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Author Topic: Obtaining Copyright for photos  (Read 595 times)
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jczankl
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« on: May 03, 2017, 03:29:45 PM »

I have a question and it may have been answered here already on this forum but here it goes.

I am new to this and mostly shoot for fun/hobby. What is all entailed in getting my photos copyrighted? Or is it simply just slapping a in front of my Tag/Watermark?

Thanks in advance.
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Joe Copalman
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« Reply #1 on: May 03, 2017, 04:06:38 PM »

Copyright is yours immediately.  When you take a photo, it is yours.  Whether it's watermarked or has your copyright info embedded in the EXIF data (you can manage this through your camera settings) or has no identifying marks or data embedded in it is immaterial.  I personally do not watermark my images because I hate the way it looks, but I'm also very disciplined in where I post and what I post, so I deal with fewer incidents of my images appearing where I don't want them to than a lot of other photographers.   

That said, you can go through the US Copyright Office to copyright your images, and from what I understand, it's not very expensive.  I don't think I know anybody personally who does this though.

The most common threat out there are young enthusiasts in foreign countries who aren't aware of and couldn't give a damn about copyright.  They simply see a picture of an airplane they like, right click and save, then post it in some "I LOVES ALL THE AIPRLANE!!!" group on Facebook.  Some shooters spend hours hunting these guys down and rallying armies of their friends to bombard some poor Greek teenager with threats of bodily harm, but I just don't see any value in expending that kind of energy for such a low-level threat to my copyright.  The members of those kinds of groups aren't deep-pocketed prospective clients anyway, but rather usually teenage airplane geeks in Europe and Asia.  A less common but more legitimate threat is guys who right-click and save your images and then offer prints of those images for sale on Ebay or Etsy or whatever.  Most sites like that have ways of resolving those issues and punishing the perpetrators.

My advice is to not obsess over copyright.  You already hold it, and the chances of you getting royally screwed out of potentially significant sums of money through image theft are pretty remote.

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Jay Beckman
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« Reply #2 on: May 03, 2017, 05:06:41 PM »

Through the Copyright Office you "register" your copyright.

I do so twice a year for anything that's been added to my website, my Fine Art America account and Facebook.  It's not very expensive and you can register as many images as you can squeeze into an online session but they only need to be 600X jpeg thumbnails.

In general terms, without registering copyright you can only hope to recover "fair market value" if your copyright is infringed.  Basically, if a 4x6 image is used by a magazine without permission, you can only expect to get the "going rate" for your troubles.  You'll spend thousands to recoup a couple hundred at best.  Registering images opens the door to (rather significant) punitive and compensatory dollars should you ever decide to peruse legal action.  In really egregious cases for really unique images with unauthorized commercial use / intent / removal of watermark, etc., awards can easily reach the mid six figures.  Doesn't happen every day, but it can happen.

The truly daunting aspect of copyright law is that suits are brought in Federal Court.  That ratchets things up several notches right off the bat.  There is a grassroots movement for the creation of a "Copyright Small Claims Court" where artists can bring suit and be heard without the need to "lawyer up"  Just saw something from PPA which said that this has passed the House and was moving to the Senate.

Bottom Line: How much value do you place on what you create? 
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Jay Beckman
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jczankl
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« Reply #3 on: May 03, 2017, 07:02:33 PM »

Great info! Thanks Guys.
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John S
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« Reply #4 on: May 03, 2017, 07:14:36 PM »

I was going to ask about this myself.  My employer (Safeway) has taken one of my images and used it in a collage of trucks and stores on a poster for another employee for his 25 years of service.  They never asked, inquired about using it, so I'm assuming they just went online and looked for images to steal.  I'm not sure who exactly made the poster but would like to find out.  I don't know how many others of these were made, if there was more.  Also, the Denver division distribution center has their own website and my photo is on there.  Again, no inquiries about using it.  I am just really aggravated about it because the company says if anyone as much as steals a grape or "samples" product you can be fired but they have no problem stealing images.  I have posted these photos on a few places, my photo host, my photo blog and a trucking website.  These photos are not "registered".  It is actually the original photo and the other is a photoshopped version of the original.  I am toying with the idea to take all the photos off my photo site and watermarking and putting low quality versions up so if they get used again they won't be useful in printing.  I assume there really isn't much I could do about it.  
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Dave S.
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« Reply #5 on: May 03, 2017, 08:54:44 PM »

Echoing Jay's input, it takes about $30k to get a lawyer to take an IP (Intellectual Property) case, as it's filed in the Federal Court system and can drag on for years.  The only real hope for getting an attorney to take the case is to have the image registered with the copyright office, where the award, per infraction, can exceed $150k.  As Jay indicated, registering your images is relatively cheap 'insurance'.

Here's a link to the copyright office: https://www.copyright.gov/registration/photographs/index.html

Here's a link to the PPA effort to reform copyright infringement: http://www.ppa.com/files/pdfs/VisualAssociationsSmallClaimsTribunalPaper.pdf

Jay - curious to know, if you'd care to share, your system for keeping track of images that need to registering?  I've toyed around with different ideas, but have never come up with anything that's sure-fire.  Half the time, it's my own forgetfulness that's to blame, so probably not really a poor 'system' on my part, more like CRS setting in.


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« Reply #6 on: May 04, 2017, 12:40:11 AM »

There are several ways you can keep track in Lightroom.

Probably the easiest is to simply sort by "Picks" (White Flag) and then look at the metadata to see which half of the year stuff falls into.

One side note that perhaps some folks may not be aware: You will sometimes see the concept of "first publication" mentioned when discussing copyright.  As I understand it, you have 90 days from first publication to register an image so you could conceivably register post-infringement if your work meets the stipulations for publication.

But not all outlets constitute "publication."

If I put an image on my website and offer personal licenses via prints or other products that display the image, it would be considered published because access to a license is available to the public.
Unless something has changed, posting to Facebook, interestingly enough, does NOT constitute publication because only people using the service can see posts (an audience potentially further reduced by your choice of privacy settings.)

But I digress...

Anywho, copyright date is tied to publication.  i.e. If I put something on my site tomorrow that was shot in 2009 but it's never seen the light of day before, it would be Copyright 2017.

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Jay Beckman
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