How Photographers Can Copyright, Manage & Protect Their Images

An Adobe Community Professional, you can find A.J. posting video tutorials & reviews on his website, when he’s not creating content for Layers Magazine or GeekBeat.TV. This is his second guest blog post for Tiffinbox. Read his first post as well. Then follow him on Twitter.

First, I want to thank Seshu for having me back on his blog. My schedule is such that I really try to make time for these guest articles; it’s truly a privilege to contribute to the community.

For today’s post I wanted to discuss copyright, and what you’re not doing about it. I’m constantly surprised at the number of photographers who don’t register their image copyrights. If you consider yourself a professional photographer, act professionally for the sake of your business and register your images. It’s easy and affordable ($35), especially when compared to the insane amount of money you spend on your equipment. It can also be done online through the Electronic Copyright Office (eCO).

As I re-read the above paragraph, I can see how I’m coming off a bit harsh. Not my intention, it’s just lately I’ve come across more photographers who have seen their work used by someone else. It’s easy for you to register, it’s even easier for someone to grab your image and use it. Consider this recent example in which Will King Photography was blatantly ripped off by 367 Media. What I find interesting is the folks that stole Will’s images are located in the same geographic area. Usually, when I hear of these cases, they occur in other countries or different states.

In a previous post Seshu suggests you secure your images, and provides a link to David Riecks security page. Those are all good suggestions for discouraging infringement.

Registering your copyright is going to be your go-to solution if infringement happens.

Copyright is a civil matter handled in federal court. Without proper copyright registration you may be entitled to actual damages, e.g., standard licensing fees, profits received from infringement, and little else. You will not receive any statutory damages without proper registration. Considering most photographers reading this are using some sort of DAM (digital asset management) for organizing photos adding registration to your digital workflow wouldn’t be too hard. For Lightroom & Photoshop enthusiasts I’ve recorded two videos on adding metadata to your images. Not only is this a good idea for SEO purposes, it’s also a great way to ensure your copyright info is embed in every image you post. Did I mention most thieves are lazy? Yup, you shouldn’t be surprised how many times your image is reposted as is, without even a name change, metadata intact.

Lightroom SEO

Photoshop SEO

Here are some additional resources to learn more about copyright registration:

1. The PPA helps photographers educate their customers on why copyright is important.

2. Ken Kaminesky interviews Carolyn Wright aka The Photo Attorney who answers photographers burning copyright questions.

3. Jack Reznicki & Ed Greenberg produced the Photographers Legal Guide on DVD, which you can purchase through Kelby Training.

DISCLAIMER – I am not an attorney, nor is this article to be considered professional legal advice.

Do you copyright your images? Tell us about your process down below! You may want to consider a company like MyOWS to help you copyright and then manage and protect your images.

  • A.J. Wood

    Personally, I have all the copyrights owned by me, not my company. I considered the fact my name will never change, while I might consider a new path for my business in a few years.