Photo Attorney

Oct 30, 2005

No Privacy for Britney?

Britney Spears and her husband, Kevin Federline, were promised complete privacy during their October honeymoon in the Fiji islands. No paparazzi were there to intrude. But the couple allowed the resort's staff members to photograph them enjoying their honeymoon when assured that the photos were for personal use and would be placed in a souvenir album to be given to the couple. However, one staff member sold the photos to US Weekly Magazine, and a full spread was published.

Britney is furious. She didn't sign a model release. Did the photographer violate her rights of privacy? Not likely.

Britney can allege that the photographer "invaded her privacy" or "intruded upon her seclusion." This happens when someone actually intrudes a person's private domain that would be considered offensive to the average person. However, she agreed to have her photo taken, so a court probably would find that the use of the photo in a manner other than she expected affected her no differently during the picture-taking session.

Britney also may claim that her right of publicity - the commercial appropriation of her name or likeness - was violated. However, this also will likely be unsuccessful. Since she and her honeymoon are "newsworthy" items, First Amendment concerns are sure to override her protests.

In a statement to The Associated Press, US Weekly said: "Coming from a celebrity who sold pictures of both her wedding and her stepdaughter, it's unlikely the issue here is privacy. Could it be that Britney is seeing red after not seeing the green from these photos? Britney Spears should start a magazine if she'd like to dictate her own coverage."

Take my advice; get professional help.

Oct 25, 2005

Photographer's Legal Toolkit Seminar This Saturday in Atlanta!

If you're in the Atlanta area, come learn about copyright law and other legal issues that affect photographers in person. The Southeastern Photographic Society ("SPS") is sponsoring "The Photographers Legal Tool Kit" seminar. I'll be the speaker and will provide valuable information on how you can protect your work.

The seminar will be held this Saturday, October 29, from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM, at Ignite Communications, 11445 Johns Creek Parkway, Duluth, Georgia.

The seminar is free to SPS members, and $35 for non-members. However, if you join SPS on the day of the seminar, you get in for the cost of membership, which for this time of year is only $15. So by joining SPS, you can save $20 and become a member of this great organization.

A copy of the flyer advertising the event can be found at:

RSVP to Payment for the seminar can be made the day of the seminar, but reservations are required.

See you there!

Oct 19, 2005

10 Tips for Model Releases

Photographers often include people in their images. The general rule is if you publish those photos in a commercial manner, you need a model release. The release is proof that you have permission to use the person's likeness to gain some commercial benefit. Without it, you run the risk of getting sued.

Following are 10 tips for model releases:

You don't need a model release if the photo is used editorially, which includes news items, textbooks, public interest. You definitely need it for advertising uses. Since uses can fall between those two extremes, it's safer to have a release than not.

Draft the release to be as broad as possible so that you can use the photo for any future need that arises without having to go back to the model.

Photograph the model signing the release and/or make a photograph of his driver's license to file with the release as proof that the model himself signed it.

If you are photographing a minor (under 18, or 21 in some states), have the parent or the legal guardian sign the release. Get both parents signature if you can.

Get the release before the shoot so you don't waste your time photographing the model if she is not going to agree to it.

File copies of the releases off-site in case the originals are destroyed.

While many states do not require consideration/payment for the release, some do. It doesn't hurt to include it. Make sure that then consideration is fair so that a court won't find your release invalid.

If the person is not identifiable in the photograph, you don't need a release. Sometimes, however, a person can be recognized even when you can't see his face.

Just because a person consents to have her photo taken does not give you the right to use the image in any way you want.

Get the model release in writing, even from friends and family.

In sum, it never hurts, and can only help, to get a release.

Take my advice; get professional help.

Oct 11, 2005

Publisher's Copyright Registration Is Not Enough

Photographers often publish photos along with other images and/or text in magazines, books, calendars, etc. While the publishers of those pieces, also known as "collective works," are quick to register their copyright in the collective work for their protection, photographers sometimes aren't as diligent. The question then is whether the publisher's copyright covers the photographer's image, as well.

Section 101 of the Copyright Act defines a collective work as "a work, such as a periodical issue, anthology, or encyclopedia, in which a number of contributions, constituting separate and independent works in themselves, are assembled into a collective whole." A collective work is a type of "compilation." Section 103 defines a compilation as copyrightable subject matter. It is a "work formed by the collection and assembling of preexisting materials or of data that are selected, coordinated, or arranged in such a way that the resulting work as a whole constitutes an original work of authorship." It is not necessary that the contributions come from different authors or photographers to comprise a compilation, but they often do.

As with magazines or books, a collective work may be registered and the registration protects all of the copyrightable elements that comprise the collective work. That is, the specific selection, coordination or arrangement of the individual works that make up the entire work is protected.

However, a publisher's copyright registration extends only the compilation - not the individual works that make up that compilation, unless the publisher also owns the copyrights to those works.

So if your photograph is part of a collective work or compilation, don't rely on the publisher's copyright registration to protect you. It won't. Instead, register the copyright yourself.

Take my advice; get professional help.

Oct 4, 2005

How To Register The Copyrights For Your Photographs

It's easier than ever for someone to steal your photographs in this digital age. While the copyrights for your photographs are created at the click of the shutter, the best way to protect your photographs is to register them with the U.S. Copyright Office. You can register the images yourself, but mistakes in the process can limit your rights.

While the Copyright Office provides instructions to help you prepare the forms and gives information about copyright law on its website, the registration process can be daunting. The forms include lots of options, complex legal terms, and a variety of requirements. However, if you are like the vast majority of photographers with no special circumstances, the process to register your photographs is fairly straightforward.

I have prepared a primer on the steps required to register the copyrights to your photos. It should fulfill the need of most photographers. You may view the article here, on one of my favorite websites,

These baby steps add up to giant leaps in protecting your work.

Take my advice; get professional help.

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