Author : Renee Brussard (AKA Easypickings). © 2011
I’ve been asked recently to write a little article for the NEM Magazine and have chosen a topic that has come to the fore-front in my life recently. As most of you on NEM’s know, I do digital art. One of my images has recently become the center of a small battle. In essence, the owner of the subject of my image took an interest in buying the copyright of the image to be used as a branding tool for her business and her project involving the subject of the image. This is the first time I have been approached for something like this and I do admit to being somewhat naive. This person was first receptive to negotiating a price for the copyright, then a day later decided that she didn’t want to pay the price and was going to have someone else reproduce the same image. She demanded that I turn over my photos and threatened me with trespassing (I was invited along to shoot the subject at the time) to try and get these images (especially my art) for free. As a result, I’ve had the opportunity to research copyright laws here in Canada in order to protect myself and my work.
I want to share what I’ve learned with you so that you can protect what is yours too. Now, laws do differ from country to country, but I believe the essence may be the same. The way that I understand it (and I’m not a lawyer so do your own research!!) is that if you take the picture with your own camera, then the picture belongs to you. You own the copyright of that image. Now, if you work for a company and are doing the photography as an employee for your employer, then the copyright and images belong to them, not to you. Are you with me so far?
If you took the photo for yourself using your own equipment, then the photo is yours. Your work is automatically copyrighted. You don’t need to register it with the government. However, you can still do so to further protect yourself, and to give you official documentation for court, if you ever need it. It just strengthens your claim. The cost to do so at this time is $50.00 and can be done at the Canadian Intellectual Property Office online. Here is their website: http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/cipointernet-internetopic.nsf/eng/h_wr00003.html
The Picture in Question
This now leads into another topic – what can you do with your images? Not a heck of a lot is the answer. In order to DO something with your image, as in selling them, you need a release form signed. If you didn’t get a release, then the images cannot be used to for commercial purposes. There are two types of releases that you can obtain and SHOULD obtain when you shoot an image.
The first type of release form is a Model release. A model release is a contract that says that you the consent of the people in your image to photograph them and use the images for commercial purposes. It doesn’t have to refer only to selling an image itself, but it also refers to using the image of that person for advertisement purposes. For example, if you run a website for advertising your wedding photography business and have some really cool photos of a bride that you’d like to post, you need a release. It doesn’t only refer to a full frontal of the person either – but it also relates to anything that someone could recognise as being a part of that person – say the hands, or a silhouette.
The second type of release form is a Property release. This would refer to any recognisable OBJECT, like a dog belonging to someone, a public building, etc. You can shoot Uncle Joe’s house from the sidewalk, but if you do it from the front yard, you need a release. If you want to sell your photo you will need a release.
When do you not need a release? One reason is for editorial purposes. You can sell the image to a magazine, newspaper, television show as long as it’s used in conjunction with a story.
Just to sum things up, here is what I’ve learned:
● You take the image with your own equipment, for yourself, then you own the copyright
● Get property and model releases before you take that first click. You never know when something you take will suddenly have a real value assigned to it. If you don’t get your releases, then you may regret it later.
● Photos/images can command quite a lot of money. There are calculators out there on the internet to give you an idea of a price – they can range from $500-several thousand $$ per use of the image, depending on the size needed, the amount of subscribers they have, if it’s colour or black and white and the demand for your subject.
● NEVER sell your copyright – don’t let someone else profit off of your work. Sell them a licence instead. There is never a need to sell a copyright.
Remember: knowledge is power. Look up your rights as a photographer in your country and protect yourself and your work. You never know when you’ll need to stand up for yourself and the better prepared you are, the better you’ll be able to do it.
Here are a few sites to check out on the internet:
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