In the first article in our series on image copyrights, we explored exactly what a copyright is, ways copyrights can be obtained, and discussed a simple, painless way for you to protect your images online.
This article extends that discussion further to examine facts about copyrights that are important for all photographers - professional or otherwise - to understand.
Copyright is Conferred Upon Pressing the Shutter
Unless you’ve signed a contract that stipulates that the images you take are owned by someone else, the moment you click the shutter, copyright is conferred to you for that image. After all, a copyright entitles a person to the right of ownership of tangible, original works. Every photo you take clearly fits these criteria.
This is true even if you use borrowed equipment. For example, if, while on a photography walk with the local photography club, you borrow a friend’s camera and snap a photo of a very rare bird that you’d like to sell to stock photography sites, you can do that because you physically took the picture. Even though the image was taken with your friend’s camera, they have no claim to the copyright of the images you actually took. As most photographers would agree, the art of photography is in the actual work of composing the shot, considering lighting, dialing in exposure settings, and the like, not just owning the camera with which an image is taken.
Watermarks Don’t Work
Some photographers think that by putting a watermark on their image that the image is protected from theft. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
All someone has to do is download the image and crop it such that the watermark is no longer visible. This is often quite an easy process as many photographers place small watermarks in a corner so as to preserve the artistic impact of the image. Other photographers emblazon their watermark across the entirety of the image, usually in a reduced opacity form. But even with a reduced opacity, a huge watermark across the image looks ugly and still doesn’t prevent someone from ripping off your images. In other cases, a watermark can be easily removed in programs like Photoshop, again, leaving the photographer without certainty that his or her images are protected.
The other issue with watermarks is that it is a passive means of trying to prevent theft. You can watermark your images all you want, but at the end of the day, if someone steals the image, how will you ever know?
Being Proactive is the Best Solution
If you’re a self-employed photographer and you want to protect your hard work from theft, you need to take a proactive approach. The problem is, you can’t spend all day and all night searching for images people stole from you. What you need is a third-party solution to take up the mantle for you.
For us, the best proactive solution out there is Copypants, hands down.
Unlike a watermark, Copypants is active in the process of protecting what’s yours - it syncs your images from your online profiles automatically and looks for copies of them elsewhere on the internet. You literally don’t have to do a thing! Once Copypants finds one of your images, you’ll be notified immediately so you always know exactly where your content is being used.
But beyond merely informing you about the illegal use of your images, Copypants gives you several options in terms of taking action. You can choose to allow the publisher to continue using your image, you can opt to issue a takedown notice, or you can contact the publisher and ask that proper credit be given to you for your work. You can also send a license request via Copypants to individuals and businesses that are using your images. You simply enter an amount for the license fee and Copypants does the rest.
In that regard, Copypants doesn’t just protect your work, it helps you make it more likely that you get paid for your work too. For example, by issuing a request for credit via Copypants, you can get your name rightfully placed with your image and get exposure that might lead to future gigs. Similarly, asking publishers to pay a license fee for the work they’ve already published will help you make money off of the images you’ve worked so hard to create. Protecting your work and improving your bottom line - that’s not a bad combination!