Welcome back to a new "Insight," a series of content-rich posts to help you build a stronger business and in today's post, protect your images. Working together with PhotoShelter we want to make 2019 your best year ever and as I've written in the past, thrive, not just survive.
There's an incredible amount of outstanding content in PhotoShelter's archives, all directed to helping become a successful artist. I ran across this article by Allen Murabayashi, and he's writing about an issue critical to all of you - copyright!
PhotoShelter has a reputation for helping you create the very best presentation of your work, but also help you run a stronger business. You've got to protect your photographs. So often I'm surprised how many photographers have so little understanding of copyright. Check out the post below and start protecting your images - you've worked too hard to develop the skill set to capture and create them. Don't they deserve to be protected?
5 Common Copyright Misconceptions Held by Photographers
The most recent version of the Copyright Law of the United States (December 2016) weighs in at a whopping 354 pages. And while there are areas of ambiguity, the basics and benefits of copyright registration for photographers are well-documented. Unfortunately, well-documented doesn’t mean well-understood, so we asked attorney (and former photo rep) Leslie Burns to weigh in on a number of common copyright misconceptions that still persist, and why you should register your copyright.
Disclaimer: The information herein does not constitute legal advice. As always, consult with a lawyer for your particular circumstance!
1. If I publish a photo without registering my copyright first, I can’t sue for damages.
U.S. Copyright Law has two forms of damages: 1) actual, and 2) statutory.
The moment you take a photo, (unless you are an employee or signed a terrible work-for-hire deal) you own the copyright and have some protection. But without registration, you are only eligible for actual damages which means the “market value” of the image’s license, plus the defendant’s profits directly connected to the infringement, if any. If someone uses your image on their Instagram account, the actual damages might be so low as to make it impractical to sue.
The main benefit of registering your images is the ability to sue for statutory damages. If a person or organization willfully infringes your photo, you can sue for up to $150,000 per infringement image. Non-willful has a maximum of $30,000. You might get attorneys’ fees, too.
“Publication in copyright law,” says Burns, “is not what most people think. Online use may or may not be published—if you offer the work for others to license or use or if you provide it to a client for its use, then it is published; but if you just display the work online (or in a gallery) it probably is not published.” If it is published, then you have up to 3 calendar months to register the copyright and it is as if you registered it on the date you first published the work, so any infringement after that can get the statutory damages. If you wait, then only infringements that start after you register the copyright can get the statutory damages and attorneys’ fees. For unpublished work, only infringements that start after registration can get statutory damages and attorneys’ fees.
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