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"If I 'sell' my picture to a client, do I lose my 'rights' to that picture?"
"No," is the answer to that one -- if you're working smart. The Copyright Law of 1976 (enacted into law on Jan. 1st 1978) places special emphasis on this question. Your picture belongs to you, from the moment you snap the shutter. The law protects the creator of the "work" (in this case, a photograph) by making the assumption that unless it is otherwise stated in writing, the ownership of the work rests with the creator of the work, not the buyer of the “license” to use it. In other words, if you're on assignment to make a specific picture for a client, and no written statement is made regarding ownership (not just use rights) of the resulting picture(s) -- you own them. In the old days (pre-1976) it was assumed that the client who purchased the license to use the photo, owned the picture. Now it’s considered that when a client “purchases” a picture for use, they are only “renting” the picture for that use. Ownership (copyright) stays with the photographer.
WORK FOR HIRE
Some clients will be aware of this stipulation and will include on their contract form or agreement letter, this phrase: "Work For Hire." If you sign such an agreement or contract, you do relinquish your rights to the picture(s). If you decide it's to your advantage to sign a "Work For Hire" agreement, assure yourself of ample payment since you are in effect losing those pictures, and your chance to "rent" them for use many times over. In other words, negotiate. If the client's fee is not high enough, advise your client that you will award only limited rights to him.
Here are definitions of "rights" that are commonly accepted in the industry:
One-time rights -- the client or publication has permission to use the picture only once. Most stock photos are 'rented' or 'leased' on a one-time-use basis.
First Rights -- the same as one-time rights, except that the client or publication pays a little more for the opportunity to be the first to publish the picture(s).
Exclusive rights -- the client or publication has exclusive reproduction rights of the photograph for a specified amount of time. Example: one or two years for a post card, or three years for a brochure. After that time the photograph rights return to the photographer.
Electronic rights – you allow the client to also use the image on the Web or in a similar “electronic” medium.
All rights -- unlimited rights. The outright transfer of your copyright to the client or publication. They now own the copyright to the photo and control its use.
As a stock photographer, you should avoid assigning "all rights" to a client or publication, if the picture lends itself to having a long life as a stock photograph. If the picture, however, will soon be out-dated, or you feel it’s worthwhile to go ahead with a Work For Hire assignment, it may be wiser to accept a substantial payment for the picture(s) and relinquish your rights to it(them). On this kind of assignment, photographers will often carry another camera(s) along with them to "piggy-back" additional pictures which don’t conflict with the theme of their assignment picture(s). These extra pictures can then be included in the photographer's stock file, while the assignment pictures (and negatives or original transparencies) go to the client.
For more information on your photo rights, type in the word, "copyright," in the Search section of the PhotoSource International home page (www.photosource.com).
Rohn Engh is director of PhotoSource International and publisher of PhotoStockNotes. Pine Lake Farm, 1910 35th Road, Osceola, WI 54020 USA Email:email@example.com Fax: 1 715 248 7394 Web site: www.photosource.com