PhotoChat; Copyright and Licensing

PhotoChat is a weekly conversation between Photography Pro’s and Amateurs that takes place on Thursdays at 1PM EST hosted by Prime Social Marketing. To follow the conversation or take part use #Photochat on Twitter.

This blog post covers my longer answers to the questions that are condensed then put into tweets for the Photochat.

Q1: How important of an issue is copyright to you? And how conscious are you of how your images are used by others?

Copyright for any creative person is a big issue as you never want your creative work to be credited to someone else. Within the last 12 months there have been many examples of creative works being taken and used without the owner’s consent or even credit being given to the owner with the passé view that it’s fine to take images from Google searches because the images are there. To my knowledge I believe that my images are not being used by others, yet if they are the size of the image is not impressive enough to be of much use. I share images that are purposely scaled to 72ppi at 800 or 500 px on the longest side, thus limiting how the image can be used. I scaled my images like this on purpose because I don’t mind people admiring my work yet I don’t wish them to be taken advantage of.

Q2: Why is it important to register your images with the national copyright office? Or is this an outdated practice?

I find the idea of registering work very outdated especially since I am not American and have not created work there. From the way I understand the European and British rules on copyright, if you create a work the copyright is intrinsically yours from the moment of creation. This is your work. The idea of registering a work seems to me crazy as you could create a work but someone else can register it and now own the work. I have mentioned before when talking about orphaned images that there needs to be a global copyright standard that can followed all over the world.

With digital media, creating works has become more streamlined and with photography especially more images are being produced hourly than a hundred years ago. And how many of those images are unregistered and are free to be stolen from owners especially as the majority of them are shared to social media with the metadata stripped. Some have the view that it is hard luck if your images are stolen or infringing and you should have registered your image and not shared it. This thought is outdated now. In the end my view is if you create a work it should be your copyright without needing to make an application.

Q3: Do you share your images on social media sites? If so, do you read the terms and conditions before doing so?

When I signed up to Facebook and Flickr many years ago I did not read the terms and conditions too closely. I suppose I was naive and wanted to use the services. Now I am a little bit more careful. Though I do wonder if there is a point in reading the terms and conditions, as they usually state that the site has the right to make changes to these conditions at any time.

I have used watermarks on my blogs portfolio page but I really don’t like it and am considering changing this. With FacebookI have not loaded images to my personal page in nearly a year,  I am also very wary of what image will really be used for and also who can see these images.

Most of my work is shown on my blog. I do use Flickr after a long hiatus and recently really got into building a network there, though I have backed off after being emailed by flickr and informed that I can only show a max of 200 images. This means that as I add a new image, an old one will no longer be shown. I have also started dabbling with 500px but I feel I will need to start subscribing to it to really get the most out of it. Google+ seems like an interesting place as well.

In the end since these places will change their terms and conditions sometimes with little consultation it can seem pointless to read the terms and conditions yet it is important to do so. Just to let know what you are letting yourself into.

Q4: Do you consider how your work is licensed when you sell it? Is it important to reserve certain rights?

How you sell your work depends on how the work held. If it is a print the customer understands that they are parting with their cash for a copy of a print, be it a limited edition or not. With customers who have asked you to take pictures it is more important to state clearly to them what they are buying. When I have shot a wedding I made it clear that I was selling them a license to print and share the images online but not to make adjustments to the images. The images were then given in digital format. Some clients may not understand why they have been given a license so it is important for them to understand that you are the copyright holder and you hold the exclusive rights. Of course this depends on your clients and what they are willing pay. For me they would need to pay more to have a wider license. Licensing a work is normal practise especially with digital media. When buying books, music and even computer games, you now buy a license to read listen and play.

Q5: What are your thoughts on unrestricted image sharing and share-friendly (e.g. Creative Commons) image licensing?

Creative Commons is a great resource for education, as a teacher being able to use these images in presentations to visually show and inspire young people is an amazing resource. I think this is useful for people who want to allow people to share images that they don’t mind being used in a wide range of ways. For me I utilise these images in my day job but have not attached these licenses with my own work as it has not yet fitted any image. I would love to give back to the photography community, by attaching a creative commons license, since I have been taking advantage of it.


I would love to know what your opinions to the questions are. Do you agree or disagree with my answers? Either way you can let me know using the comment box below.

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4 thoughts on “PhotoChat; Copyright and Licensing

    • Of course I can elaborate. Watermarking is an issue I have gone backwards and forwards on when it comes to my position. I was always told when studying you should watermark your images, to protect them from being stolen (this was a worry even back at the beginning of the digital photo age). In having this drilled into me I could understand the point, if there is a watermark on your image then someone will not be able to steal it, or use it without your consent. Great but then again to successfully watermark an image you need to have it over the image. Some people just add a boarder with a watermark yet this will not work in deterring people for using your image as the watermark can be cropped.
      By placing the watermark over the centre of the images this is visually distracting. When I am looking at an image online, I want to see the image not a huge piece of text stamped across it.

      Watermarks detract from the image and can make the image harder to read and appreciate. I think with enough metadata and a correctly sized image for the web, your image has enough protection. Why would someone steal an image to be printed at a max size of 4×6 inches without pixilation or use it as a pixelated mess at full screen.
      My final thought is that if people want to steal an image they will. There are programs out there designed to remove watermarks, of if the water mark is not so big a quick bit of cloning will sort the problem out.

      In the end I want people to enjoy my work so watermarking will make that harder. If someone steals my work then isn’t this a compliment.
      What would I do if I found someone had stolen an image? I would Ask them why they didn’t just contact me asking for permission.

      I am a hypocrite at the moment though as my gallery on my blog is full of water marked images, This I intend to change.

      • Haha, good write-up. I’m of the “if people want to steal an image they will” ilk. I don’t think there’s much anyone can do about it, save for catching the person cheating you by illegally using the image. I find watermarking a waste of time and effort due to exactly what you’ve laid out.

        Cheers, Nev

  1. I certainly believe in trying to protect my work – but dislike watermarks. I only upload images at 72dpi and 600/800 along the longest length so they are OK for viewing but pretty useless otherwise. I also only have images on my blog and website not on any other form of social media.
    At the moment there is a bit of a stir with regards to copyright in the UK – which may affect other countries. Have a look at these two …

    Click to access hargreaves-orphanmyth.pdf

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