A photographer's rights to the photos they create

As a photographer, the moment you release your finger from the shutter button (or hit the white circle on your iPhone), the image you create is owned by you and you alone. Your photos are your intellectual property, and they remain your intellectual property unless you choose to give that ownership to another individual in written form.

In the digital age we live in, photos can be stolen with a simple click of a mouse. It’s important to understand the rights you have to the photos you create, and how you can protect those rights should they be violated.

Understanding photography copyrights

The copyrights of the photos you create belong to you, plain and simple. Unless you decide to sign those copyrights away with a written agreement, they remain yours. These rights include:

  1. Reproduction of the photos

  2. Derivative works of the photos

  3. Distributing copies of the photos to the public by means of sale, rental, lease or lending

  4. Displaying the photos publicly

Should you permit someone the usage of your photo, this does not mean you are granting them the copyright. You may grant an individual consent to use your photo, yet unless you specifically state in writing that you are transferring ownership of the photo’s copyright, you will remain the owner of the copyright. These rights belong to you for as long as you are alive, and even extend to you for an additional 70 years following your death.

If someone chooses to use your photos without your permission, that individual could be violating United States’ copyright laws, and you do have the option to take legal action.

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