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Copyright, It’s the Law…

I ran across this valuable information written by a fellow photographer, Marinda Fowler and I thought that this would be great to share with my clients.  Most of the time when a client violates a copyright law it is purely by not knowing what they can and can’t do with a copyrighted image.  So, bear with me as we dive right in.  Grab that cup of coffee or diet coke now.

What is copyright?

The U.S. Constitution and the Federal Copyright Act give “copyright” protection to “authors” for their “original works,” such as photographs.

What does that mean?

Simply, that the law protects the original works and gives the exclusive rights to reproduce them to the author.  When the copyright has been violated, the author can pursue legal action and the offender can be held liable and fined.

So, what are the rules regarding the prints I purchased from my professional photographer? 

Here are just a few examples of things that you may not do with your professional photos:

  • Scan them – for any reason

  • Copy them

  • Reprint them

  • Crop watermarks out of photos and repost them on the web

  • Edit them – in any way

  • Take pictures of your printed professional photos (especially with your cell phone) and post them on the web

  • Throw darts at them.  Ok, fine.  Do it if you must!


Well, why can’t I scan them?  The photos are of my family and me?

While the photos might be of you, they are not yours.  The images belong to your professional photographer; who owns the copyright.  Granted you may have purchased a print of the image, and you are encouraged to display that image and enjoy it.  However, it is not at your disposal to make copies of them by scanning or any other means.  It’s actually against the law.

Also, most professional photographers like to maintain quality control over their work.  There is a large quality difference between a scanned photo and the one that your photographer creates and sizes for use on the web.  We do not like to see our work all distorted and wonky because it has been scanned.

What’s the big deal?

The big deal is that your professional photographer works extremely hard at creating the beautiful images that you see.  Everything from lighting, posing, and post-processing goes into one single image.  In that regard, your photographer will price their work to maintain a profitable business.  When clients start scanning images and reprinting at home or worse, local one-hour labs, they have basically stolen the ability for the photographer to make a profit from that image.  Since selling their artwork is how professional photographers earn a living, it tends to make us unhappy when clients steal images from us.


Aunt Susie saw my photo and just wants to have one little copy of it.  Now what?

Great!  Your photographer will be thrilled to help you get one little copy of that photo for Aunt Susie.  It’s always a great thing to hear that your family and friends love our work!

I bought the disc with the printing rights.  What can’t I do with these images?

On the print release form, there will be instructions on what you can and cannot do with the images contained on the disc.  However, just for the sake of education, I’ll give you a quickie list of those things.

Things you can do:

  • Make prints for personal use

  • Make greeting cards for personal use

  • Make photo books or photo gifts for personal use

  • Upload the images in the WEB folder onto the web to share with your family and friends (however, please do not remove the watermark)


Things you cannot do:

  • Enter the photos into contest – nope, not even those “cute baby” contests

  • Post full-size non-watermarked images on the web

  • Alter the images – part of the photography experience with your professional photographer will include the photographer’s time and talent in editing/processing your images.  If you do not like the style in which your images were processed, it might be time to look for a different photographer.  I’m just saying’


What about the images on your blog and Facebook?

  • The images on my blog are meant to be enjoyed and viewed.  If you would like to share the images on my blog, please do so.  All you have to do is share the link (URL) with your family and friends.  Or, you can simply find the share buttons included in each post and share them anywhere you’d like.

  • The images on Facebook are also meant to be enjoyed and viewed.  I welcome and encourage you to tag yourself in the images on Facebook or share the link to the images.  I also welcome and encourage you to use the images on Facebook as your profile photos as long as you do not remove the watermark in the cropping process.  To avoid removing the watermark, simply drag the cropping bars all the way to the edge of the photo.  Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy!

Okay, I get it.  I might have violated your copyright policy.  Now what?

Hey, don’t sweat it!  We all make mistakes and I’m sure that you did not intend to do so.  However, now you know.  I simply ask you to make an attempt at rectifying the situation.  If you’ve scanned images and posted them on the web, please take them down.  If you need a watermarked copy of the images to use on the web, please contact me immediately and we can get that taken care of.

And please, please, please…. promise to never do it again!

For more information on the issue of copyright, please take a moment to read through this FAQ.

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