Photo Attorney

Jun 29, 2006

Sales Tax for Photographers

Many photographers sell their work either on the side or for their full-time job. Those sales may be subject to sales tax. Since the photographer, as the seller, is responsible for collecting and paying those taxes, you should understand your tax obligations to protect your business.

Sales taxes are imposed by state governments, but each state handles them differently. For example, some states don't require tax collection for services, only goods. California photographers who deliver images electronically do not have to collect sales tax from their clients. In some other states, you must collect sales tax for all photography services, including materials, services, and fees.

Tax obligations may apply only if you sell your work on a retail basis (direct to the public) rather than wholesale (to a middle person). For example, if you sell your prints directly to individuals, you need to charge sales tax. If a gallery sells your prints, the gallery is responsible for collecting and remitting sales tax.

You should separate the sales tax amount from your charges on your invoice or receipt or state specifically that the total due includes sales tax. In the latter case, you must remit the collected tax by backing it out of the total amount received.

If you sell products or services to someone who lives in another state, you may not have to collect sales tax for that transaction. However, a few states, such as Texas, require that you pay sales tax for sales to persons in that state regardless of your location.

How do you determine your tax obligations? Consult your state treasurer's office, a tax attorney or an accountant. Even then, you may get different information than your colleague receives. So get the advice in writing. You may be relieved of tax, penalty, and interest charges that are due on a transaction if the state's treasurer determines that you reasonably relied on written advice that was erroneous and were harmed by that reliance.

It's important to understand your tax liabilities. If you do not collect and remit the correct amount, you may owe the taxes due plus penalties and interest. They can mount quickly.

Take my advice; get professional help.

Jun 21, 2006

"Copyrighting" vs. "Registering" Your Photos

Many photographers have learned the advantages of sending copies of their photos along with the required VA form and check to the U.S. Copyright Office, also known as "registering" your copyrights. Others call this "copyrighting" their photos, but using that term may cause problems.

Copyrights for photographers occur at the click of the shutter - it does not matter whether the image was shot with film or digitally. The laws related to that copyright are effective at that moment. Even if the photograph is never registered, the copyright exists and is protected by copyright law.

If the copyright is registered at a later time, additional benefits arise such as the option to recover statutory damages for infringements and the inference that the person who registered the copyright is the owner.

If photographers tell others that they are "copyrighting" their photos when they actually are registering them, others may believe that the photos are not protected until that time. Some may feel free to use the photos without permission or may not give photographers the credit due for their work.

To best protect your work, register your copyrights today (and refer to it that way).

Take my advice; get professional help.

Jun 15, 2006

Termination Rights For Copyright Licenses

Photographers often agree to bad deals early in their careers. Thanks to the Copyright Act, photographers may be able to minimize the damages from those decisions.

Section 304(c) of the Copyright Act allows copyright owners (and their heirs) to terminate all grants, licenses or transfers of rights that were made prior to 1978 beginning the 56th year after the license was made. The requirements to terminate a grant, license or transfer of any copyright must be strictly followed. The photographer must provide at least two years and no more than ten years' written notice to the person to whom the grant was made. That notice also must be filed with the U.S. Copyright Office. Similarly, grants, licenses or transfers made after 1977 may be terminated during a five-year period beginning 35 years after the grant was made.

The termination provisions do not apply to works for hire, so publishers and other users of photography are increasingly characterizing photography jobs that way. While you may agree to accept those consequences, you first should understand the rights that you are giving away.

Take my advice; get professional help.

Jun 2, 2006

Copyright Registration Fees May Increase July 1

The U.S. Copyright Office expects to increase basic registration fees from $30 to $45 per application effective July 1, 2006. Any registration received by the U.S. Copyright Office on or after that date must include the new fee.

Save yourself some money and protect your work at the same time. Register your copyrights today!

Take my advice; get professional help.