Dispelling Some Copyright Myths & My Thoughts

Here's a link to a great article by Scott Bourne of Twipphoto.com on dispelling some copyright myths: http://twipphoto.com/archives/1554

Reading Scott's article got me thinking. In addition to the informative comments by Scott, keep in mind that the issue of copyright can be a very complex one. Do keep in mind though, that even though your photos enjoy the protection of copyright once you make them, you'll need to REGISTER them with the US Copyright office in order to be fully protected (legally) in the event your image(s) is(are) used without your permission.

I've heard from many a reputable source that if you do not REGISTER your images and they are used without your permission, you're basically only entitled to the going rate in return from the user. In other words, what they would have paid you to use it anyway, and maybe a little more for punitive damages. If the image was REGISTERED, however, the penalty starts in the tens of thousands of dollars. Since most large marketing and advertising agencies are aware of this, they are usually more than happy to offer you fair market value for the use of the image. Once you've discovered that they've used your image, of course. I, personally, would never settle for the "minimum". I'll try my best to get them to pay for not only the use of the images, but for they lesson they need to learn as well. And that's usually considerably more than the licensing of the image itself. Remember, if the image they used was REGISTERED, the law is on my side, not theirs.

I've registered my images with the US Copyright Office in the past, the process is very simple. Download the form, burn all the images you want to register onto a disc, however many that may be, send it in with a check and you're done. In a couple of months you'll receive a time/date stamped copy of your form back. You're submission was registered as soon it was stamped as received. Done.

Do this on a regular basis - annually, monthly, whatever. Just DO IT! I do it annually (for the most part). I tend to submit any images I've sold, published and posted on the internet in that year. Basically, any images that have left my computer/office. I'll burn a DVD entitled "Craig Durling Images 2008" (or whatever) and send it in with the form and check (about $35 as I recall). As long as you submit it using a searchable media, they'll accept it. This allows the US Copyright Office to search your images in the event that you need to prove that you've registered them. Check their website for more info on how to do this.

You might think of it this way, which is what I've been told by some photogs and attorneys: "If it's REGISTERED, any copyright attorney will be glad to help. If it's only COPYRIGHTED they're likely to tell you (politely) to pound sand."

That reminds me, I have to put together my submission for 2008, and SO DO YOU!