Sunday, February 6, 2011

Oh No You Didn't!

Oh No You Didn't!

I know, I stole another headline, this time I stole from my daughter who is 13, she is constantly saying this to her brother, but as we begin to talk about copyright and what that means, we might have someone saying that to us.

As a photographer, I have known about how copyright effects me as an artist. I don't want clients making copies of my images without my permission, nor do I want someone using an image I upload without my permission. However, if someone wants to promote one of my images and give me credit it for it, I am all for that. But not everyone understands the issue and how or when to ask for permission.

Basically, anytime someone creates something it is copyrighted. Now I am not an expert on the subject, I am just explaining my understanding. If you need to take action because you believe your copyright has been violated, by all means seek professional legal advice, don't rely on someone's blog. The place I started to find information about copyright was the James Kirkpatrick Library at the University of Central Missouri and they have a link on their homepage that takes you to a page that is filled with a ton of valuable information. This is an excellent starting place to learn about copyright and fair use.

So when can you and when can't you use something that someone created? Well, that can't be answered in a blog, but I can tell you that common sense will take you a long way in determining when to use and not to use someone else's work. As a photographer, I can tell you not to scan pictures and make reprints, that is a huge violation and I am surprised by the number of people who think it is perfectly alright to do so, especially Wedding Photos. Before the digital age, photographers would create a proof book to give their wedding couples to preview to make their choices. They are to be viewed and returned, not copied, but there were many who tried to cheat their photographer by not paying for all the prints they really wanted. This was a huge problem, but retailers were sued by photographers for allowing customers to scan and print pictures in their store, so the practice does not happen as frequently as it used to. Now days, to avoid the issue all together, photographers charge mostly for their services, not by selling the product, especially when it comes to weddings. Now you are paying for their expertise, just like a plumber or an electrician and not for the actual images.

And even though I am not a full-time photographer, I have to base my pricing on a package of services and not individual pictures. What is also very popular is to take the images and make slideshows set to music. Nothing evokes an emotion like images and music, but you have to use music that is not copyrighted and that was difficult for me to understand at first. I mean I hear music for free on the radio all the time, so if radio stations could play music then why can't I use it for my slideshow? Then I thought, just like I don't want someone using my images for personal gain, I should not use someone's music without permission. But getting permission from popular artists is expensive and almost impossible for the small business owner. So, I use royalty free music that I purchase for my slideshow and it does a wonderful job of evoking an emotion.

And, if you look online, their are a lot of budding artist out there that make their music available for download and to use for projects. Animoto is a slideshow service that has music that is used for their slideshows and it gives you the artist name and website that you can check out and find more music, I have found some great music that way, but be sure to really read their site and make sure you are able to use their songs. Sometimes they charge a minimal fee. Another site for music is Triple Scoop Music, but their songs can cost a bit more. I don't mind paying the fee, as a fellow artist, you want to be compensated for your work.

Well that is my experience with copyright as a photographer and I hope it has made you understand so you won't have someone telling you "Oh no you didn't!"

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