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 Copyright law protects both unpublished and published works, regardless of whether they have been registered with the U.S. Copyright Office.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 http://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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Don’t Get Your Copyright Advice from Mr. Wonderful

On Shark Tank last Friday, an entrepreneur with a clothing design business reported that a third-party company had copied her t-shirt design, which later was sold at Target. Target removed the shirts from its stores after the designer complained.

Mr. Wonderful (Kevin O’Leary), then asked, “Did you copyright your design?” The designer replied, “I had not at the time . . . .” Mr. Wonderful then asserted “So they really hadn’t broken any law at the time.”


A work is protected by copyright “when fixed in a tangible medium of expression.” Even if the work is never registered with the U.S. Copyright Office, the copyright exists and is protected by copyright law. So, once the designer printed her t-shirt design, she owned a copyright and likely would be entitled to the profits that Target and the third-party company obtained from the infringing sales.

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

During the show, Shark Lori Greiner then added, “. . . it’s a great lesson, though, in knowing that when you have unique designs, copyright them. It’s not a lot of money to do so.”

Good advice, Lori, except it’s better to call it “registering” your copyright. If copyright owners tell others that they are “copyrighting” their works when they actually are registering them, others may believe that the works are not protected until that time.

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


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Copyright Office’s Notice of Register Change

From the U.S. Copyright Office:

NewsNet 638
October 25, 2016

Karyn Temple Claggett Appointed Acting Register of Copyrights

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden has appointed Karyn Temple Claggett as Acting Register of Copyrights effective October 21. Maria A. Pallante, who served as Register since 2011, submitted her resignation from the Library of Congress effective October 29.

“Maria’s service as Register has laid the groundwork for important modernization efforts in the Copyright Office, which I intend to pursue working in close collaboration with Congress and stakeholders. Improved information technology for the office will be a top priority. I am committed to making sure the copyright system of the United States is effective, efficient, and secure,” said Hayden.

Prior to Pallante’s term as Register, she served as Deputy General Counsel (2007-2008) and Associate Register and Director of Policy and International Affairs (2008-2011) for the office. From 1999-2007 she was Intellectual Property Counsel and Director of Licensing for the worldwide Guggenheim Museums. She also worked for two authors’ organizations in New York, serving as Assistant Director of the Authors Guild Inc. and as Executive Director of the National Writers Union. She practiced at the Washington, D.C., law firm and literary agency Lichtman, Trister, Singer and Ross and completed a clerkship in administrative law for the appellate division of the U.S. Department of Labor.

“I am pleased to announce that Karyn Temple Claggett will serve as Acting Register while a national search is conducted for a new permanent Register,” Hayden said. “Karyn is a skilled intellectual property lawyer and manager, and I am confident she will provide excellent leadership for the Copyright Office in the interim.”

Temple Claggett has served since 2013 as Associate Register of Copyrights and Director of Policy and International Affairs for the United States Copyright Office. In that role, she has overseen the office’s domestic and international policy analyses, legislative support, and trade negotiations. She has directed the Office of Policy and International Affairs, which represents the Copyright Office at meetings of government officials concerned with the international aspects of intellectual property protection, and provides support to Congress and its committees on statutory amendments and construction.

Prior to joining the Copyright Office, Temple Claggett served as Senior Counsel to the Deputy Attorney General of the United States, where she assisted with the formulation of Department of Justice policy on legal issues and helped manage the Department of Justice’s Task Force on Intellectual Property. She also spent several years in the private sector as Vice President, Litigation and Legal Affairs for the Recording Industry Association of America and at the law firm Williams & Connolly, LLP. She began her legal career as a trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Division through its Honors Program and also served as a law clerk at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Temple Claggett earned her law degree from Columbia Law School, where she was a senior editor of theColumbia Law Review and Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar. She earned her BA from the University of Michigan.

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Head of US Copyright Office Removed

From Illustrators’ Partnership of America:

Last Friday, October 21, 2016, the head of the US Copyright Office was removed in a surprise action by the newly-appointed Librarian of Congress.

According to the entertainment industry newspaper Variety:

“Maria Pallante is out at [sic] the U.S. Register of Copyrights and is moving to a new post, a Friday announcement that was met with surprise by trade associations and other groups in Washington. The change was made by Carla Hayden…who was only recently confirmed as Librarian of Congress.”

“Pallante was locked out of her computer [Friday] morning,” reports Billboard, citing “two sources who spoke with Library employees.”

“Earlier, Hayden had called several members of Congress to tell them about her decision. Later, she called the heads of several media business trade organizations to give them the news, according to one who received such a call…Hayden, as the librarian of Congress, has the authority to make a new appointment without congressional review.”

The website Trichordist: Artists for an Ethical and Sustainable Internet warns that:

“These are dark days for all creators and copyright holders.  After a two month campaign by Google funded astroturf group Public Knowledge, the newly appointed librarian of congress Carla Hayden [an advocate of “open sourcing”] has fired Maria Pallante the register of copyright. Pallante was the only one standing between Google and what is left of the copyright system.

“This firing is virtually unprecedented in US history. The Librarian of Congress generally leaves the Register of Copyrights to run the affairs of the copyright office. However in the last two months the main Google mouthpiece in Washington DC Public Knowledge has been clamoring for her head.”

More details at Artist Rights Watch.
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Sign Copyright Alliance’s Letter to Political Candidates

~From the Copyright Alliance~

Dear Creators,

As election season grows closer and important copyright issues take center stage, please sign our letter reminding candidates of the vital role that copyright, free expression, creativity and innovation continue to play in our lives.

There is no “left” or “right” when it comes to respecting copyright. The creative community stands united in support of a copyright system that has made and continues to make the United States the global leader in the creative arts and the global paradigm for free expression. Our copyright system is not perfect but, like democracy, it is better than the alternatives. It works.

We urge candidates to universally resist attempts to erode the right of creators to determine when and how they share their works in the global marketplace.


Make your voice heard on these important matters. You can also read and sign the letter we’ve written here. #YourVoiceForCopyright

Keith Kupferschmid
CEO, Copyright Alliance

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Photography and the Law Courses on LinkedIn Learning


LinkedIn announced today the launch of LinkedIn Learning, an online learning platform enabling individuals and organizations to achieve their objectives and aspirations. LinkedIn’s goal is to help people discover and develop the skills they need through a personalized, data-driven learning experience. LinkedIn Learning combines the industry-leading content from Lynda.com with LinkedIn’s professional data and network.

My “Photography and the Law” courses — along with all other courses that are available on Lynda.com today — also will be be available on LinkedIn Learning.

Discover how LinkedIn Learning can help you. Try out LinkedIn Learning yourself today for free.

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Do You Want to Remove Your ID Info from Copyright Office Records?

The U.S. Copyright Office today published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”), seeking public comment on proposed new rules related to personally identifiable information (“PII”) that may be found in the Office’s registration records. First, the proposed rule will allow an author, claimant of record, or the authorized agent of the author or claimant of record, to request the removal of certain PII that is requested by the Office and collected on a registration application, such as home addresses or personal phone numbers, from the Office’s internet-accessible public catalog, while retaining it in the Office’s offline records as required by law. Second, the proposed rule will codify an existing practice regarding extraneous PII that applicants erroneously include on registration applications even though the Office has not requested it, such as driver’s license numbers, social security numbers, banking information, and credit card information. Under the proposed rule, the Office would, upon request, remove such extraneous PII both from the Office’s internet-accessible public catalog and its offline records.

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and instructions on how to submit a comment are available here. Written comments must be received no later than October 17, 2016, at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time.

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Copyright Office Adopts “Mailbox” Rule for Appeals to Refusals to Register

The U.S. Copyright Office is changing the deadline for submitting requests to reconsider refusals to register a copyright claim. Previously, a reconsideration request had to be received by the Office, via mail, no later than three months after the Office issued its decision to refuse registration. This rule has created some uncertainty, as it can be difficult to predict when a request will physically be received by the Office, particularly given security-screening-related delays in the processing of mail. Accordingly, to provide greater certainty to applicants, the amended rule provides that reconsideration requests only need to be postmarked (via the U.S. Postal Service) or dispatched (via commercial carrier, courier, or messenger) no later than three months after a refusal is issued.

The Final Rule is available here.

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