Copyright is the exclusive right of a photographer to control the use and reproduction of the photographs they create. Violators of this law are subject to both civil and criminal penalties. Copyright does not give photographer the right to freely use their images as they wish. State laws determine the need for a model release from the subjects of the images for certain commercial uses. Copyright does, however, prevent others from using professionally-created images without the photographer’s express permission.
The Federal Copyright Act (U.S.C. Title 17) and other cases, establish the following:
• A copyright comes into existence automatically the moment a professional photograph is created.
• By law, that copyright belongs to the photographer or the photographer’s studio.
• A customer who commissions and purchases the photograph does not thereby obtain ownership of the copyright.
• Any transfer of the copyright’s ownership to a customer must be outlined in writing.
• A lab, or other third party, who prints or reproduces photographs commercially, has a legal duty to ensure that the requested copy or intended use is lawful before filling the order.
• A photograph does not need to be marked with a copyright notice to be protected.
• A photograph does not need to be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office to be protected by copyright law, but more enforcement options are available for registered photos.
• A photograph can be marked with the © symbol immediately upon creation; it does not need to be registered first.
Copyright notice: All photography by Deborah van Tellingen, Deborah van Tellingen Photography, LLC, Lucky V Photography, Cowgirl Boudoir and Coyote Moon Photography is protected from copying, scanning or reproduction under Federal Law