Tag Archives: photographers

Photography Copyright Explained- Best Practices

Gun sight with copyright symbol on white background - 3d illustrationWhat is photo copyright?

Copyright is defined as the exclusive set of rights granted to the author or creator of an original work, including the right to copy, distribute and adapt the work. In addition, any of these rights can be licensed, transferred and/or assigned to another party like what takes place at Cutcaster when we license or sell one of your images royalty free. Copyright only lasts for a certain time period, after which the work is said to enter the public domain. The Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works protects any creator of “original works of authorship” under it’s copyright law which protects works in all 160 countries that are party to the Convention, as well as various other laws such as the US copyright act.

Copyright law has been internationally standardized, lasting between fifty and one hundred years from the author’s death, or a shorter period of time for corporate authorship or anonymous works. Generally, copyright is enforced as a civil matter, though some jurisdictions do apply criminal sanctions.

Before 1989 all published works, in the US, had to contain a copyright notice, the (c) symbol, followed by the publication date and copyright owner’s name, to be protected by copyright. This is no longer the case and use of a copyright notice is now optional in the US, though you will still see them used.

Does copyright apply to all images?

Yes, every image out there from the time it is created becomes automatically protected under copyright laws. One should know, that copyright law is different from country to country, and a copyright notice is required in about 20 countries for a work to be protected under copyright laws.

What is copyright infringement?

Copyright infringement, copyright piracy or copyright violation, is the unauthorized use of photos covered by copyright law, in a way that violates one of the copyright owners’ exclusive rights. Imagery infringement may include:


• Using the image beyond the scope of a license or permission granted
• Recreating an image identically with another photographer
• Use of whole or part of an image without permission i.e. “mash-up” or derivative work
• Art rendering, where someone adapts an image without permission

Photographers’ Frustration and a Path for Change

It feels like déjà vu all over again, doesn’t it?

Fall seems to be the season for falling commissions. We’ve seen it in the past with the big boys, and now even the smaller players are dropping photographers’ commissions without a second thought. Is it because companies are in dire financial straits?  Or are they simply indifferent to the contributors on which they rely?  Do they have so much supply that pissing off a few photographers won’t affect the behavior of the majority?  Are venture capitalists swooping in to squeeze money out of their investments at the contributors’ expense?  Or is it just good old-fashioned corporate greed?

I am frustrated and mad. I have many friends who sell photos, and who are negatively affected by declining commissions.  I also own a business that is trying to succeed in an industry where agencies seem to operate behind a cloak of secrecy, while photographers passively accept changes that suck for them. Commissions are falling, agencies are lowering prices to compete, and supply is inflated.  The industry has grown stagnant as a few companies monopolize it, leaving little room for smaller companies to compete. Most photographers are uncertain about what, if any, course of action to take.

But we must not cower in the face of uncertainty. We need change and we need to act now.  Here are some ways to get started:

1. Remove links to sites that reduce payouts without notice or to sites that keep details hidden in confusing press releases. Don’t market sites that don’t care about YOUR bottom line.

2. Do link to sites from your blog, website or portfolio site that pay higher commissions, even if they have less sales for you. These sites need your help getting links in order for them to affect positive change in the industry. Don’t stand idly by while the established players lock you into a worse future.

3. Stop referring buyers to your lower paying commission sites and start sending them to sites that pay you better commissions.

4. Start an upload embargo for 6 months to a year. Don’t upload new or exclusive content to sites that decrease payouts without notice or discussion.

5. Upload to sites with lower payout thresholds and commit to keeping those limits low.

6. Don’t go exclusive with one agency. Only go exclusive with certain new uploads that you know sell better at certain sites, and only with sites that pay you a high commission.

7. Delete your portfolio from sites that do not clearly explain their commission and pricing strategies.

8. Explain to buyers how royalty drops hurt your individual business, and let them know that they can get the same images for the same prices at sites that help you by paying higher commission. Most photo buyers do care about you and about the photography industry; they need to know that you are getting unfairly screwed and that they can help reverse this at no extra cost to them.

9. Commit to a new agency that you trust on a non-exclusive basis. Support them with your uploads and, if you choose, a small amount of exclusive content for them to market. Write a blog article or post in a forum about the agency and why you chose it.

10. Convince fellow photographers to act with you, taking concrete steps TODAY towards improving your situation.

Photographers and photo buyers have strength in numbers. It takes a cooperative community of people to affect lasting change. If you feel commission drops are unfair and non-transparent, ACT. Your actions will speak for themselves.

Please comment below with any suggestions or ideas that we can add to the list. Your ideas can help change the industry!

ASPP Event Recap from San Francisco

A big thanks goes out to Mike Kahn of ASPP on the West Coast for setting up a great event at Osha Lounge in San Francisco for other ASPP members. It was great to meet some new people and see some faces that I recognized. Here’s a summary from the event last week.

We had a great ASPP Bay Area Meet & Greet event on July 29th in San Francisco at Osha Lounge. True to ASPP form we had a great mix of publishers, photo editors, photo agencies, photographers, and service providers in attendance. Topics of conversation ranged from how to locate historic images to the pros and cons of Google image search.

The good news is that there was definitely interest in having more events in the Bay Area. Possibilities discussed included more happy hours, bowling, guest speakers (such as someone from Google Image Search), and a gallery or museum tour. Feel free to submit other suggestions too! If you live in the SF area or are here visiting please join us for our next event.

Here are a few of the attendees who we had the chance to meet and speak with:

Nora Agbayani – Senior Photo Editor, McGraw-Hill
Ray Chipault (w/Partner) – President, Underwood Archives
Stephen Forsling – Photo Researcher
Me, John Griffin – President, Cutcaster
Mike Kahn – President, Green Stock Media
Suzie Katz – Photographer
Judy Mason – Photo Researcher
Bristin Parks – Marketing, PicScout
Natalia Peschiera – Photo Editor, McGraw-Hill

Looking forward to the next event.