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Who owns the copyright to an Image

Image Licensing Basics

1. Copyright Basics:

  • What is Copyright? Copyright is intellectual property protection that grants the creator of an original work exclusive rights to its use and distribution, typically for the author's life plus a certain number of years after their death (the exact duration can vary by country). Copyright is retained with the person or company capturing the media. This means when you hire a company to create professional work that company or person owns the rights to it.

2. Exclusive Rights:

Copyright gives photographers the exclusive right to:

  • Reproduce the photograph.

  • Prepare derivative works based on the photograph.

  • Distribute copies of the photograph to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending.

  • Display the photograph publicly.

  • License others to do any of the above.

3. Licensing:

  • What is a License? A license is a permission granted by the copyright holder to another party to use the copyrighted work in ways that would otherwise infringe on the copyright holder's exclusive rights.

  • Types of Licenses: Licenses can be exclusive or non-exclusive. An exclusive license means only the licensee can use the photo in the way described in the license agreement, while a non-exclusive license means the copyright holder can grant the same rights to multiple parties.

  • Terms and Conditions: The specifics of how a photo can be used are outlined in the license agreement. This can include the duration of the license, the geographical area where the photo can be used, specific uses allowed (e.g., commercial, editorial), and any restrictions.

4. Common Licensing Terms:

  • Royalty-Free: This doesn’t mean the photo is free; rather, it means that after the initial purchase, the buyer can use it multiple times without paying additional fees.

  • Rights-Managed: This type of license specifies how, where, and for how long an image will be used. It typically involves more restrictions and often comes with a higher price for single or limited use.

  • Creative Commons: A nonprofit organization that enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools. There are several types of Creative Commons licenses, each allowing various degrees of use. For example some NASA images are can be used because of Creative Commons. We as taxpayers are funding NASA therefore we have the ability to use the media they create,

  • Exclusive Licensing: This licensing allows one client to be the sole licensee for a designated period of time, purpose and can be specific to the state or country.

  • Non-Exclusive: This allows the photographer to license the media to multiple parties and people at the same time. Apple, Adobe, Roku are licensing non-exclusive licensees to every customer that wishes to use their product.

  • Personal Use: This allows individuals like a homeowner to retain images for personal use like a keepsake, These images can not be used for commerical purposes.

5. Infringement and Enforcement:

  • Using a copyrighted photo without permission can lead to claims of copyright infringement, potentially resulting in legal action and significant financial penalties.

  • Copyright owners can enforce their rights through cease-and-desist letters, lawsuits, and, in some cases, statutory damages for infringement.

It's crucial for both photographers and those looking to use photographs to understand these basics of copyright and licensing to ensure that they respect and uphold the rights of copyright holders, while also making informed decisions about the use of copyrighted material.

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