How to Copyright Photography?

Photography is a representation of your views on a particular subject. The original way you see people, things and the world around you is portrayed through your photographs. Copyright protection and registration is essential for photographers who wish to sell their work. It is important for amateur photographers to protect their work as well. Your art has your heart in it, and it should be protected.

  1. Put your copyright notice on or adjacent to each of your images.  The official copyright notice has three parts: the first part is the © (the letter “c” in a circle), the word “Copyright,” or its abbreviation, “Copr.”  The second part notes the year when the work was first published.  The third required part of a copyright notice is the name of the copyright owner.  The final form looks like this: © 2010 Carolyn E. Wright.  You may use the copyright notice without registering your images with the U.S. Copyright Office.  Including a copyright notice is no longer required for copyright protection, but it is a good idea to use it.
  2. When you use the copyright notice it may stop someone from stealing your photographs, either because it serves as a reminder that the work is protected or because the notice interferes with the use of the work when it is part of the photo.  When you post a copyright notice along with your registered images, then the infringer cannot claim that the infringement was innocent (reducing the damages to as low as $200 per work) and the court is more likely to find that the infringement was willful, supporting the maximum in infringement damages.
  3. Put your copyright management information in, on and/or adjacent to each of your images.  Copyright management information (“CMI”) “means any of the following information conveyed in connection with copies of a work or displays of a work, including in digital form (such as in the metadata of your photo file):
  • The title and other information identifying the work, including the information set forth on a notice of copyright.
  • The name of, and other identifying information about, the author of a work or
  • The name of, and other identifying information about, the copyright owner of the work, including the information set forth in a notice of copyright.
  1. Section 1202 of the U.S. Copyright Act makes it illegal for someone to remove your CMI from your photo to hide the infringement.  The fines start at $2,500 and go to $25,000 in addition to attorneys’ fees and any damages for the infringement.  You don’t have to register your photo in advance to recover under this statute. So, if possible, put your CMI as a watermark on your photo and in the metadata of your digital file (be careful that your CMI is not removed when using the “save for web” function).
  2. Make it more difficult for others to use your photos without your permission.  Even though a burglar can break into your home, you still lock your door and set the alarm.  Do the same to protect your images.  First, disable “right-click” so that novices cannot easily copy and save your images.  Second, read the terms and conditions of any website where you may post your images or contest that you enter to make sure that you’re not giving up rights to which you’re not aware.
  3. Prosecute unauthorized uses of your images.  Many people think that they have a right to use your photos or they won’t be caught if they do.  Fortunately, there are many tools to battle copyright infringement.

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