Knowledge is power and it is time to discuss something that we can all learn a little bit more about — Copyright. This very real and everlasting piece to all creative work has been making waves. As a leader within the architectural and interiors photography landscape, I find it necessary to provide you all with resources that will help you to grow while building healthy relationships around your images and accounts.
I am making this into a blog series and encourage an ongoing discussion. First, we will cover the riveting topic of copyright AND what this means to both photographers and designers. Second, and in an additional post, I will dive into the do's, dont's and best practices for social media.
From Sarah, my talented copyright attorney:
I Take the Photo.... What 2 things happen next:
There are two major events that simultaneously take place when a photographer clicks his/her shutter:
- A copyrightable work is instantly created; AND
- The Photographer is deemed the exclusive owner of the copyright of that photo.
Copyright Ownership = the following...
As the copyright owner of a photograph, you don’t just own the photograph, you also exclusively own:
the right to reproduce the photograph;
the right to distribute copies of the photograph (this could be you selling the photograph or licensing the photograph);
the right to create derivative works based on the photograph; and
the right to display the photograph.
This means, as the copyright owner of a photograph you dictate what can and cannot be done with your photograph. So, if you want to condition the use of your photos with certain requirements (i.e., “sure friend, you can use my photos on your website as long as you tag and credit me”) or (i.e., “sure friend, you can post my photo on instagram as long as you post the lyrics to a Cardi B song or Wind Beneath My Wings as the comment”) the users of the photograph are obligated to comply.
Bottom line: The copyright owner makes the rules and anyone who wants to use the photo needs to play nice in the theoretical sandbox.
But, I WANT the Photo
Here’s the thing, copyright ownership belongs to the photographer the moment they click the shutter UNLESS/UNTIL another arrangement is entered into with the photographer. If you want to be the copyright owner of a photograph, all you have to do is ASK (preferably in an email or by way of contract). Copyrights are transferable when negotiated and upon a case by case basis.
The Photo Captures My Intellectual Property, Does That Make Me own the photo (spoiler alert, NO)
This is my least favorite comment to deal with as an attorney, it goes something like this, “this photograph captures my intellectual property as an interior designer or an architect, so therefore I am the owner of the photograph.” Ummm, FALSE. That's not how copyright works and this typically rears its ugly head when egos get involved.
WHAT IF I WANT TO COPY THE PHOTO:
The law protects the original works of art and authorship of photos, books, music, manuscripts, paintings.... ect. Such copying is called copyright infringement.
So those are a few of the most basic copyright principles explored in the context of photographs. I am sure you all found that to be riveting!
The final takeaway: if you understand how photo copyright generally works, you can navigate your professional relationships to get exactly what you want out of a photography session. The client/ photographer relationship can be very mutually BENEFICIAl when all expectations are discussed early on in the relationship.
*Nothing contained above is legal advice, you should always consult a lawyer if you have any legal queries.*
Thank you, Sarah, for the above comments and for walking us through a quick snapshot of copyright law. Having had a strong business background in the corporate world - I knew that I wanted to build a powerful and legitimate business as a photographer. This wasn't simply going to be a hobby for me. As a result, it has become a sustainable career which helps to support my family, my dreams and a growing team. I quickly learned that there are varying levels of business acumen when it comes to photographers and designers. There are those who are hobbyists without contracts in place and then there are those who have processes and procedures in place. It is these people who educate themselves within their rights. I believe the strength of your business lies in the foundation. My theoretical "bricks" are based on the law, the value I provide my talented clients and my passion for all to be successful.
After learning through quite a few tough situations earlier in my career, I decided to make a large financial investment and establish a legal team whose expertise would add major value to my endeavor. These attorneys are the best in their niche and have been with me since the beginning, helping to lay the foundation of my business. I can't stress enough how important it is to understand the legalities of your space before jumping in head first. My legal team has helped me grow my business, navigate intricate contracts and be a true advocate for my growth as an artist...
LEGAL SNAPSHOT INTO MY BUSINESS:
- I own the rights and copyright to 99.9% of my images.
- The .1% is a special instance - a large commercial or celebrity entity with a 3rd party music label may be involved.
- Industry Standard when selling all rights to images, which is not frequently done, is to double or triple your rate (I have discussed this with many peers who span from Getty, WSJ, NYTimes, Arch Digest, Elle Decor contributing photographers).
- My designer clients have indefinite (lifetime) use of the images for their portfolio use and social media use.
- I have business and brand strategies which I implement for each client to help their businesses grow which aids in new clients.
- Any 3rd party request for images is redirected back to me and my team in which I accommodate.
- As a photographer, I shoot for my clients who are designers, architects, builders, shelter magazines and I also license images to commercial outlets.
- All of my contracts have a social media clause in place where photo credit is required in the comments section and tagging. I also design credit on all social media.
- I am flexible on a client by client basis when special needs or requests arise and, I am happy to meet these needs.
- I have my legal team review all commerical competition submissions. Most often this is a way for the company and its subsidiaries to own all rights to the images for free and this is done on a case by case basis depending on their terms and conditions.
- I am a client advocate. Any issues I have dealt with early on have been from those who don't value the photographer relationship, conduct shady business practices or those who let their own egos get in the way.
ONE LAST NUGGET FOR THE DAY:
The Goal is to have a mutually beneficial collaboration for the client and photographer. I value my relationships and act as an extension of my client's team aiding in their growth and success. It is a tremendous honor to work with THE talented designers across the country. I am passionate about their individual brands, and I believe there is room for everyone to be successful.
How to credit another person's work for Spectacular Social Media Success...
Ask yourself, Did I take this image? If no…
Credit the photographer in the main comment and tag in the image
Credit the designer in the main comment and tag in the image
Credit the source (if it is a national editorial outlet) in the main comment and tag in the image
If you want to sell product through another person's image, contact the rights holder.
Thank you for reading the nuts and bolts of the business...One of the many reasons I started The New Southern was to not only inspire your home but to also inspire your soul and future businesses. If what I have learned throughout the journey can help another person grow, my job is done. This is a community that values connection, curiosity and kindness. Here is to building our businesses while we are building one another up, as well. I am sending you all so much love. Xx