What are Some of the Fundamental Rights that Belong to Photographers?
Photographers have rights under a variety of laws in the United States. Copyright laws, contract laws, and the Constitution are just some of the laws that provide the following:
- You have the right to take pictures of private property as long as you are on public property when you do so. If there are verbal or non-verbal requests not to take photos of private property, you must abide.
- You have the right to photograph anything in a public place. Public places are not just publicly owned but include areas open to the public.
- The government may forbid photography in government buildings because it may pose a national security threat.
- You have the right to photograph people in public places without consent. If there is a reason to expect privacy or someone has acted to seclude themselves, you may not.
- You are not obligated to surrender your camera, film, or files if a person attempts to confiscate or force you to surrender it.
These rights are important to professionals and amateur photographers alike. To a professional photographer, however, the essential right is the copyright. Copyright bestows ownership and control over the use of your photos to the photographer. It is US Copyright Law that ensures photographers can make a living from their work.
What Every Photographer Should Know About Copyright
Copyright is Automatic
If you have taken a picture, you own a copyright. You don’t have to do anything else for your copyright to exist. You don’t have to file, publish, register, declare, pay, or take any other action to establish your copyright. When you create an image, you automatically own the copyright. If you are taking pictures for yourself, either personally or professionally, this is the rule.
The exception to this rule occurs when you are “working for hire” or taking pictures on behalf of someone else. If you are an employee creating work as part of your job for your employer, the copyright owner may be the company or individual for whom you work.
You Do Not Have to Use the Copyright Symbol when you Publish Your Photographs.
Some photographers out of habit or misinformation always use the copyright symbol when publishing photographs. While it may be a good idea to remind whoever is looking at your image that it is your protected property, it is not necessary. Some people, however, think that if there is no copyright label, the image is free to use. Using it, especially when you post pictures online, is a significant first step toward protecting your work simply because it goes an extra step toward discouraging people from using it without getting your permission. Remember though, under US copyright law, your work is protected with or without using the label when you publish it.
Register your Copyright to File a Lawsuit
Remember, you do not need to register your copyright for the copyright to exist. However, if you wish to file a lawsuit, you may not do so until you file a registration. The registration does not have to occur before the infringement occurs, only before the lawsuit gets filed.
Registering your copyright before the infringement occurs, or within three months of first publication of your photograph may give you extra protection in the event of a lawsuit. Filing a copyright registration allows you to collect statutory damages. Waiting to file your copyright means you will only be able to obtain actual damages and costs, which are very hard to prove.
You Control the use of Your Pictures While Retaining Your Copyright.
Owning the copyright means you control how people can use your image. You can do this with licensing agreements. A license agreement is a contract whereby you grant rights to use the image to someone else while you retain ownership of the image. Licensing agreements can be broad or narrow; for long or short periods. They can also have various fee structures. A good licensing agreement sets forth specific terms under which the images may be used and for how long. You can even grant licenses to multiple parties. The important part is that YOU control what happens to your work. Some examples:
- You grant a license to a movie director to use a photograph you took on a poster for a film. You set a flat fee for her to use it on an unlimited number of signs but only for one year before and after the release of the film.
- You license with a water company to use the photo you took of their natural springs. You grant them unlimited use of the photograph for 20 years for a large lump sum.
- You license the use of a photo you took of an athlete to her agent to begin the marketing of t-shirts for the upcoming season. Your license provides use of the image for 1,000 each of t-shirts, mugs, and hats. You will receive 1% of every sale.
- You grant permission for your buddy to use your photograph forever at no charge for whatever purpose he sees fit.
When to Call our Copyright Attorneys
- Do you need a license agreement?
- Did someone violate an agreement?
- Did a celebrity post a photo you took on Instagram?
- Did someone download your copyrighted images and use them for profit?
- Do you want to register your copyright?
- Do you want to file a lawsuit against someone who violated your intellectual property rights?
Understanding copyright is essential to the success of any photographer. Luckily there are attorneys Liebowitz Law Firm, PLLC who are dedicated to making sure the creative community is protected from copyright violations. If you are a photographer who needs help negotiating and enforcing licensing agreements, and enforcing your rights when someone infringes on your intellectual property ownership look no further than Liebowitz Law Firm, PLLC.
Contact Us to Protect Your Copyright
Call Liebowitz Law Firm, PLLC at (516) 233-1660 for a free consultation of your copyright case. We are a law firm representing photographers in copyright cases across the globe. Call us today and find out how we can help you secure the compensation you deserve.