Photography and Copyright Law

We usually think of copyright law pertaining to words. We are all familiar with plagiarism and it is common sense not to steal another person’s writing. Few people, however, understand that images are also grounds for copyright infringement and that illegal use of these images can result in lawful and monetary consequences. Let’s take a look at the meaning of copyright, it’s relation to photography, and how best to use photos within legal boundaries.

What is copyright?

Copyright is a term that defines the ownership of intellectual and artistic material. Basically, this means all forms and mediums of artistic expression such as software, music, architecture, and photographs. It is easy to see why copyright exists. A photographer possesses a skill that they provide to a community. Using their work without adhering to copyright law is a form of stealing something from somebody else, as a means to promote your own wellbeing. There are many ways to work within copyright law and still achieve your goals. Let’s take a look at these methods.

Using Copyrighted Images

It is smart to assume that all images are copyright protected. This assures that you always take the proper steps to link photographs and acknowledge sources. Linking a source means that “clicking” the photo directs you to the source of the photo. Providing source acknowledgment means that you have taken the steps necessary to ‘pay credit’ to the owner of borrowed property in your material. It is the same concept that differentiates plagiarism, from the quoted material of an acknowledged source. That being said, using a copyrighted image, even when sourced, may still violate the copyright. To safely use images, it is important to get permission from the copyright owner or utilize a creative commons license.

Using Products under Creative Commons Licenses (CC)

A Creative Commons license is an agreement that specifies how an image may be used by a third party. CC’s are original documents that differ from one another. Some CC’s may allow you to use photographs in your blog, but not allow you to publish the photo in a book. A CC may be used in some instances without paying a dime for the material. But certain restrictions within a CC may not allow you to; for example, publish their photo in a magazine.

Stock Photo Agencies

A stock photo agency is a good way to purchase a CC license, which allows you access to a wide variety of photos, to be used in a manner that is deemed appropriate by the agreements in the CC license. Using a stock agency does not give you ownership of the material, but instead, grants you the right to use the material.

Using Copyright Images

In some instances, it is easier or necessary to get permission from a copyright owner, before you use their work. Although a photographer may have taken the picture, the owner may be the company they work for. It is always necessary to make sure you’re communicating with the copyright owner of the image before you can be sure that you have permission. Treating all images as copyright protected is a safe way to use photographs in your material while ensuring that you remain within legal boundaries.