EPUK Editorial Photographers United Kingdom and Ireland. The private mailing list and public resource for editorial photographers

Protecting your copyright

2 May 2001 - EPUK

The ownership of the copyright to your photographs is one of the most important things about being a self employed photographer. By protecting your work and enforcing your rights, and all of it’s income potential, you will also help to protect the concept of copyright for all freelancers.

What follows is some copyright advice in simple terms. It’s a personal view and has no legal standing. For a detailed and legalistic view of UK copyright law have a look at Barrie Glover’s explanation of the subject.

Why is copyright so important to self-employed, editorial photographers?

  • To retain control over the images that we produce with our labour. It’s a fundamental Human Right. If we didn’t, it would be possible for, say, the BNP to use your images of asylum seekers in Britain.
  • To make money. If you own the copyright to your images, you can re-sell them. That is why publishers want to own your copyright. They want to get their hands on the potential earnings of your images. If it’s not worth anything, why do they want it?

So where do your rights come from?

The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. You automatically own the copyright of every photograph you take, and your heirs will own it for 70 years after your death. It is your ‘intellectual property.’ This means that if anyone wants to publish your photograph they must ask your permission before doing so. The crucial bit here is that as the copyright holder, you grant a LICENSE to the client to reproduce your photograph(s) for a period of time, over an agreed space, and are paid to do so. ‘Publish’ means in a newspaper, magazine, advertisement, poster, leaflet, web-site, CD, etc, but not normally as a print to hang on the wall.

How do you license your images?

Each client should be issued with a license for each use of your photographs. This license should make clear the following:

  • Time: normally single use only, but in some cases (such as on a web-site) you may want to license use for a period of say, one month, six weeks, or six months.
  • Media: normally in ‘xyz publication.’
  • Territory: normally UK only, but their may be occasions where a client is willing to pay for ‘English Language’ ‘European’ or ‘North American’ for example.
  • Quantity: normally the circulation of ‘xyz publication’ but might also be ‘30,000 CD-ROM’ or 10,000 posters.
  • Edition: for books. Is this a license for the first edition, or all and every edition? Example: “This agreement is a license to use the following photographs in the July 2001 edition of Maxim magazine, UK edition.” Then list the photographs.

How do you protect your images?

  • You own your copyright simply by being the “author” of your photographs. If your rights are infringed, the only thing you have to establish is that you are indeed the author of your photographs.
  • Mark every image ‘© your name, year of creation, Moral Rights Asserted. This work may not be reproduced without the permission of Photographer, Contact Details.’ e.g: © Simon Grosset 2001. Moral Rights Asserted. This work may not be reproduced without the permission of Simon Grosset: tel: 07860 309161
  • Failure to mark your images does not remove your rights, or give anyone the right to use your pictures without permission.
  • Put in writing that your images are copyright protected. This means including the above on your delivery note, your invoice, and in the ‘file information’ area of electronic images.

It is really that simple, and remember, if you protect that copyright, you will own what amounts to another pension.

© Simon Grossett, 2001

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EPUK is an email group for professional editorial photographers who want to talk business. We don’t do techie stuff or in-crowd gossip. We don’t talk cameras or computers. What we talk about are the nuts and bolts of being in business - like copyright, licensing, fees and insurance.

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