Photo Attorney

Sep 27, 2005

Registering Your Published Photos As a Group? There Is A Limit!

Copyright law changed in 2001 to allow you to group register images published in the same year (if they were made by the same photographer who also owns the copyrights to them) on one Form VA and for one registration fee. You also can include Form GR/PPh/Con ("Group Registration of Published Photographs Continuation Form") with your registration to list each photograph by its title, date of publication, nation of publication, and description (optional).

While tedious to prepare, this continuation form can give you extra insurance and additional damage awards if your copyrights are infringed. For example, as long as you register the photo before it is infringed or within the three months of its publication, you are eligible for significant statutory damages. Form GR/PPh/Con helps you and the US Copyright Office keep a more accurate record of important dates in case you need them for these types of claims.

Previously, there was no limit on the number of photographs that you could include in a group registration for published images. But think of the poor US Copyright Office employee when opening one recent registration that consisted of a staggering total of 1,776 continuation forms! It's no wonder the Copyright Office quickly amended its regulations to limit to 750 the number of photographs (which equates to 50 forms) that may be submitted with a single application form and filing fee.

There still is no limit to the number of photographs that may be included in a single group registration when you elect not to use continuation sheets. Instead, you can identify the date of publication for each photograph on its deposit, in a text file on the CD-ROM or DVD that contains the photographic images, or on a list that accompanies the deposit and provides the publication date for each image.

Regardless of how you choose to do it, registering your photographs is never the wrong choice.

Take my advice; get professional help.

Sep 20, 2005

Infringement on the Web? You Have Options . . .

You're sitting in your easy chair and surfing the web. You're not paying much attention, until you see it. It's your photo, but you did not post it there. You can't believe they used your photo without your permission.

Now what? You have some options - you can bill the infringer for the use or sue the infringer (after registering your image, if you haven't yet).

Thanks to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act ["DMCA"] enacted in 1998, you have another option when your copyright is infringed on the web. While the Internet Service Provider ["ISP"] is not liable for transmitting information that infringes a copyright, the ISP must remove the infringing materials from a user's website after receiving proper notice of the violation.

The DMCA has specific requirements that have to be followed exactly. The notice must: be in writing, be signed by the copyright owner or the owner's agent, identify the copyrighted work claimed to be infringed (or list of infringements from the same site) and identify the material that is infringing the work. Additionally, the notice must include the complaining party's contact information, a statement that the complaint is made in "good faith," and a statement, under penalty of perjury, that the information contained in the notification is accurate and that the complainer has the right to proceed (because he is the copyright owner or agent).

Whatever option you choose, send the message that infringement is wrong and will not be tolerated.

Take my advice; get professional help.

Sep 14, 2005

Rights of Privacy Concerns for Photographers

In general, when people are in public, you may photograph them. The use of the photographs can be restricted due to certain privacy rights. The rights for a person to certain kinds of privacy are recognized in most states, but differently for each one. It is, therefore, tricky to know what you can do. The safest approach is to follow the most restrictive one. Privacy rights can be subdivided into four areas.

The first is "invasion of privacy" or "intrusion upon another's seclusion." It happens when someone actually intrudes a person's private domain that would be considered offensive to the average person. As a photographer, the act of going on someone's land without permission would violate this privacy. You don't have to take the photo or publish the photo for the action to be unlawful. Some courts have found an invasion of privacy even when photographing someone in public. In those cases, the photographers harass their subjects, use hidden cameras, or wait for a woman's skirt to be blown at a fun house. It also is unlawful to view and photograph people inside of residences or other places where privacy is expected (businesses are ok), even when the photographer is standing in public.

The second is the public disclosure of private facts. This law is difficult to enforce because if the disclosed information is true, courts usually find that First Amendment interests outweigh privacy rights. It requires disclosure of what an ordinary person would consider private facts when an ordinary person would consider the disclosure offensive. Because of the required elements, it rarely applies to photographers.

The third right of privacy is the portrayal of a person in false light. This happens often with photographs, but usually because of the caption. It requires someone to be publicly portrayed in a false manner in which an ordinary person would find the portrayal offensive. To be liable, the publisher of the photograph must have known or recklessly disregarded the probably falsity of what is represented. It is similar to defamation, when someone's reputation is damaged by a statement that is known or should be known to be false. False light does not require that the person was damaged.

The fourth right of privacy is very different from the other three. It is the commercial appropriation of someone's name or likeness without permission, or misappropriation. It also is known as the right of publicity. It happens when someone uses the name or likeness of another without consent to gain some commercial benefit. It usually occurs when a photograph of a person is used in an advertisement without the person's permission. That is why model releases are so important-they show that you have the person's permission to use the person's name or likeness. Permission is not required for editorial or newsworthy publications.

Be sure to consider other's rights of privacy before you click the shutter.

Take my advice; get professional help.

Sep 5, 2005

Pricing Your Products and Services

Setting a price for your products and services is more than finding a happy medium between one that's too high that you lose customers or too low that you're giving away the farm. You also must add some legal factors to the equation. The safest way to establish your fees is to have a reasonable and consistent basis for what you charge. Here are 10 pricing tips to help you get started:

o If you advertise a price, charge that price.
o You can make your prices "subject to change," but you can't use them to bring a customer in and then charge a different fee.
o Don't charge some clients one fee and other clients a different fee for the same services.
o Check with your state authorities to determine the maximum interest and penalties that you can charge for extending credit.
o You can ask what other photographers charge for products and services.
o Some resources to determine what others are charging are the Stock Photo Price Calculator at,, and
o Avoid antitrust activity by not telling other photographers what to charge.
o Definitely don't make agreements with other photographers to fix your prices.
o Don't run promotions offering to pay sales taxes on goods without clearing that with the Federal Trade Commission and your state authorities.
o Don't advertise products and services that you can't deliver.

Setting your prices can be tricky. If you're fair about it, you'll get all the business you can handle.

Take my advice; get professional help.