Copyright is something you are entitled to as soon as you create something, at least that’s the case in most (civilized) countries. You don’t have to register your creation with anyone in order to have exclusive rights to it. Why is this important? Because you should be aware of the fact that just because you didn’t put a copyright sign on your photograph that does not mean that your image is not copyrighted. It is and YOU have the copyright. That also means that you cannot use some else’s photo just because there is no copyright sign. The rule is simple – if you didn’t create it, you need to ask for a permission to use it, regardless of a copyright sign.
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It sounds simple, right? Well, not to everyone. Clients often think that just because they are in the photo, that means they have exclusive rights to it. Well, that not the case. Did they create it? No. Therefore, do they have the copyright? No. For instance, I know of a case where a parent submitted a photo of his kid to a certain website in order to enter photo competition without crediting the actual photographer. Did he take photo? No. Does he have the copyright? No. Did he sign the model release for the photographer to use photos from that session? Yes. Still, he felt he was entitled to exclusive rights just because his kid in the photo. Although this parent was wrong, I can sort of understand his sentiments. I understand we are all proud of our kids and want the world to know how great our kids are, but we also need to respect other people’s intellectual property.
I have mentioned model release here. That is a very important thing for you as a photographer. Without a model release signed by a person who is in the photo, in most cases, you will not be able to use that photo in commercial purposes such as reselling or stock photography. Buyers often ask for a model release before they purchase your photos just to make sure they can safely and legally use that photo. In some cases, you will also need a property release. For instance, did you know that you need a property release to take night photos of the Eiffel Tower? In order to publish night shots of the Tower when lights are on, you need to pay a fee first to some institution in Paris.
Online misuse of photographs is just crazy. I cannot help but think that people have a little concern over what and whose work they are using online. It’s too easy to use random Google photos without giving proper credits. One way of protecting your copyright and letting other people know who has the copyright, is by putting your information on a photo as a watermark. Some people don’t like that because it takes the attention away from the photo or its subject and some don’t find it sufficient since it is so easy to remove the watermark. Well, what could you do to add a little bit of protection to your image? You can add metadata to your image. That way, your data will travel together with your image through cyberspace.
Metadata describes the photo’s technical characteristics, licensing terms and most importantly the identity and contact information for the copyright holder.
To read more about metadata, please go to Metadata
This is how you add metadata in Adobe Photoshop… Go to File and select File Info (#1). New window will pop up (#2). Fill in the info in the Description tab making sure you select Copyright. Remember, even if you do not select “Copyright” your photo is still protected by a copyright. You can fill in tabs other than Description, if you like.
Now, to make sure your metadata travels with your image, go to File and select Save for Web and Devices (#3). In a window that just popped up, under Metadata, select whichever option you like. I like to use Copyright and Contact info so that anyone who is interested can see my information.
See, it’s not very hard to add a little bit more of protection to your images.