Are you registering your images with the Us Copyright Office? I do. As a matter of fact I am uploading a few thousand images as I’m writing this post. I find this to be a topic that creates more questions than it does answers for the average photographer and sadly enough most photographers do not register their images. I have found that many photographers have very little knowledge about copyright. Most think it is some BIG process and they’re afraid of it. Copyright is as unknown to many photographers as is death. Are you afraid to die? For many the answer is “yes” because we really do not know what happens after we die. So like anything in this world that is “unknown” we as humans tend to shy away from it and pretend we didn’t hear anyone say a thing. Do you remember learning to ride a bicycle? And what happened after you learned? So easy that even if you haven’t ridden a bike in 10 years it only takes two minutes and you right back at it. Again the fear of the unknown… I could do a month of blog posts on the “fear of the unknown” in just the fears I have had and have overcome in my life.
So why do I need to register my images? Well, the truth is no one has to register their images at all. Last I checked in my state of New Jersey USA there is no law saying images have to be registered. The key to the mystery is in the word “copyright.” It is your right to register your images to protect them and have control as to how the images are used or not used. Also you as a photographer want to dispel all the myths about copyright and copyright vs registering. Simply put “you own the image as soon as you click the shutter.” You own the images the same as you own your car, but you have to register your car in order to drive your car. Same goes for images/photos, sure you know you own it, but you must prove you own it. Because you did not buy your photos you do not have a receipt and you created them yourself, so you need to tell the government that you created these said images and this is done by registering them at the copyright office. Now at this point I will give my little disclaimer that most of the information I am about to speak of can be found in a book called the “Copyright Zone” written by Ed Greenberg & Jack Reznicki. Ed is an intellectual properties attorney based in New York City. Jack is a professional photographer of many years. The book is the “real deal” when it comes to all the things a photographer needs to know about copyright. I am not paid in any way to promote this book, however I can say it really is a must have for anyone who is serious about their photography and wants to protect their images. I found Ed & Jack a few years back when I joined up with Scott Kelby’s infamous Kelby Training for photographers which by the way is now called “Kelbyone.” Ed & Jack had a few courses that explained copyright and really shed some light on the subject for me. Actually it explained everything I needed to know to start registering my images. Then the book came along in a revised edition and it goes deeper than the classes did.
Strangely enough I was one of those photographers that was very receptive to copyright and wanting to learn all about it as I was learning how to use a camera back in the day. But I could never really find a one stop place that explained it and most of all “how to” actually go through the process. I was receptive to copyright because for many years I have written songs and some poetry and I learned a long time ago to copyright my work. So when I started off into photography right away I knew at some point I had to learn how to register the images. Back in my songwriting days there was no internet and it was all done on paper and through the US Mail system. Now it is all done online and it really is so easy a child can do it. But with that said; I have found that in order to keep the process as simple as possible I had to incorporate copyright into my workflow. It really is not hard at all if you use Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop will work too. However I have found Lightroom to be much more streamlined because my whole workflow process centers on Lightroom. I will write a post in a few days explaining my copyright workflow.
There really is only one reason that you register and that is to protect your property. For some odd reason that I cannot seem to figure out, some people do not want to protect their images. They’ll come up with all kind of excuses or they believe in some urban legend they heard or read. As for reading the Copyright Zone and given the fact that Ed Greenberg has made a very successful career as an intellectual properties attorney, one of the best at what he does, so when Ed speaks I will listen. If Joe McNally walked into a room full of photographers and started talking and giving advice I would certainly take that over something I read on the internet or heard from somebody in the local photography club. Really just a little common sense coming from the correct source will take you a long way in life.
So my post is not a tutorial about how to register your images, if you want to learn I would suggest picking up a copy of the Copyright Zone, not only is it a good read, but very informative and worth every cent you paid for it. So in closing I will say this; yes it will cost you money to register your images. It is $55 to register a collection and a collection can include a lot of images, thousands. I don’t know the current maximum amount aloud, but I can tell you I just uploaded around 4500 images and I have another several hundred to add. All for the same $55 dollars… And please know I am not a wealthy man, I am not poor and I could easily find something else to do with that $55. But I put a value on my work and what I do. Yes I will do “Time for Print” with a model or up an-an-coming entertainer when there are no paid jobs, however I conduct that shoot as if it were a paid job, I may have to invest in any number of things to make the shoot happen. I may have money laid out in travel, location fee or permit, lunch for whoever (boy am I nice guy or what) or maybe even wardrobe or a makeup fee. Why do I invest? Because I want good images and then after I get as good of images as I can afford and I can achieve with my skills and gear… I register them to protect them.
Thanks so much for reading.