Protecting your rights as a Photographer…
I have unfortunately seen countless examples of photographers being taken advantage of for a number of different reasons. Either the person hiring them does not value the work that they do, the organisation/company that they are working for haven’t the slightest clue of what their rights are and the importance of protecting those rights, or worse, the photographer themselves have not done their due diligence and educated themselves on their own rights. One of the things that I cannot stress enough is knowing your rights as a photographer! The work that you do is important, it has value, it is not disposable and should not be treated as such.
Copyright’s For Photographers
Let's start with the basics, Copyright. copyright laws differ from country to country, but the general overall meaning of copyright In photography terms, is that you, the photographer own the images that you have created, it is yours and yours exclusively. If you pushed that shutter button then it is yours and you own that image throughout your lifetime and 70 years after your death. An exception for this is if you have sold the rights of your images to an organisation/company, have given them exclusive rights or ownership of your work, or if you have a ‘work for hire’ contract (another article will be made on this soon). In such cases, the organisation/company should be giving you a pay-off to compensate for them owning your images.
Copyrighting your images
Implementing your copyrights is simple, this can either be done by filling out the metadata of your images stating that you are the owner of the images, it can also be done by stating whenever you post your images online that it is copyrighted. At times you don't even have to do this (the metadata part is very important though) As soon as you have taken those images it automatically belongs to you leaving you the right to edit, reproduce, sell, exhibit, publish and basically do whatever you want with them. If you choose to include the copyright notice (which is not mandatory) you can follow this simple formula; ©, the year of creation and the name of the copyright holder. It should look something like this; © 2020 Dodo James.
What to do when there is an infringement of your copyright
Infringement of your copyright takes place when either one of these things happens:
Your images are used without your consent
You are not given credit for your images or someone else has been given credit for your images
Your images have been reproduced, edited or altered without your consent
Your images are being sold or used commercially without your consent
In such cases, there are a number of things that you can do as a response to such infringements.
Request a Photo Credit:
Contact the infringer directly and request (demand) that you be credited. Establish some conditions such as your name being clearly located as the owner of such images, a link to your website is also clearly written or a link to your social media handle.
Prepare a Cease and Desist letter:
Contact the infringer and explain that the use of your images has not been authorised. Either request (demand) a payment/license fee, a photo credit with a link to your website or for your work to be taken down. Make it clear to them in your demand letter that these settles are an attempt to compromise any further disputes.
Take legal action:
If you have done all of this but to no avail (or maybe you are fuming and have no wish to settle in any way, which is completely understandable) you can take legal action by hiring a lawyer to send a demand letter or suing. This may lead to increased tensions and the weight of the demand letter is dramatically increased if it is coming from a legal representative. Suing, or filing a copyright infringement lawsuit is also an aggressive option but shows the magnitude of the situation. It is important to bear in mind that both of these options involve money and can take a period of time for the situation to be resolved.
In this current digital age that we are in, copyright law and its relationship with photography have become extremely important to understand and much more possible to enforce than it was in the past. The appropriation of your photography by online pirates can be done with a few keystrokes so being equipped and full of knowledge In regards to the law can go a long way in protecting your photography from copyright infringement.