Thursday, April 17, 2014

Working with Commercial Photographers: Copyrights

*I'm not a legal professional nor this is legal advice*

A lot of photographers work very differently. Some commercial freelance photographers, especially the non-professional photographers, do not charge for licensing or copyright usage. And some, especially the professional photographers, charge for using their intellectual property (IP), aka copyrighted images, of their work. 

Each shutter (time when the button is hit on the camera) is a creation of a copyrighted image from the person whom owns that camera. In the U.S. there are basically 2 different types of copyrights, 1 that is registered with the copyright office and another that isn't. Both have very different protections, and obviously the one that is registered has a lot more protection of the cases there are any infringements.

Now I’m not teaching what copyright or IP means here… But I am saying when hiring a professional photographer in general just keep in mind they own the copyright in full. Of course with restrictions, such as if I were to take a photograph of a person whom is not a public figure or in public office and the photograph was not taken on private property (which I do have permission to be on and photograph anyone from) I am allowed to photograph this person and even profit commercially without any model release. And all of this varies county by country, but this is generally of course in the U.S.

Commercial or even non-commercial, if you hire a photographer that photographer owns the rights to all of the images. They may not be allowed to legally use it for commercial purposes, unless they mention you releasing all of your rights and anyone being at the event (for event photography, like private parties, etc.) releases their rights. Generally photographers will include this release into their terms of service agreement. Now a vast majority of non-commercial photographer’s do “include rights” which generally seems like they are giving up their rights as well but generally its just allowing you as the client to have the same equal rights as they do, that’s it. And in other cases such as myself I prefer to not give the rights to have full quality control over any images I create to ensure only high quality prints are out in the world with my permission.

Can a copyright have a dollar value? I’m not sure if it can be priced fairly for all parties involved but I myself go off of industry standard to start off at $1000 to purchase/transfer my own copyrights (of each photo). I wouldn’t ever go any lower unless in bulk copyright purchases/transfers. But that’s how much I would start at only from an assignment. As for stock copyright’s value could easily be at any dollar amount dependent on the supply and demand for that copyright, from $1000 to easily $1 million! Or even if a photographer just doesn’t want to really sell a copyrighted image unless its for a very high number they will price it very high, higher than most of their collection to intentionally put off most potential art buyers.

So, as you can see a copyright is very valuable, even when low balling a price tag on them. A vast majority of individuals will think much less value for copyrights which is understandable because they never think it’s a LIFE TIME term of usage, an unlimited usage, and even licensing out to other individuals (resale). This is why most professional photographers that require compensation for copyrights they offer licensing contracts. Licensing images are basically a rental/lease of time and usage restrictions to a copyright, either exclusively used or non-exclusively used. To using it for 6 months specifically for all (or even very specific) social media websites to 3 years for print advertising to just 1 full page ad in the newspaper (known as 1 time use).  This isn’t cheap as people may assume as well, but it is a lot less expensive than purchasing an entire copyright.

Please keep in mind of your needs before getting a license or purchasing a copyright. Most of the time a company never needs a photo more than 1-3 years max. Rarely most companies ever need more, depending the type of company they are and what industries they are in, and as well what type of image it is. People images where its corporate headshots, no point in keeping it more than 3 years because people change, so keep the images up-to-date yearly or every few years to see consistency in company employees. For Products, depending the type of product shots, generic white background product shots can last forever, but advertising campaign type of shots may lose out its freshness and re-usability in a year, again depending the product and industry.

*I'm not a legal professional nor this is legal advice*

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