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Should/How do I copyright my work??? Please Help.

Jack Johnson , Apr 10, 2007; 03:07 p.m.

I just returned from a trip through Afghanistan, and I now have a non-profit group interested in some of my photos of a project they are working on. They want to be able to sell the photos as well as use them in marketing campaigns. All of the proceeds would be put back into the program.

I am okay with them selling the photos to generate money for their project, but something isn't sitting right with me when it comes to giving up my rights to my photographs. Is there a way to give them the rights to do whatever they want with these photos while still maintaining the rights myself to do as I choose with them? I really have no plans with the photos with regards to selling them, but again, I just do not like the feel of giving up the rights completely.

Thanks a lot for any help!

Regards,

Jack

Responses

Yves Jalbert , Apr 10, 2007; 03:24 p.m.

Whenever you press the camera shutter you essentially create copyright. That means you created content of which you are the author. So unless you decide to specically "give" or "sell" them the copyright, it is yours by default.

In your situation, a non-exclusive license is what you would probably need to sell to the client. Basically you sell them the rights to use the images (an agreement) for a specific usage, and for a specific period of time. Because the license agreement is non-exclusive to them, you can also sell the images elsewhere on your own. However you still retain the copyright, you are the author. If the client wants to buy the right to use the product but also wants to buy the product itself (your copyright) they would usually pay a lot of money since you'll never be able to use these images again or make future profit from them.

There are many ways to approach this. I suggest you start by going through the business forum section of this site (many excellent references), and maybe check out Amazon as well for books on the subject. I'm sure you'll find great references. Good luck.

Yves Jalbert , Apr 10, 2007; 03:34 p.m.

I forgot to mention that I keep saying "selling" a license. You can also "give" them a non-exclusive usage license if you want to. That's up to you. But you basically keep your copyright.

For your need you might be interested in looking into blinkbid.com , a small photographer management software that you can download and try free for a couple of weeks. There is a license builder in there that is probably exactly what you are looking for. It takes an hour at most to learn and does the job very well. You can print out your licenses and jobs to paper only; but install CutePDF (search Google) which is a free virtual printer software that allows you to print documents straight to a pdf (instead of a real printer) and send that to your client. Good luck.

Ellis Vener , Apr 10, 2007; 05:28 p.m.

Yes you should.

See http://www.editorialphoto.com/copyright/

for how to do it.

John Tonai , Apr 11, 2007; 12:37 a.m.

"Whenever you press the camera shutter you essentially create copyright."

This is actually not true. Your work must be in a fixed and tangible form. Just pressing the shutter creates a transient image and that cannot be copyrighted.

Editorialphoto.com has a good easy to understand description. But you should also reference http://www.copyright.gov for the official information.

Aaron Linsdau , Apr 13, 2007; 04:29 p.m.

Do not give up all of your rights to those images, especially as it sounds like it was difficult to obtain them. You can sell them a license to use the images for various purposes and charge fairly for them.

You own the intellectual property and they are your copyright but they are not registered. That is a huge difference. Pay the $45US and register your images with the US Copyright office. It's very easy to do. Just create contact sheets of all your images, put them on a CD, fill out the form and send it in. And keep an exact duplicate of what you sent. Then, when someone steals your work, you are registered. It is a massive difference. Unregistered images are usually not worth defending. Registered gives you the ability to really go after people if they steal your work.

Just because the organization is non-profit does not mean they do not make money. Ask if the entire organization are volunteers. Probably not. Why do you get to work for free. And why would you allow them to sell your photographs? You should sell your photographs unless they're acting as an agent.

Multiple photographers talk about this. Choose a non-profit or two that you're willing to give time to and that's it. Many non-profits will try and get free stuff while they themselves collect a salary. Don't do it.

Walter Rowe , Apr 23, 2007; 09:33 p.m.

Actually, the digital file created in the camera is considered a tangible form, and therefore is protected under copyright law. Just having that digital file does not provide you the full protections granted under US Copyright law. You need to register the images in order to be able to pursue all of the remedies allowed under the law.

If an image is registered before an infringement takes place, you can sue for lots of remedies above and beyond the normal license fees you would have received. If the image is registered after the infringement takes place, you are only permitted to recover the normal license fees and cannot recover any additional damages.

If the images are unpublished (like your Afghanistan pictures), you can register all of them as a group at one time. Use Form VA. You pay the single $45 registration fee for the entire batch. Create JPGs of all of the photographs (450 pixels on the long side is fine, and no watermarks), and burn them all onto two CD's or DVD's, then label the disks.

Send one copy with the completed Form VA and $45 to the United States Copyright office via registered courier (registered mail or Fed Ex) so that you have the exact date and person's name who signed for them when they arrived at the copyright office. That is the effective date of registration. Your certificate may take months to get to you, but that does not affect the date of registration. They are registered the day they arrive at the Copyright Office.

When the certificate comes, write the registration number on your copy disk so you know what images are part of which group registration. You may also want to embed that certificate number in the metadata of your original image files so that it goes out with every generation of that file. That way no one can dispute that the images are copyrighted. The registration number is tagged inside the file you provide to clients.

The copyright process seems scary the first time, but it really could not be easier. And this summer they will start accepting your registrations online for a reduced fee of $35. Standard registration via mail will still cost $45.

Walter Rowe
www.RoweImages.com

John Tonai , Apr 23, 2007; 10:31 p.m.

Walter,

I was being anally specific. If there isn't anything in the camera to record the image, it isn't considered to be in tangible form. You are correct regarding digital images.

John

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