Copyright Law and
The Professional Photographer
In todays rapidly advancing,
visually-oriented society, professional
photographers have to be more protective of the way their work is used.
Technological breakthroughs in the fields of both film and electronics
allow quick and easy reproduction of photographers work, often without
compensation to the photographer and a profit to the infringer of the
Photographs are a category of "Pictorial, Graphic and Sculptural
and as such are eligible for copyright protection under section 102 of
the Copyright Act. 17 U.S.C. #102. Copyright in the photograph is
immediately and automatically when the work is first fixed in a copy.
negative or original transparency quality as a copy under the law.
It is a clear violation of the copyright law for anyone to reproduce
an image without the written permission of the creator of that image.
court cases have upheld that the photographer is the creator of the
and the holder of the copyright unless that right is assigned in
to another party. Anyone who violates this copyright is liable to the
for "actual" or "statutory" damages, at the photographers sole option.
"Actual" damages are the loss of income from the sale of the photograph
and any profits of the infringer, "Statutory" damages by law range from
a low of to a high
of per infringement. Both types of damages also allow costs and attorneys
Photographers have a right to insist that their copyright be
to insure that the quality of their work is preserved, and that the
is restricted to that for which they have been compensated. If a client
desires other uses of a photograph or additional reproductions of same,
then they must secure the photographers permission and provide
or be guilty of infringement of the photographers copyright, which is a
Federal violation and can become very expensive.
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