Photo Copyright Concerns.


 Photo Copyright Concerns.

If you use a camera, chances are you've taken photos that someone else might find interesting. But have you ever wondered how copyright law applies to those photos? Read on to find out more about this important topic and how it can affect your photography.

And if you're looking for some quick facts, here are some useful ones: 
Before taking pictures, be sure to know the potential legal ramifications of copyright law on your photography. 
While there isn't one exhaustive list of who owns which images (though not being copyrighted does offer some protection), knowing the basics is always a good idea and will provide some peace of mind when taking pictures in public spaces.
If you find that some images are "out of copyright," it doesn't mean they're free to use. The owner, even if they're not in the United States, can still enforce rights through their country's laws.
If you'd like to learn more about the copyright laws of your state, check out this site by the United States Copyright Office (

What is a photographer's main concern with respect to copyright protection?

Photographs are often regarded as artistic productions. Are they covered by the copyright law? Yes. A photograph, like a painting, sculpture, or musical work, is an original work of art that is protected under the copyright law.
Photographs may also be considered works of visual art within the meaning of the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA) which provides certain limited rights to copyright owners who register with the U.S. Copyright Office before January 1, 1978 and within a period of five years after such registration.

What are the rights of a photographer with respect to photographs of public places, public buildings, and government property under U.S. copyright law?

Under the Copyright Act (17 U.S.C. §§ 101 et seq.), photographs taken in the United States may be protected by copyright if they meet certain legal criteria. If a photograph meets certain criteria, it is considered "original" and therefore may be protected by copyright law under 17 USC § 201(a)(1). If the photograph meets that criteria, then it is considered an "original" work of art and may be covered by copyright for a period of at least fifty years from the year the photograph was created or first published.
If a photograph satisfies those criteria, it becomes original even if it: 
• Was either copied from another existing work; or 
• Is part of a series of photographs (such as in a photo essay) taken within the same year.
In order to qualify as an "original work," the photographer must create this material by her own effort and must show evidence of subjective thought and originality in its creation. The photograph does not have to be of the highest quality. Nor is the subject matter required to be of artistic significance.
Photographs that qualify under 17 USC § 201 are copyrighted and may be protected under copyright law for a period of at least fifty years from the year they were first published.

Is it possible to copyright an image that is in the public domain?
Photographs fall into one of two categories under U.S. copyright law: (i) work of art or (ii) pictorial, graphic, or sculptural work. A "work of art" is defined as any painting, drawing, print, photograph, sculpture, engraving or other work of art. A "pictorial, graphic or sculptural work" is any painting with three dimensional form; any line drawing; any figure drawing or sculpture in three dimensions; any map, chart or globe in a publication (with the exception of a scientific chart); and a registration for the copyright of such a work can only be made if it was created on or after January 1st 1978.
Generally speaking public domain photographs may not be copyrighted in the United States unless they are part of an artistic work. In order for a photograph to be an artistic work it must meet the following criteria: 
• It must have some minimal degree of creativity 
• The work must contain more than a minimal amount of skill and effort. 
• The photograph must also exhibit a modicum of originality.

What is the purpose of copyright registration?
A copyright is registered to promote compliance with the law and serves as prima facie evidence in court proceedings regarding infringement. Courts will not accept as evidence unregistered copyrighted works, but will accept unregistered copyrighted works as evidence in proceedings showing that the work has been infringed.

What does the U.S. Copyright Office do with my copyright registration?
In order for the U.S. Copyright Office to register your copyright, you will need to submit the following documents: 
• A fully executed application (Form VA); 
• A statement in the application identifying each copyrighted work (Form TX); 
• Proof of first publication of the work (Form PA); and 
• A filing fee (Form FWS-A). The filing fee must be paid in U.S. funds and is currently $30 per author; a second year's registration fee is also due by April 30th of each year.

In order to register a copyright, you will need to provide the U.S. Copyright Office with the following information: 
• The title of the work; 
• A description of the work; 
• The name and address of the author or authors; 
• A history of publication for each book, which should include (i) a description of the title page, (ii) number of copies printed with an indication if any copies were distributed or sold, and (iii) in what form it was distributed or sold; and 
• If the work is published in more than one version (for example a hardcover edition and a paperback edition), then you will need to state which version is being registered.

Conclusion -To sum it all up, you can register your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office without a lawyer if you’re only registering one piece of work, however, it is recommended that you consult an attorney to consult on the registration of multiple works. If there are any questions that arise regarding the legality or the propriety of a specific use of copyrighted material, a lawyer should be consulted before taking any action.

"" us copyright office denver colorado, last updated april 18th 2017


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