Why photographers should never give away their copyright?
- By Lisa Pritchard. Owner of Lisa Pritchard Agency (LPA)
- 0 comments
For my second guest blog I’d like to post an excerpt from my monthly Ask an Agent column on the ever important subject of copyright.
I want to buy the copyright to some images I am commissioning but the photographer says I can’t, he wants to retain the copyright. Doesn’t seem right to me as I am paying for the images!
Nathan Elliott, small business owner, Bristol.
This one comes up time and time again and the photographer is right to insist on retaining the copyright.
Copyright is part of a group of rights known as intellectual property rights (IP) – intellectual as it’s a product of the human mind, and property referring to something that can be owned. To own the copyright means you own the right to copy or authorise others to copy the image- and lets face it, it’s unlikely that you want to do this.
When a shoot is commissioned a photographer should grant a temporary usage licence for his images. The more commercial exposure an image gets the higher the fee. This still allows the client to use the images for whatever they want, at an agreed price, whilst allowing the photographer to have control of where the images are used.
Clients are usually motivated to ask for ownership of copyright either because they would like to use the images freely for their marketing or because they want exclusive use to prevent the images being sold to and used by others.
If this is really what you want then you need an ‘ All media, in Perpetuity, Worldwide, Exclusive’ usage licence. I’m suspecting this isn’t what you want either and its advisable to be realistic about usage so as to not pay over the odds- i.e are you really going to need a worldwide poster campaign?
So just to recap on why photographers don’t like to assign copyright.
• Copyright protects the moral rights of the creator. If copyright is assigned, control is relinquished of where and how their photography is used. This in turn creates exposure to liability.
• Copyright protects the economic rights of the creator. If copyright is assigned the assignee can resell your image to third parties and benefit financially.
• There isn’t any point. A usage licence granting ‘ All media, in Perpetuity, Worldwide, Exclusive’ rights fulfils the same needs to the buyer (unless they do intend to sell the image on) whilst allowing the photographer to retain copyright and full control of where the work is reproduced.
If you have any questions you’d like to ask a photographers agent please send them to email@example.com and look out for the answers on the LPA Blog.