In this article, the series continues with practical suggestions to protect your photos and establish your copyright firmly. In the next, (last) article in the series, I will discuss copyright registration in the US, how and when you can, and why you should, register your photographs, and if your copyright is violated, what remedies registration extends to you, that you otherwise wouldn't have.
In digital photography there are two general display methods for your work, print and digital display. Prints pose little problem of theft and misuse, compared to digital display, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't be protected.
It's important to note that undercurrent copyright law, no copyright notice is needed to actually copyright a photograph. Every photograph is automatically copyrighted the moment it's made, but displaying your copyright notice will essentially eliminate a defendant's defense based on “innocent infringement.” You can't claim you didn't know the image was copyrighted, if the notice is on the photograph.At the very least, a proper copyright notice should be stamped or written on the front or back of the print. If you're producing the print electronically, you can easily include a copyright notice on its face, as part of the photograph. Personally, I rarely do that, to not take away from the print's appearance. My copyright notice is stamped or printed on the back of the print. I include basic contact information with the notice. I generally sign the print in its border, or on its face.
For digitally displayed photographs, there are two locations where your copyright notice should be located, as per traditional copyright law, and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA); the face and the digital metadata of your photographs. In addition to the copyright notice, additional information should be place in the metadata to help preserve your copyright rights.
The official copyright notice has three parts: ©, the word “Copyright,” or its abbreviation, “Copr,” plus the year when the work was first published, and finally the name of the copyright owner.
The complete form can look as simple as:
© 2012 NSL PhotographyI use a copyright notice which is more aesthetically pleasing to me, and more explicit in its statement, to place on the face of my photographs:
Copyright © 2012 NSL Photography, All Rights ReservedCopyright notices in the US may be used without registering your images with the US Copyright Office.
I put a copyright notice on the face of every photograph I publish on the Internet, unless the publication in which the image is located specifically, gives me proper credit for the image, on the image, or directly adjacent to the image's location.
In addition to the above notice, which is visible on or near the image itself, with the advent of the DMCA, and the possible future passage of an Orphan Works Act, the notice should be inserted in each image's metadata.
I am fortunate that my DSLR has a feature which can automatically insert a copyright notice into each image's EXIF data, part of the image's metadata, when each image is made. Many DSLR's which don't have the feature, permit a comment to be inserted into each image, at the time it's made. That also can be used to insert your copyright notice.
If your camera can't automatically insert your copyright into each image as it's saved, then you will have to insert it yourself during post processing.
In addition to the copyright notice to better protect you, more data should be placed in the metadata of each image.
Here's a rundown of the copyright and contact data I put in my metadata:
- Copyright Notice
- Rights Usage Terms
- Photographer's Name
- Credit (In my case its my name and the name of my photography company.)
- Source (Name of my photography company)
- Copyright URL (URL of my galleries)
- Contact City (Location City of my company)
- Contact State (Location State of my company)
- Contact Zip Code (Location Zipcode of my company)
- Contact Country (Location Country of my company)
- Contact Email Address
- Contact Web URL (URL of my Travel Photography Blog)
In addition to the copyright notice and metadata information placements,there are a few other practical practices you can utilize to help prevent theft of your images displayed on the web.
- On some gallery sites you can disable “right click” menus and the edit menu which disables visitors' ability to easily copy your photographs via their web browser.
- I reduce the longest side of my photographs to a maximum of 800 pixels. Keeping the image “small” reduces the attractiveness of the photo for theft, as it can't be printed at larger sizes, nor fill a typical computer screen without diminishing its quality.
- I reduce the resolution of my photographs to no more than 125 pixels/inch. Like limiting the longest side of my photographs, this reduces the attractiveness of my photos for theft, as if enlarged, the images' quality will be diminished.
The information in this article is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.