The Essential Guide to Photography and Copyright Law

You want the world to see your photography, but what happens if someone uses your images without permission or credit?

SEPTEMBER 20, 2021

On the internet, stealing photography is as easy as right-click and save. This essentially means that anyone can use your photo on their website or blog without giving you the proper credit you deserve. Because of this, fully understanding photography and copyright law is essential for both beginner and more established photographers.

Or, in other words, you need to know how to protect your images and what to do if they’re being misused.

This guide will explain copyright, infringement claims, and when is the right time to use that little circle with a “c” in it. We’ll explain when you should issue a cease and desist letter, and when you should let it go. You’ll also learn about the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and how it helps you.

First of all, what exactly is photo copyright?

Copyright in photography means that you own an image you created. The law says you created that image as soon as the shutter is released.

This means that photographer copyright laws state that whoever pushed the button owns the copyright. A photographer will own that copyright throughout their life and 70 years afterwards.

Whether it’s photography on your hard drive, online portfolio website, or a post on your Instagram feed, with this ownership, you have exclusive rights to your image according to the Copyright Law of the United States of America. This photography and copyright law covers you for:

  • Reproducing your photography
  • Preparing derivative works based on your photography
  • Distributing copies of your photography to the public (by sale, rental, lease, or lending)
  • Publicly displaying your photography

Owning the copyright on your photography doesn’t require any special paperwork, or having the © associated with your image. The copyright will automatically apply once you post your photography online because, at that point, it exists in a “tangible medium.” It’s out there, and it’s yours.

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