Understanding Copyright & Print Releases

Monday, March 18, 2013

Let's start off with a story; imagine you painted this beautiful painting for a friend.


(Used with permission from Brooke Sadler, brookesadler.blogspot.com)

You as the artist put so much time and effort into this painting. You love it and you can't wait to see it hanging up in your friend's house.  You go visit your friend one day and see this hanging on their wall....

What the heck happened?  They cut out most of the painting and even changed the colors a little. 

How does that make you feel?  Like they ruined your artwork, undervalued, sad, and so many more emotions.

I use a painting/drawing to illustrate this example because in general people would not mess up a painting like that (unless it is their own art piece). Now think of it from a photographers point of view.  This is how we feel when we see this beautiful image we have worked so hard on cropped and reedited.  Not cool.  If you want the picture reedited and cropped differently just talk to the photographer he/she would probably be more than willing to work something out for you! I am writing about this because I see copyright violations happen all the time and I feel sad for the original photographer (I have had it happen and I've seen it happen to lots of other photographers).

I think that I am like most people that when it comes to my family pictures I want digital copies because I want to be able to print as many as I want and post them on facebook or my blog. I hear you saying you want that too. That is why I do this in my business. Every session gets a CD of edited high-resolution images from me.  I also give out a print release to my clients.  A print release is NOT a copyright release. I own all the copyrights for all my images.  When you sign your contract for our session you are acknowledging that you understand that I have full copyright ownership.  If you want the copyright release, I do offer that as an additional fee. You may be in the picture and paid me to take the pictures, but the photographer is the original artist.

So what is the difference?
Print releases DO:
  • Allow you to get prints where ever you want (some places may require you to provide the written print release from the photographer).
  • Make digital scrapbooks (ex. Shutterfly.com)
  • Share on social media websites WITH a tag or link saying that the picture was taken by Heidi Jensen Photography.
Print releases DO NOT:
  •  Allow you to edit the images - including editing color and cropping
  • DO NOT crop out watermarks when sharing or making your profile picture - this is a violation of copyright law
  • Claim as your own work
  • Sell images
  • Copy images - this includes taking screenshots and downloading with a right click
  • If it seems dishonest than it probably is not something you should be doing
 Copyright release:
  • Gives you sole ownership over the images and you can edit and sell them
  • Original Photographer needs written permission to use pictures in any way

 If you would like to read more, Rachel from The Law Tog has a great article on Copyright Laws. I hope
 that I have helped educate someone a little more when it comes to print releases and copyrights.

So after all that the basic take home message is that if you don't have copyright ownership of the images DO NOT crop, edit, download or sell images as your own because that is copyright infringement and you can be sued!

Now go spread the word and help stop copyright infringement!


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