Copyright: The Good, The Bad, The Clichéd
Okay. Here it is - the lo-down on commercial photographic copyright. What it is, who owns it and why Usage and Exclusivity are better, cheaper options that requesting copyright. Wish me luck.
What is Copyright?
Copyright is the right to distribute, copy, adapt, publish or sell a photograph. Whoever owns copyright can do all these things with the photograph.
Who owns copyright?
Because they took the photograph and under Australian law the ‘creator’ of the work is automatically assigned copyright of the photographs they take
But I paid them to shoot the photograph??
Yep. You did. But they shot it so they own it. Unless they sell it to you.
Okay, but since I paid them to take it I want to be able to use the damn thing
No problem. That’s covered by usage
Alright then smarty pants, what’s usage?
Usage is like renting a house; you can rent a house and live in it, but that doesn’t mean you own it. Similarly the photographer can rent the image to you and allow you to use it under certain conditions.
What type of conditions?
- Time – How long you want to use the image for. One use only, a run of 5,000 printed booklets, use for one year, five years, indefinitely.
- Media – Where you want to use the image. On your website, in a magazine, on a billboard, on printed marketing material.
- Jurisdiction – Where in the world it will be used. In your local paper, across the state, around the country, worldwide.
Also - hang on... the photographer can sell my images to someone else?
Not always. If there are people in any of the shots they have to have permission from each and every one of them to do so. If one person disagrees they don’t have the right to sell the image. Also, if you have something in the image that is trademarked (like a product or process) or that you own the copyright to (like your painting) they don’t have the right to use the image without your permission.
No problem – I deal with the military and no one is more secret squirrel than them. Wait. Now I’ve told you that I’ll have to kill you. Okay, I’ll let you off if you promise not to tell anyone else. Secret Squirrel is covered by a special clause called Exclusivity. This means the photographer still retains copyright, but they don’t have the right to use the images for any purpose outside your agreement with them.
Okay, but what does exclusivity mean in practical terms?
You may just want exclusive rights for a period of time – like when your marketing campaign is progressing, or up until your product is launched. Or you may want it indefinitely because you don’t want competitors getting their hands on your images. Either way it’s no big deal, you just tell us what you need and we’ll put it in the contract.
Why the F&^% can't I just have copyright?
Most photographers are reluctant to hand over copyright because it means they can't use the images to promote their own business. If the photographer does brilliant work for you, they want to be able to show it off just as much as you do! If they can't do that then it's harder for them to have an up to date portfolio, and therefore harder to win new clients. That's why it's quite expensive to purchase copyright.
A better way is to give you, the client, unlimited exclusive rights to the images. For all intents and purposes it's the same as owning copyright. It just means the photographer can use the images to promote their business as well.
How does Industrial Arc approach copyright?
I don’t sell images to people who are not my clients. It’s too complicated and time consuming. But I do reserve the right to use the fabulous images I take for you to promote my business. That means I might use the images on my website, in my printed marketing material, on my business cards or in an email marketing campaign. If you'd like to know more about my standard usage terms and conditions please contact me.
Copyright is the right to sell, distribute, alter or copy an image
Usage is the right to use the image and is determined by what you, the client, wants
Exclusivity is when you want no one else to use the image in any way and is again, determined by what you the client wants
Is there anything else I should know?
I’ve done my best and put in the hard yards to explain the elephant in the room. So no use avoiding it like the plague or crying over spilled milk. We just need to get back on the horse and not count our chickens before they’ve hatched. The light at the end of the tunnel really is a light and it just shows we’re thinking outside the box.