens across the board and scale. Not just to small entities like myself but big names as well.

As a photographer the one thing that hurts is seeing my work used illegally because then I have to be confrontational, I have to point all this out and become the bad guy. So that’s about it for this educational PSA.

Just remember if you didn’t make it, you do not own it, so please purchase or contact the creator for usage rights!