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Thursday, March 1, 2007

Please Release Me (Let Me Go!)

When do you need a photo release and when is it okay to photograph without special permissions?

Sometimes you can be polite and sweet talk them, but sometimes you have to dig in your heels. What about if you’re on private property, what then?

If you’re on private property, you have no recourse because a property owner can prohibit you from doing anything they find offensive—from spitting to playing loud music. They have the right to control what happens on their property, just as you have in your home. But on public property, the rule-of-thumb question is "Would they be able to prevent you from doing what you’re doing (i.e., standing there quietly) if you didn’t have a camera in your hands?" If not, then they probably don’t have the right to prevent you from photographing.

Let’s talk a bit about copyright. I know that photographers are afforded two levels of protection under the copyright law. If you publish or display a picture with the © and your name and date, you get a minimum level of protection, but for full copyright protection, do you need to take it one step further?

You’re afforded some copyright protection by the symbol, but in cases of infringement, you’d only be entitled to actual damages. To collect statutory damages, which usually are considerably more money, you have to have registered your images.

And to do this, you fill out a form (available from www.copyright.gov/forms) and include a copy of the picture. How many pictures can you register at one time?

If they’re unpublished, there’s no limit to the number of images you can register at one time. For published images, it has to be within a calendar year. I recommend registering them digitally, in CD format, and each photograph should be at 100 x 100 pixels. 

Please Release Me - TongaKrist: So you can fit a ton of pictures on one CD. I heard that, in the wake of anthrax and white-powder mailings right after 9/11, there was quite a backlog of unopened mail at the Copyright Office.

That’s correct. But the backlog is down to about five months now, so it’s not as bad as it once was.

Carolyn, let’s say I’ve read your book and my question still isn’t answered, or I need help in determining my next step, do you offer any consulting services?

Sure, some photographers have me on a retainer to answer all kinds of questions; I offer several packages with different levels of service. I also offer copyright registration services and can file infringement cases. I’m working on cases in Utah, California and Texas right now. I also work on trademark registrations.

Thanks for your work on behalf of photographers, Carolyn.

Visit www.bobkrist.com.




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