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.

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