Have Your Cake and Eat It, Too

You can sell the copyright to an image. If so, you give up all rights that you had in the image as if you never took the photograph. But the only way to give up a copyright to an image is in writing.

Even when copies of a photo are distributed, the photographer retains the copyrights to the image. If you give your client copies of the digital files, without more, you are not giving up your copyrights.

You also can give specific, limited rights for the use of that copyright, while maintaining ownership of the copyright for the image. It’s called “licensing.” For example, you give a magazine the limited right to print one of your photos. You send a copy of the digital file or the negative/chrome, but you state that you are granting the magazine specific limited usage of the image, whether it is for printing 100,000 one-run copies, for a specific time-frame, or however you want to specify the license. In a portrait or event business, you can give copies of the images to your clients so that they can have prints made. Limit their rights to personal use, only, and you keep them from selling the images to the Enquirer.

It’s the closest thing to having your cake and eating it, too. Unless you state specifically in writing and sign the document that gives your copyright to an image to someone else, you keep the copyright, regardless of what else you do.

Take my advice. Get professional help.

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