One of the biggest areas of misinformation and confusion for photographers is the area of “copyright“. Things like who owns it, when you can own it, how to get it, how to keep it and much more are things that all professional photographers should at least have a working knowledge of to protect themselves and their clients.
The good news is there are alot of places to get good information that is accurate which is probably one of the most important aspects of this. Inaccurate information can end up costing you more than you think in lost images and money.
Not being even close to being a lawyer, I will refrain from “telling” anyone any copyright information for fear of getting it wrong and then it coming back to bite me. Suffice to say that I’m working hard this year at learning my own way around copyright. I am now in the process of copyrighting ALL of my images that I have taken in the past and I have incorporated copyright into my workflow as “things to do after the shoot”. With the ability to file copyright online for something like 40 dollars, there is no reason in the world not to do it. When I did my first filing, the only issue I had was to break my files into smaller uploads due to the time restriction for uploads. The website also a bit confusing (designed by policy wonks I’m sure) but you have gone through it once, it is not so bad.
One way I’m learning copyright right now is a free course on iTunes U from MIT.
Here is the official syllabus
This course features video lectures and an extensive list of readings. A description of assignments is also available. This course is offered during the Independent Activities Period (IAP), which is a special 4-week term at MIT that runs from the first week of January until the end of the month.
This course is an introduction to copyright law and American law in general. Topics covered include: structure of federal law; basics of legal research; legal citations; how to use LexisNexis®; the 1976 Copyright Act; copyright as applied to music, computers, broadcasting, and education; fair use; Napster®, Grokster®, and Peer-to-Peer file-sharing; Library Access to Music Project; The 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act; DVDs and encryption; software licensing; the GNU® General Public License and free software.
Another free source is the copyright office themselves (our tax dollars at work) with their fairuse FAQ.
There is another good FAQ found at photolaw.net on copyright.
This is one of the best editorial primers on copyright I have been able to find.
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