Copyright law. Have you heard of it? Do you know what it means? More importantly, do you know what it means to YOU when you hire a professional photographer?
From the U.S. Copyright Office’s website:
- reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords
- prepare derivative works based upon the work
- distribute copies or phonorecords of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending
- perform the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audio visual works
- display the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work
- perform the work publicly (in the case of sound recordings*) by means of a digital audio transmission
- From the time that a photographer “clicks” that shutter button, their photos are protected by Copyright law.
- A photo does not have to say “©” or “Copyright Such and Such Photography 2012″ for it to be protected.
- Your photographer does not have to have a signed contract with you stating their rights as copyright holder and the things you are not allowed to do with the photos – though most do have their clients sign a contract with that in there – for you to be held liable for Copyright infringement.
- A photographer is the ONLY person permitted to publish (“display the work publicly…”), edit (“prepare derivative works based upon the work…”), print (“reproduce the work…) or distribute (“distribute copies…by sale or other transfer of ownership…”) the photos, unless specific permission is given by the photographer (i.e. a print release or commercial use release).
See that up there? My friend Heather at Caroline Grace Photography down in Lubbock, TX logged on to Facebook this morning and saw her once-beautiful photo, edited to heck and back. This is just one of the many examples I see and hear about all the time from colleagues in my industry. This is not okay.
Unfortunately, clients editing or letting someone else edit a Copyrighted photo that does not belong to them is getting more and more common. It has happened to me. It happens all the time. With the trend of photographers posting their photos on the internet, it’s so easy for someone to grab a photo or two, stick it in Picnik and having their way with it. A photographer posting a photo of you or your cousin or your mom or your best friend’s baby on Facebook does not transfer the ownership of the Copyright to you, or the rest of the Internet. This is Copyright infringement, and it is a very serious offense. It could cost the offender a lot of money, if they offend the right photographer.
Did you hear that? Are you paying attention?
Copyright infringement. It is serious. It is stealing.
I have one more thing to say before I step down off my soap box and stop rambling. Apart from the legal aspects, there are some emotional and ethical aspects to consider on this topic.
Your photographer is an artist. He/she is a creative mind that spends hours taking your photos from vision to fruition, in just the way that expresses who they are as an artist. It hurts to experience a client who thinks they should improve upon the photos that I have poured my heart into just for them. You wouldn’t commission a painting and then paint over it after you had paid for and received it, would you? Just because you had it in your hands and had some old acrylic paints laying around? Of course you wouldn’t!