Southern Moon Photography, LLC 2012 | Jargon-CopyRightsCopyWrongs

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Copyrights Keep You from Making

Copy Wrongs!

Living in a digital world can be a nightmare for artists of all varieties.  In our interactions with other vendors we have encountered many artists who are so desperate to protect the originality and integrity of their unique work that they have refused to allow us to photograph their products. Art of any form is dependent on an artist’s imagination and production skills.  It is no different for photographers.  Our work is no less dependent on skill and the ability to translate an idea, thought or impression into a visual object that people can enjoy.  Through the use of light, shadows and depth, photographers paint an image onto a canvas of whatever inspires them at that moment.  If an individual hires a painter to come out and create a portrait of a loved one, they instinctively understand that they do not have the right to scan the picture or photograph that painting and then reproduce as many copies as they want.  Yet somehow, perhaps because of the digital nature of these modern times, people do not hold the same respect for the productions of the professional photographer.  This misuse of original prints and digital copies stems from a lack of understanding of copyright laws and how they affect the rights of the client in regards to the use of the images created by the photographer. 

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Here are the Basics as described by Professional Photographers of America:

  • Under the Federal Copyright Act of 1976, photographs are protected by copyright from the moment of (the photograph’s) creation.
  • Photographers have the exclusive right to reproduce their photographs (right to control the making of copies).
  • Unless you have permission from the photographer, you can’t copy, distribute (no scanning and sending them to others), publicly display (no putting them online), or create derivative works from photographs.


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As a photographer, your lively-hood depends on how much people like the images you capture.  The more appealing the photograph is, the more copies your subject will want to distribute and display, or the more prints of that image you can sell.  Think of it this way.  If a farmer produces strawberries that are exceptionally sweet and juicy, then more people will want more of those strawberries.  Nobody gets mad at a farmer for wanting to sell more strawberries, but people seem to get upset with photographers for wanting to be paid for all the prints of their work that are out there!  Another comparison could be presented with the well-known problem of movie and music pirating on the internet.  If you go online and download a movie from a source other than a legally authorized distributor of said digital media, then you have stolen that creative property of the individuals who produced it.  The photographer or the organization he/she works for are the only legally authorized distributors of the images they create, whether those pictures are produced in digital format or printed on paper or on other products.



Unlike most artists,  photographers work directly with individuals, couples or organizations.  We understand that it is simply not economical for all clients to have to pay every time they want to use or create a copy of that picture. Models and actors, for example, frequently need to distribute as many as 1000 copies of a single image!  This can really add up fast financially speaking.  Another dilemma arises when the client doesn’t need prints at all, and instead wants to use that image solely on Facebook or on their phone, or in their business branding, various marketing medias and Web-site?  If they can’t reproduce, the image in any way with-out the express permission of the photographer or organization they are affiliated with, how can these individuals even effectively utilize the services of a professional photographer? Not to mention within a budget designed to maximize profit.



The solution is simple… Most photographers are willing to sell you the rights to reproduce prints or use those images online.  These photographers are selling the copyrights for use and reproduction of their work.  This is highly convenient for clients and is a great way to provide a more effective and useful product to their community.  That doesn’t mean there won’t be a standard watermark or logo on the image, think of those as the artist’s individual signature.  Like with paintings, the inclusion of these identifying marks, ultimately, make the image more valuable.


Two different kinds of copyrights are common in the photography industry. The first is often referred to as a “Full Copyright Release”.  This kind of release gives the purchaser the right to use  that image in any way they want.  They can use it on the web, personal computers, phones, tablets, ipads or to print as many copies as they need.  Typically the image is provided to the client along with a digital or printed Copyright Release on a High Resolution Disc. These types of releases usually apply to all of the images on that Disc.


The other kind of copyright is frequently called a “Limited Copyright Release”.   Generally speaking these rights are less expensive than a Full Copyright Release.  This release is best defined as a release for the use of images which authorizes the possessor to reproduce a limited number of copies or limits the possessor to a specific media for presentation of those images. It may also limit them to a specified length of time to use the images within.  A Limited Copyright Release may limit the copyright owner to 2000 prints, or it may only include rights to post the images on Facebook or to the Internet and/or email productions such as Newsletters.  Perhaps the client only needs the images for 2 years and then will need to update their collection. A Limited Copyright Release would be much more appropriate to fulfill these needs.  The more specific the rights are and the less rights the release grants; the less expensive this kind of release will be.


With Spring time coming up the needs for photography become more prominent in most people’s minds.  Often times those needs require a greater leniency for use of those images.  Weddings, Easter, Family Reunions, Graduating Seniors, Anniversaries and Business or Modelling Portfolios all require good high quality photography, and frequently the dispersion rate of these images exceeds what clients estimate and/or are prepared to pay for.  That’s why every collection we have offer at Southern Moon Photography, LLC includes a disc with a copyright release of some type.  Most include a full release, and most include all the images from that session!  Nobody wants to be in the wrong, so we make it convenient to use the pictures legally, however you want, by providing you with the image copyrights!


Published & Copyrighted – March 29, 2014 – By: Southern Moon Photography, LLC – - SW


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