Photographs are one type of “original works of authorship” that copyright law protects. Copyright protection gives the authors or owners of a copyrighted photograph the exclusive rights to do and to authorize others to do the following:
- TO REPRODUCE the copyrighted photograph;
- TO PREPARE DERIVATIVE WORKS based upon the copyrighted photograph;
- TO DISTRIBUTE COPIES of the copyrighted photograph to the public by SALE or OTHER TRANSFER of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;
- TO DISPLAY the copyrighted photograph publicly;
- TO PERFORM the copyrighted work publicly. (Performance may be less applicable to photographs; although, in today’s digital age it could be possible and worth mentioning).
These exclusive rights in copyrighted works, including photographs, are outlined in Section 106 of the US Copyright Act. Violating any of the rights vested in the owner of a copyrighted photograph is illegal. However, it is important to note that there are some exceptions and limitations to these rights. One major limitation is the doctrine of “fair use.”
While copyright exists in any original photograph (and any original work) from the time the work is created in a fixed form, registering the photograph with the US Copyright Office has additional advantages including: 1) establishing a public record of the copyright; and 2) assisting with any infringement actions that may arise. (Keep in mind that applying for Copyright Registration is not expensive – Copyright registration only costs $35).
For more information on using someones photograph on your blog or website click here to see another post on the topic.
BY: Vanessa Kaster, Esq., LL.M.
See also, the US Copyright Act at http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap1.html; the US Copyright Circular 1 on Copyright basics at http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ01.pdf; the US Copyright Office Website at www.copyright.gov; other blog posts on photography copyright; other blog posts on copyright registration of original works; @iplegalfreebies and www.kasterlegal.com.