I wanted to write this Wisdom Wednesday post to help clarify the difference between Copyright and having a Print Release. I’ve seen “professional” photographers who offer all images from the session on CD with full copyright for $50 or less. Clearly they aren’t professionals because they wouldn’t be making enough money to actually consider it their profession and they would know you don’t just sell away your copyright, especially not for $50 or less.
Under the Federal Copyright Act of 1976, photographs are protected by copyright from the moment of creation. The photographer can edit, crop, sell, post, print, etc that image to their liking. If there are people or private property in the picture, it gets a little tricky. You don’t need permission to take anyone’s photograph, so you don’t need a model release form before hand. You don’t need a model release to post images on your blog, in a gallery, or even sell them. Most publishing companies or stock photo companies will not accept images unless you have a model release. I require them all for my portrait sessions, to cover myself in the event of legal problems and just to be considerate of peoples wishes. I understand some parent’s don’t want their childs photograph with their name on the internet. I’m always up for negotiating those requirements. It seems to be the industry standard to get a model release or property release for posting or selling those images. If a photographer sells copyright to a client, then the photographer is not allowed to use that photograph or publish it again without consent from the client. I know a photographer who sold the copyrights to her images from a wedding, she was compensated very well for her images but she can’t share those images on her blog, website, or even to her friends without permission from the client who purchased it.
Now for Print Release, most professional photographers will offer a print release with cd/usb of the images. They still should be anywhere from a couple hundred to over a thousand for all the images and the print release. This will entitle the purchaser to make prints of the images they have purchased however many times stipulated in their agreement. Some photographers will even sell limited print releases to advertising companies. Some print releases will only allow you to print with a certain printing company. So their images don’t get destroyed by Walmart or CVS printing labs. Mine do not include that requirement but I suggest using MPIX.com for higher quality and better looking images. Print release does not give you copyright. It does not give you the right to edit, alter, sell or even enter into a contest with those images. Please understand that just because you’re in the photograph, does NOT mean you have the copyrights to that image.
Please respect the artist taking your portraits. If you have any questions about what you can and cannot use the images for feel free to ask. I would like to say, I’m not a lawyer, so I can not say with 100% certainty that this is 100% true. This has, however, been my understand from my college classes and from other professionals in the industry. Please talk to a lawyer if you have any questions. The internet is full of great resources but it can also be full of fiction.