Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Happy New Year 2021 - Change your camera's copyright notice!

I hope the new year is a happy and healthy year for you!


It's January 1, 2021 in just a few days. The COVID-19 pandemic rages on, particularly in the U.S. If you've been following my articles and columns in various publications, especially at Travelers United, you know I've had little time to write about much else, during the “Year of the 21st Century Pandemic.”

Unfortunately, with the end of year surge in holiday travel in the U.S. and elsewhere, I believe the pandemic is going to get a lot worse in the coming weeks. That's even while the vaccine to protect us from the deadly killer is being administered to millions. As I'm writing this final article for 2020, at the NSL Photography Blog, more than 81 million have been infected by the virus, with more than 1.7 million succumbing to it across the globe.

If you're not already doing so, please protect yourselves and your family. It's commonsense. It's ethical. It's moral. Mask up! Social distance! Avoid crowds and crowded spaces, particularly indoors where aerosolized virus is deadly! Don't touch your face, especially your mouth, nose and eyes, before you wash your hands! Wash your hands frequency, for at least 20 seconds, with soap and water, not missing the area between your fingers and don't forget your thumbs! If you can't wash, use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol!

Taking those simple, easy to employ precautions can save your life and set an example for others that can save their lives too. There is no legitimate reason to not do so and the countless lives lost of people who refused to carry out those easy to accomplish precautions proves it. Selfishly, I'm hoping you're around in the new year and for years to come to read my photography articles and travel the world.

“Meeting new people, experiencing new cultures, learning about our "Blue Planet," or viewing the infinite variety of Earth's majesty, and its wide range of flora and fauna is an incredible opportunity for broadening one's knowledge and viewpoint.”

It's time to reset your camera's copyright notice

With the new year upon us, it's time to reset the copyright notice in your camera to reflect the new year. Make sure your 2021 images have the correct metadata information embedded in them.

Most digital cameras today can automatically insert your copyright notice into the metadata of every image you make as they are stored. By noon on January 1, each of my cameras will have been reset so that they will insert the following copyright and use notice into every image I make:

“Copyright © 2021 NSL Photography. All Rights Reserved.”

Why should you worry about copyright and copyright notices

I'm often asked the question when I run workshops, or anytime I'm talking photography with enthusiasts, “You're a pro, so I understand why copyright is important to you, but why should I worry about it? I'm not selling my photographs.”

For professional photographers, protecting the value of their images is clearly important, but I believe it's a concern for all photographers. How would you feel if your photos were copied from your gallery or social media and used as part of an email, newspaper, magazine or web page advertisement for business services, or products, without your permission or attribution? How would you like it if credit for your photo was given to someone else?

In addition to helping photographers protect the “value” of their images, Copyright law also allows photographers to maintain control of the use of their images. I believe that is of great importance for every photographer, pro and amateur alike. How would you feel if one of your photos was used without your permission to advertise a product or service or promote a person that is dangerous, that you don't like, or is morally repugnant to you?

Here are two real world examples that illustrate the importance copyright in maintaining control of one's work. One has to do with profit and the other, politics and political gain.

Over 2.5 billion online images are stolen every day

Copyright theft for profit:
A friend of mine is a marvelous amateur wildlife photographer. Much to her dismay, she found out that that some of her images were in use by a for-profit private wildlife preserve without her knowledge. The company secretly screen captured a few of her best wildlife photographs from her gallery. They used them commercially on their website and in their newsletters to attract paying customers.

They were making a profit from her work and creativity, but offered her nothing for its use, neither compensation or even attribution, a statement that the images were made by her.

Unbridled theft of online photographs happens every day. Hundreds of thousands of people troll the Internet for images. Some will offer to pay for photos, but apparently most just steal them. According to Copytrack more than 2.5 billion online images are stolen daily, almost half used on commercial websites, where people know they're breaking the law and cheating photographers.

Stolen images are regularly used in ways that violate the photographer's ethical standards

Copyright theft for political gain:
Professional photographer Kristina Hill of New York took an engagement photo of a same-sex couple holding hands while kissing. One of the men posted the photo on his blog with her permission. A group opposing same-sex marriage “stole” the image, altered it, and turned it into an anti-gay attack ad, specifically targeting a politician due to her vote in support of same sex unions.

I bring this up, not as a same sex marriage, gay rights or political issue, but as a very serious issue of gross copyright infringement. For many, misuse is worse than outright theft.

You may think this is an extreme case, or perhaps you agree with the group who opposes same-sex marriage, but that's not the point.

How would you feel if one of your “family” images, an image of one of your children perhaps, was used by a business, organization or person to tout something you've fought your whole life against, or market an individual or organization that you find reprehensible?

Metadata copyright notices are photographers' first line of protection

If you believe your images have value and desire to maintain control of their use, you need to protect your images' copyright. The first thing you should do is insert your copyright notice into the metadata of each of your digital image files, automatically, if possible, via your digital camera.

Many digital cameras have a menu item to insert your copyright notice into each image made in the camera. If so, use it. If your camera doesn't have that choice, it most likely has a comment insertion menu choice. In that case, enter your copyright notice as a comment. To learn how to format your notice, read the US Copyright Office's circular “Copyright Notice.”

I also suggest putting a recurring entry into your appointment calendar for January 1st saying, “Reset camera copyright notice.”

Have a great new year. I hope that by September, most of the world has been vaccinated for COVID-19 and that we can finally put this 21st century scourge behind us.

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