For professional photographers, social media can be both a blessing and a curse. Social media and other online channels provide a great way to increase exposure and get new clients. However, due to the wide open nature of the internet, those channels often allow people to use your photos without permission. If you make your living as a photographer, this could have a big impact on your bottom line.
The good news is that the law is on your side. Whether your work is published or not, it is protected as an “original work of authorship.” If someone uses your photo and you didn’t approve that use, they have violated U.S. and some international copyright laws, and you have the right to pursue legal action, though in order to commence a legal action, you will need to have filed and registered your copyright. If the infringement occurs prior to your registration, federal registration does provide you with remedies and other easier ways to obtain damages from an infringer..
*But* if you prefer to avoid legal action to begin with, the good news is that there are several proactive ways to protect your copyright license:
- Date your photographs
Dating your photos works like holding a receipt when you purchase something from a store. If needed, you can prove ownership by showing that your photo date is earlier than the date used online. This is a great way to hold someone accountable for copyright infringement.
- Use a watermark
A watermark is a very transparent design that appears in the foreground or background of a photo. Most people use their company logo to watermark their photos. This technique is meant to dissuade illegal sharing because they can’t get a clean image.
- Release with a license for limited use
Wedding photographers often face the situation where newlyweds want to review their pictures without watermarks or dates on them. In cases like this, you can provide the photos on a thumb drive and include a letter that releases your work for limited use. This gives the couple permission to display the photos for personal use without copyright infringement. Including this letter will allow you to hold someone accountable if they go beyond the limited permission and begin sharing your work all over Facebook, for example.
When It’s Time to Consult with an Intellectual Property Attorney
Online content is created at break-neck speed. That makes it hard for photographers to keep up with the threats of copyright infringement. But, accountability may be available with the help of an attorney who focuses on intellectual property and copyright law. Protecting your work by going to court after an infringement occurs can be a long, slow, and expensive process. That is why it’s best to create a proactive protection plan with an IP attorney ensuring you are guarding your creative rights from the get-go.
If you are a professional photographer and want to learn more about how you can protect your work and your business profit, call our Brooklyn and Charleston based intellectual property and trademark attorneys at 888-666-0062 to schedule a consultation.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney.
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