As a professional photographer one of the biggest issues I’ve had over the years is getting people to understand copyright. In other, less diplomatic words, getting people to understand that they have to pay to use my photos!
This always seems to be a difficult concept for some people to grasp, but the British Copyright Council recently came up with a wonderfully simply and clear ‘highway code’ to copyright, to help explain to creatives like me what is protected for my benefit, and to explain to anyone who might like to use my work what they have to pay for and why.
A link to their site given below, but here is a summary of that code, supplied courtesy of The Photographer, the magazine of the British Institute of Professional Photography (BIPP):
- Copyright is a legal right – given automatically to authors of original literary, musical, visual, dramatic, artistic and other creative works and productions – to control copying, and therefore exploitation and activities such as publishing and posting on the web, of their works. This includes books, articles, reports, poetry, plays, music, paintings, photographs, illustrations, sculptures, text messages, games, web pages, videos and computer programs.
Creators of films, sound recording producers and broadcasters also receive copyright in their productions and performers receive similar rights in their performances. A person, a group of people, or a company can own a copyright.
2. Something becomes protected by copyright as soon as it is written down, drawn or recorded in some way. There is no requirement to register a copyright but it is good practice to mark ownership using the © symbol, the owner’s name and the date of first publication
3. The author of the work is the ‘first owner’ of copyright, unless the work is produced during the course of employment, in which case the first owner is normally the employer. Copyright in freelance or commissioned work belongs to the author, unless the terms of a contract specify otherwise.
4. As author, you can ‘license’ or sell (‘assign’) some or all of your copyright. A license my stipulate territory, media, duration etc, and whether on an exclusive or non-exclusive basis, and it should be in writing but doesn’t have to be (unless exclusive)…. but you remain the copyright owner. An assignment must be in writing and means that, apart from moral rights to be identified as the author and to control changes to the work, you no longer have any rights or claim on the copyright as it has a new owner.
5. Even if it is readily available, to make use of someone else’s copyright work or performance you must have permission (and may have to pay a license fee) unless your use is one of a limited set of exceptions such as those concerning fair dealing. You ask for permission by contacting the author or performer or an organisation that looks after permissions on their behalf.
6. Copyright in most kinds of work lasts for the lifetime of the author plus 70 years. After this time work becomes freely available.
This highway code is itself copyright the British Copyright Council, but I’m allowed to reproduce it without alteration.
As can be seen in this highway code, my work as a photographer falls under the protection of the copyright laws, and as such anyone wishing to use my photographs must ask my permission first, will usually need to agree a fee to pay me, and agree to the terms of a license.
Clearly, the details of the copyright highway code as described above refers to the law as it is in the UK and it does not purport to offer any legal advice.
Many other countries have very similar laws protecting copyright.
For further information on the British Copyright Council and on this copyright highway code click on the link below:
Go to the British Copyright Council