Create prints and other reproductions
Create derivative products based upon the original image
Distribute copies of the image to the public via sale, rental, lease, or other transfer of ownership
Display the work in a public space
Copyright is a term that’s thrown around a lot, but a surprising number of people know very little about what it actually means, particularly when it comes to artistic endeavors like photography.
At its simplest, a copyright confers ownership of property, in this case, the images you take. Because you own the image, you retain certain rights that are exclusive to you as the copyright holder. Among these rights are the ability to:
In this regard, think of an image copyright like the title to your car - it demonstrates that you own a specific piece of property.
How is Copyright Obtained?
What a lot of people don’t realize is that in most situations, copyright is granted as soon as the image is taken. You don’t have to file any paperwork to obtain the original copyright - just the act of taking the photo deems it yours under copyright law. Even if you don’t register your images with the government, you still own the rights to the image.
Of course, there are situations in which the copyright can be transferred to another entity. First, if you sign an agreement stating that you release the right to the copyrights of the images you take, naturally, the copyrights are transferred to the intended party. For example, if you’re hired by a company to take photos of their office, staff, and products, and sign a release for the images, the images you take would become the property of the company. This is known as a work-for-hire situation. A second work-for-hire situation would be a photojournalist who is employed by a newspaper. The images they take bear their name in the byline, but the copyright for the images belong to the newspaper itself.
As noted above, you can register the images you take with the government, though it isn’t required to do so to retain the copyright. What registering your images does, however, is give you access to the court system in the event one of your images is used without your permission, and you also get access to statutory damages. Of course, lawyers don’t normally recommend you register your work until you are planning to go to court because it is not cost-effective to pay for registration for each image you take.
Protecting Your Work Doesn’t Have to Be Hard
No matter how vigilant you are in protecting your images, it’s simply impossible to check every nook and cranny of the internet for people using your images without your permission. Not only that, but the time you spend trying to hunt down people for using your images is time you can’t spend creating more images and putting money in your pocket.
If it sounds hard to protect what’s yours, it is - if you try to do it alone.
But there are services to help you prevent theft of your images, like Copypants, which takes control of the time-consuming image searches for you. Think of it like an additional layer of protection for your hard work - it automatically syncs your images from your favorite online spots, then searches for copies elsewhere on the internet. Even better, when Copypants finds copies of your work, you can send a takedown notice with just a few clicks. If legal action is needed, they handle the legal mumbo-jumbo. You don’t have to hire a lawyer to file a cease and desist either. Copypants provides legal templates for you.
There are lots of companies out there that seek to help photographers tackle the messy aspects of building a business, but Copypants stands out because of their commitment to helping you protect your livelihood. There’s simply nothing else like it out there. Better still, Copypants will even take care of payments received from publishers and deposit that money right into your bank account. Think of it as a one-stop shop to help you build a more successful business!
In future articles in this series, we’ll take a deeper look at these and other issues related to copyrighting images, including myths and facts about copyrights, how to take action against infringement, and using the products and services at your disposal to monetize your images and grow your photography business.