The Copyright Act protects photographers by giving the creator of the photograph the exclusive rights to copy, edit, and distribute the image by sale or transfer.
These exclusive rights make it illegal to copy, scan, edit, or share photographic prints and digital media without the photographer’s permission. Violators of this federal law will be subject to its civil and criminal penalties.
Be sure to discuss your copyright needs or questions with your photographer; reasonable requests may be accommodated.
For more information on photographic copyrights, please visit our website at PPA.com/CopyrightLaw.
10 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT COPYRIGHT
DID YOU KNOW?
1. More than 140,000 photographers in the U.S. rely on copyright protection to keep their businesses afloat.
2. A photograph is copyright protected the moment a photographer snaps the image until 70 years after their death. Protection covers both published and unpublished works.
3. Photos don’t have to bear the © mark to be protected. Even if the image hasn’t been marked as copyrighted, that doesn’t mean it is free to use or in the public domain.
4. Just because you see others posting a photograph with no © mark doesn’t mean you can too. Many people have licensing agreements that grant them the use of images with no watermark.
5. Images you find online are copyrighted unless otherwise noted. While it’s true that Fair Use Laws are vague and open to a lot of interpretation, courts will generally rule in favor of the copyright owner.
6. Posting a photographer’s work on social media without permission most likely represents a copyright infringement. The Internet makes online copyright infringement a ballooning problem and legislation changes are underway to address this issue.
7. Just because you purchased a print or paid for a photo shoot doesn’t automatically mean that you can do anything with it. Printing, copying, displaying, or altering photographs without permission are examples of copyright infringement.
8. Copyright infringements can result in civil and criminal penalties! It’s the rule of law, and ignorance of the law (the Intellectual Property Law) is not an excuse; you may be held liable whether the infringement was intentional or not.
9. Infringement cases affect your local economy because they impact the small photography businesses in your area.
10. Not every copyright infringement case ends up in court, but those that do can be very costly for the infringer! copyright lawsuits will be heard in front of a federal court (not your state’s court), and most courts will rule in favor of the photographer. It is not uncommon to see verdicts with up to $150,000 in statutory damages per image!
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
• Reading this is a great start. Thank you!
• Ask for permission. Never print, post, or reproduce a photograph without written permission from the photographer. If you want a copy or a digital file, ask the photographer how to obtain it, legally; you will be supporting their business and protecting yourself.
• Share what you now know about copyright! It’s all about awareness.
Thank you for helping professional photographers and other artists stay in business!