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Episode 140: How to Use Licensing Agreements to Protect Your Photography Business
If you’re a photographer you know how hard you work to get the perfect shot.
Between creating an ideal lighting scenario, mastering composition, choosing the correct lens, and ensuring your photo sessions run smoothly– you tell a story unlike any other. Many people don’t understand the astronomical amount of post-processing work that happens before a client ever sees their final images (which makes it even more frustrating when someone uses your work for their advertising without consent or payment).
Situations like this pop up all the time in the photography industry. Maybe a venue uses your image on a magazine advertisement without paying for the rights to use it or you see a local dress shop using your images for their latest campaign. In fact, The TLP Facebook Community is filled with questions surrounding this exact topic so you are in good company if you’ve ever wondered, “How do I protect my images while also being generous with my work?”
The solution is quite simple…a licensing agreement can help!
Although vendors often work together, that does not mean you have to give your copyrighted work to vendors for free nor can your vendors automatically use your photos without consent. In Episode 140 of The Legal Paige Podcast, I dig into the power of licensing agreements and how you can ultimately leverage them in your business.
Do Photographers Have Copyright Ownership Over Their Images?
Before we dig into licensing agreements, let’s address the legal heavy question on your mind: Do photographers have sole copyright ownership over their images?
The answer is YES! A hundred times over, yes.
(Under U.S. Law, The Copyright Act of 1976 and Title U.S.C. 17 to be exact).
Copyright protection exists the moment your work is created and fixed in a tangible form that can be seen either directly (in a physical form) or with the aid of a machine or device, such as a digital/film camera and computer.
This means you have copyright ownership over your photographs the moment your clients pose, say cheese, or make a funny face and your button is clicked.
With all this in mind remember this: vendors should NOT be using your photos without your permission, in fact, NO ONE should be using your photos for commercial reasons without your permission.
This is considered copyright infringement and it is against the law. To help protect yourself from infringement we recommend you make it known to every vendor that they can only use your photos if they license them from you first.
Should You Share Your Images With Vendors For Free?
It goes without saying, I am an attorney…not your marketing advisor. There are a wide array of opinions on this topic and some marketing experts might even encourage you to give away your photos with abandon in the name of growing your business.
As the little bird on your opposite shoulder, I always want you to consider the important, legal “what-ifs”. I don’t discredit that sharing your photos with vendors can be a good marketing tactic. But, legally it means that you are freely giving licenses to use photos to vendors without signing an actual license agreement. Some vendors could run with that freedom and do anything with your photos. Can you imagine seeing your photo on a huge billboard without any credit or compensation? That’s the kind of risk you take…
More From This Episode
Tune into Episode 140 and learn the nitty-gritty details about licensing agreements including the two types of licensing agreements you should consider, my take on if you should require your vendors to pay a fee when licensing, how to navigate sticky situations where the vendors' contract with the client says they can use your photos for free, and more!
If you only remember one thing from this episode it should be this: You have worked so hard on your business and your photographs are literally your bread and butter. You are not required to give away your hard-earned work for free and it is a smart business move to present your vendors with a licensing agreement.
TLP’s Non-Exclusive Licensing Agreement and Exclusive Licensing Agreement will easily help you protect yourself from infringement and sticky legal situations with vendors today!
If you want more helpful business advice as you’ll hear on the podcast, be sure to join The Legal Paige Facebook Community where thousands of entrepreneurs just like you are getting real-time answers about running a professionally and legally legit business.