Let's talk about Copyrights

Before I was a "photographer"... I was just another mom wanting to share great pics of her kids with family and friends. I scanned my free 8x10 from Picture People and emailed it to friends and family and even used some of them to scrapbook or make greeting cards for the holidays. They were pictures of MY kids... so I had the right to do that, right? No. I was actually breaking copyright laws. Unfortunately I didn't know that, and there isn't much I can do about it now.

Now I take photography and portraiture very seriously and want to preserve the rights of artists like myself and thought I'd use my blog to help everyone understand copyright in regards to photography.

So grab a cup of coffee and let's discuss, shall we?

What is copyright?

The U.S. Constitution and the Federal Copyright Act give “copyright” protection to “authors” for their “original works,” such as photographs.

What does that mean?

Simply that the law protects the original works and gives the exclusive rights to reproduce them to the author. When the copyright has been violated, the author can pursue legal action and the offender can be held liable and fined.

So, what are the rules regarding the prints I purchased from my professional photographer?

Here are just a few examples of things that you may not do with your professional photos:

* Scan them – for any reason
* Copy them
* Reprint them
* Crop watermarks out of photos and re-post them on the web
* Edit them – in any way
* Take pictures of your printed professional photos (especially with your cell phone) and post them on the web. (THIS LOOKS REALLY BAD PEEPS!)

What do you mean I can’t I scan them? The photos are of me and my family right?

While the photos might be of you, they are not yours. The images belong to your professional photographer; who owns the copyright. Granted you may have purchased a print of the image, and you are encouraged to display that image and enjoy it. However, it is not at your disposal to make copies of it by scanning or any other means. It’s actually against the law.

Also, most professional photographers like to maintain quality control over their work. There is a large quality difference between a scanned photo and one that your photographer creates and sizes for use on the web. We do not like to see our work all distorted and wonky because it has been scanned.

Really, what’s the big deal?

The big deal is that your professional photographer works extremely hard at creating the beautiful images that you see. Everything from lighting, posing and post-processing goes into one single image. In that regard, your photographer will price their work to maintain a profitable business. When clients start scanning images and reprinting at home or worse, local one-hour labs, they have basically stolen the ability for the photographer to make a profit from that image. Since selling their artwork is how photographers earn a living, it tends to make us unhappy when clients steal images from us.

BUT Aunt Susie saw my photo and just wants to have one little copy of it. Now what?

Great! Your photographer will be thrilled to help you get one little copy of that photo for Aunt Susie. It’s always a great thing to hear that your family and friends love our work!

Okay, got it. BUT I bought the disc with the printing rights. What can’t I do with these images?

On the print release form, there will be instructions on what you can and cannot do with the images contained on the disc. However, just for the sake of education, I’ll give you a quickie list of those things.

Things you can do:

* make prints for personal use
* make greeting cards for personal use
* make photo books or photo gifts for personal use
* upload the images in the WEB folder onto the web to share with your family and friends (however, please do not remove the watermark and give photo credit by linking the the photographer's website if possible.

Things you cannot do:

* enter the photos into contests – nope, not even those “cute baby” contests
* post full-size non-watermarked images on the web
* alter the images – part of your photography experience with your professional photographer will include the photographer’s time and talent in editing/processing your images. If you do not like the style in which your images were processed, it might be time to look for a different photographer.

What about the images on your blog and facebook?

The images on my blog are meant to be enjoyed and viewed. If you would like to share the images on my blog, please do so. All you have to do is share the link (URL) with your family and friends. Or, you can simply find the share buttons at the right of each post (titled “share this blog”) and share them anywhere you’d like.

The images on facebook are also meant to be enjoyed and viewed. I welcome and encourage you to tag yourself in the images on facebook or share the link to the images. I also welcome and encourage you to use the images on facebook as your profile photo as long as you do not remove the watermark in the cropping process. To avoid removing the watermark, simply drag the cropping bars all the way to the edge of the photo. Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy!

Okay, I admit it. I might have violated your copyright policy. Now what?

Hey, don’t sweat it! We all make mistakes and I’m sure that you did not intend to do so. I simply ask you to make an attempt at rectifying the situation. If you’ve scanned images and posted them on the web, please take them down. If you need a watermarked copy of the images to use on the web, please contact me immediately and we can get that taken care of --- web images are FREE for you to use!

And please, please, please… promise to never do it again! xoxo

For more information on the issue of copyright, please take a moment to read through this article on photolaw.net: http://www.photolaw.net/faq.html

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