Photo Attorney

Aug 28, 2005

Correcting Copyright Registration Mistakes

Registering your copyrights with the US Copyright Office is undoubtedly important. It gives you the legal presumption that the work is yours, you are then eligible for statutory damages for infringement and it is required before you can file suit to prosecute those who infringe your copyrights. But you must follow specific instructions when registering your photographs to invoke the most complete protection.

Congratulations are in order if you already have registered your photos. But what happens if you later realize that you made a mistake on the registration? Is the registration valid? It depends.

In general, a copyright maybe registered only once. When your register your copyright, bits of information are collected about the work. The principal uses of that information are to establish and maintain a public record and to determine whether the registration complies with copyright law. Other uses include public inspection and copying and preparation of public indexes and catalogs.

If you later discover that the registration for a work is incorrect or incomplete, you may file a supplementary registration, also known as Form CA, to correct the error or to augment the previous information. The photographer, another person owning the copyright, or an agent for either of those persons may file the supplemental registration.

Form CA should be used only for errors or omissions on the initial registration - not for other changes to the original registration. For example, do not file a supplemental registration to document a change in the work. Significant modifications become derivative works entitled to their separate registrations. (See my previous blog on derivative works). Do not use Form CA when a work that you previously registered as unpublished is later published or when you transfer the copyright.

When you file a supplemental registration, the work is assigned a new number and may affect your rights. So the best thing to do is to accurately file the initial registration.

Take my advice; get professional help.

Aug 17, 2005

Photography Is Not A Crime - Your Rights

Since 9/11, security issues have affected everyone's life. While photographers should be respectful and understanding of those concerns, we also can protect our rights by knowing them. Here are 10 tips on your right to take photographs:

1) In general, if you are in a place with public access, you may take photographs of whatever you want, including children, bridges, buildings, homes, airports and accident scenes. What you do with those photos depends on a variety of issues, but you always can take the photograph.
2) Property owners may restrict your activities, including photography, while on the owners' property, but owners may not keep you from photographing property from another place.
3) Photography also can be restricted as follows:
a. By commanders of military installations for national security interests
b. By the Department of Energy for nuclear facilities
4) You may photograph anyone in public areas except where there may be an expectation of privacy (such as in restrooms and dressing rooms).
5) You may not block public access areas or create hazardous conditions for photography or any purposes.
6) Anyone, including security guards and police officers, may ask questions about your photography activities, but you do not have to respond. Some states require that you identify yourself to a police officer when asked.
7) Harassment and coercion by anyone is illegal.
8) Persons other than law enforcement personnel generally do not have the right to detain you unless you commit a felony or other crime in that person's presence.
9) Persons other than law enforcement personnel do not have the right to confiscate your film/digital card. Police officers may take your film/cards when making an arrest or when they have a warrant.
10) If your rights as a photographer are violated, contact an attorney to understand your remedies and restitution options.

Take my advice, get professional help.

Aug 3, 2005

Duration of Copyrights

Copyrights don't last forever. It's a good thing because we now can play Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata or take a photograph of Michelangelo's statue of David without paying royalties. Known as being in the "public domain," the law is designed so that works of authorship eventually (or, in a few cases, immediately) are made available for all to freely use and benefit from them.

Works go into public domain either because: (1) the author failed to satisfy statutory formalities to perfect the copyright; (2) it is a work of the U.S. Government; or (3) the term of copyright for the work has expired.

Item (1) refers to work published prior to March 1, 1989. The copyright notice had to be affixed to the work or it immediately lost protection (the copyright protection for some foreign works has been restored even if they were published without notice before that time) Works published without the copyright notice between 1/1/78 and 3/1/89, the effective date of the Berne Convention Implementation Act, retained copyright only if efforts to correct the accidental omission of notice was made within five years, such as by placing notice on unsold copies. The law has changed so that work published after that time does not need the copyright notice for protection. But it's a good idea to use it, anyway. See my other blogs for additional information.

Item (2) provides that works of government employees, such as maps, charts and surveys, are in the public domain from the date of creation.

Item (3) allows a certain time of copyright protection for the benefit of the creator. The time for that protection has changed several times over the years, so it's difficult to explain when works fall into the public domain. The chart found at is helpful to determine those dates.

Fortunately, copyright protection is easier to obtain and to keep for longer than ever. So do what you can to continue to protect your work. Register your copyrights today.

Take my advice; get professional help.