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Social media and advanced technology have changed the way we create and share visual content in today’s digital space. However, this change comes with inherent risks that affect the use of images. Anyone can save, copy, and distribute photos on many websites without the creator’s permission. Unauthorized use or distribution of an image can threaten the creator’s artistic efforts and cost potential revenue.

The risk of unauthorized image use is not exclusive to professional photographers, as anyone can also save and use another person’s personal photos without consent. Engaging in seemingly simple online activities, such as downloading an image from a website for a blog post, can carry severe legal repercussions. Many people unknowingly breach laws governing photography copyright, which could result in severe consequences like heavy fines or deactivated websites. Therefore, it may help to learn more about photography copyright laws in order to preserve content integrity and ensure that the creators get recognition.

How Long Do Photo Copyrights Last?

One major benefit of photography copyright is that it remains valid for a long time. In the United States, copyrighted images enjoy protection by law throughout the creator’s lifetime plus 70 years after his or her passing. Subsequently, the protected image transitions into the public domain, where anyone can use it without fear of violating copyright law.

Key Takeaways

Photography copyright and its inherent laws exist to prevent theft of creative works without repercussions. Photographers should take all necessary precautions to fully benefit from these laws. Register an image copyright. Issue photo release forms as appropriate. Understanding the basics of photography copyright laws will help you protect all your images as you grow as a creative.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Do you need to add the © symbol to maintain your rights to your photo?

As soon as you take a picture, you automatically have ownership of the image and protection through photography copyright laws. Although adding the copyright symbol is unnecessary in social media posts, many photographers use them for prints in work-for-hire agreements. In addition, using a photography copyright release form helps to clarify the true owner of image usage rights.

Does adding a watermark help boost copyright in images?

How the creator uses watermarks in his or her images determines the potential protection. Using full-image watermarks makes piracy or unauthorized use more difficult. With full watermarks, signs of alterations usually remain on the image, which may be sufficient evidence for photography copyright claims. 

What if I want to give my copyright to someone?

A photographer can use a copyright release form to transfer the photography copyright to another person, usually the subject of the photo, for free or for a fee. The copyright transfer document must contain the following:

  • Details of the parties and their contact information;
  • Particular images being transferred;
  • Cost of the transaction (if applicable);
  • Warranties;
  • Governing law; and
  • Signatures of the parties.