Jul 02 2007

Claiming Your Work: Copyright

Published by at 9:06 am under General

When you take a picture, it is yours-the image belongs to you from the moment you snap the shutter. However, photographers are finding more and more that, while the Internet is a great tool for some public exposure, people are taking images posted online and using them for their own benefit. Now, if you just like to take pictures of things like your kids’ birthday parties, you shouldn’t expect to have a problem with Internet burglary. Professionals, on the other had, may want to get their work registered to prevent other people from stealing their photography.

Regardless of if you register your work or not, the images are yours unless you sell the rights to a publisher. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t even need the little “c” symbol for your picture to belong to you-it just does. When you post a picture online, captioning it with the copyright symbol is therefore not necessary, but doing this helps remind people that the images belong to someone else.

If you take some really outstanding photographs, consider officially registering them with the United States Library of Congress. At their website, you can download a copy of the registration form, print it out, and mail it in to receive your official copyright in a few weeks. Remember to thoroughly read the instructions and follow them perfectly, or your application will get rejected. Once you have official documentation of your copyright, it is much easier to prove that you are the owner, in cases of copyright dispute.

Another option for preventing online thievery is to place a digital watermark on you photographs. However, this does ruin some of the effect of a high quality image. Depending on what website you use to upload your pictures, you may also have the option to make you pictures harder to save or print. This won’t stop the best hackers, but at least your pictures will be safe from the common user.

Perhaps you don’t even mind people “stealing” your work. It’s definitely a form of flattery, if nothing else, and if you don’t care that people will use your work on their own pages, I wouldn’t worry about posting them online. If you catch anyone using your photography, another options is to contact them and let them continue to use your work as long as they provide a link back to your website. Remember, the Internet is all about getting your photographs to the public. If your main goal is to make some money, copyright infringement can be an issue, but if you want some extra exposure, a little stealing can’t hurt.

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