5 Things to Know When Taking Photos

snow-goose-blue Copyright Carolyn E. Wright

Here are 5 things to know when taking photographs:

  1. Your photo is protected by copyright the second you take it.

A copyright is created at the moment a work is made into a fixed form. For authors, the copyright is created when you type the words on your computer. For photographers, it is created at the click of the shutter. For artists, it is created when the paint is applied to the canvas. Copyright law protects both unpublished and published works, regardless of whether they have been registered with the U.S. Copyright Office.

  1. You can (and should) use the copyright notice with your photo without registering it.

You don’t have to register your photos with the U.S. Copyright Office to post a copyright notice with them.  The official copyright notice has three parts: the first part is the © (the letter “c” in a circle), the word “Copyright,” or its abbreviation, “Copr.”  The second part notes the year when the work was first published.  The third required part of a copyright notice is the name of the copyright owner.  The final form looks like this: © 2016 Carolyn E. Wright.

While the copyright no­tice is no longer required for copyright protection, it is a good idea to use it.  It will remind others that your photos are protected by copyright. When you post a copyright notice with your registered images, then the infringer cannot claim that the infringement was innocent and a court is more likely to find that the infringement was willful, supporting the maximum in infringement damages.

  1. As the copyright owner of a photograph, you have exclusive rights to it.

When you own a copyright to a photograph, you have the sole right (also known as the “exclusive right”) to:

  • reproduce the copyrighted work;
  • display the copyrighted work publicly;
  • prepare derivative works based on the copyrighted work; and
  • distribute copies of the copyrighted work to the public by sale, rental or lending, and/or to display the image.

except when the use is a “fair use.” Learn more at https://www.photoattorney.com/the-fuss-about-fair-use/

  1. You may take photographs of things that are visible from public spaces.

No law prevents property from being photographed from a public area, including bridges, buildings, homes, airports, and accident scenes.  However, a property owner may restrict your photography when you are on the owner’s property.

  1. You may take photographs of people in public.

As long as people, including children, do not have an expectation of privacy, then you may photograph them. People have an expectation of privacy such as when they are in their home with the curtains closed (but not if the windows are not covered) or in a dressing room or bathroom.

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