The Law for Photographers: Online

The law that affects photographers is derived from both statutes and case law. In the United States, statutes are laws written and enacted by various state or federal legislative bodies. They are interpreted (and can be enforced or invalidated) by courts at the state or federal level, depending on the matter at issue, making “case law.”

Copyright statutes in the United States are federal law contained in Title 17 of the United States Code. They are amended occassionally by Congress. Previously, the U.S. Copyright Office posted an older version of Title 17, but has now updated its website to include the current “Copyright Law of the United States and Related Laws Contained in Title 17 of the United States Code.”

Case law for copyright matters is made by federal courts. In the past, you could only review case law if you perused large bound “reporters” at your library or lawyer’s office and could only search it electronically if you paid for an expensive online subscription. Thanks to a joint project of Columbia Law School’s Program on Law and Technology and the Silicon Flatirons Program at the University of Colorado Law School, you now can search for free the full text of the U.S. Supreme and Circuit Appeals Courts, as well as the entire U.S. Code, on “AltLaw.” AltLaw features:

– Full-text search of the last decade or so of federal appellate and Supreme Court opinions.
– Advanced search options (proximity searching, Boolean, concentration, wildcards, etc.).

Educating yourself is one of the best ways to protect your work. Now, thanks to the Internet, it is much easier.

Take my advice; get professional help.

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