Copywriting digital photos

Amateur photographer Stephen never thought his images were special or needed copyright protection. Then he discovered one of his photos was stolen off the net and used on the cover of a magazine without his knowledge and permission. He shares important advice for anyone who posts images on the web.

copyright In a digital world it is easy to take photographs, place them online and make them available worldwide for family, friends and others to enjoy. If your photos are among the millions of others displayed on the web, take steps to protect them.

Your photographs belong to you and you alone. Whether an amateur or professional photographer, there are steps to take to protect images from being used by others without permission.

In the United States (and some other countries), the moment a photograph is taken it is protected by Copyright laws.

Unless you attribute a Creative Commons license to a photo, no one is allowed to reproduce it without your express permission. They can not display it publicly, prepare derivatives of it, or distribute it to the public for sale, rental or lending.

But not everyone respects copyright laws. When they don’t,  it is a long, tedious and often costly undertaking going after infringers. And there are no guarantees if you do.

Protect photos before a copyright infringement occurs

Understanding your rights as a copyright holder and taking steps before an infringement occurs can prove beneficial in the event someone uses an image without permission and you decide to pursue legal remedies.

Notice of copyright

Although your photographs are protected under U. S. Copyright laws from the moment they are created and no copyright notice is required under U. S. law, there are benefits to posting copyright notices on your photographs.

According to the U. S.Copyright Office website:

“(Notice of copyright) informs the public that the work is protected by copyright, identifies the copyright owner, and shows the year of first publication. Furthermore, in the event that a work is infringed, if a proper notice of copyright appears on the published copy or copies to which a defendant in a copyright infringement suit had access, then no weight shall be given to such a defendant’s interposition of a defense based on innocent infringement in mitigation of actual or statutory damages, except as provided in section 504(c)(2) of the copyright law. Innocent infringement occurs when the infringer did not realize that the work was protected.”

Placement of copyright notice on photographs

Proper placement of the notice of copyright should contain three elements.

  1. The symbol  © (the letter C in a circle), or the word “Copyright,” or the abbreviation “Copr.”
  2. The year of first publication of the work. In the case of compilations or derivative works incorporating previously published material, the year date of first publication of the compilation or derivative work is sufficient. The year date may be omitted where a pictorial, graphic, or sculptural work, with accompanying textual matter, if any, is reproduced in or on greeting cards, postcards, stationery, jewelry, dolls, toys, or any useful article;
  3. The name of the owner of copyright in the work, or an abbreviation by which the name can be recognized, or a generally known alternative designation of the owner.  Example: © 2009 John Doe
This article was contributed by Stephen Murphy.

Disclaimer: Content in this article is informational only. For complete, accurate and up-to-date information, or if you seek legal advice, contact an attorney.

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