You know that fantastic photo you bought at the weekend of you and your horse flying over that huge XC jump? It’s yours now isn’t it because you paid for it and now you can share it with all your friend’s and the world on facebook? Well no it isn’t, well not exactly!
When you purchased the print of the photo that is exactly what you brought the print. Not the image of you and not the right to copy or share the image which is essentially known as the ‘copyright’ which the photographer will almost always retain.
So when you buy the print and you want to share it on facebook what should you do? Simply ask the photographer at the time of purchase 99% of photographers will allow you to use the photo for non commercial reasons (i.e. facebook or non commercial personal websites) as long as you ask and put a credit to them when posting because you have already purchased the print. Some photographers even offer small jpeg images which are not large enough to print but suitable for posting online at a very reasonable cost.
But the photo is of me surely I have a right to it? No you don’t. By attending a public event and knowing a photographer is on site you will have given implied consent for your photo to be taken. You can revoke this consent by informing the secretary or the photographer themselves. You can also ask after the event for photos of yourself to be removed from the photographer’s website but you have no rights to the image itself.
What if you want to use it for commercial reasons i.e. selling your horse or marketing your riding skills? In this situation most photographers will ask that you effectively buy the copyright from them or pay a licence fee. The cost will heavily depend on the photographer and whether they are providing the original hi resolution image or not. Expect to pay in the region of £15+ per image minimum although some will be happy with just a credit next to the photo.
But the photographer has put ‘watermarked’ images on their website you’re ok to copy those aren’t you as the watermark is free advertising for them? No you’re not, even though the image is watermarked and the image is of you you are not entitled to copy or reproduce the image and doing so is breaking copyright law.
But what about the photo the amateur photographer has uploaded to facebook it doesn’t have a watermark therefore there is no copyright right? WRONG! Even though posted in the public domain and without a visible copyright unless the copyright holder expressly states you can use the image you cannot do so legally. Like it, share it, set it as your profile photo yes, but save it copy it upload it to a separate album no.
But realistically what can a photographer do about it if I do copy the photos illegally? Firstly they can send you a bill for use of the images without permission and if you do not pay they are entitled to go through the small claims court to recover the money and trust me you do not want that against your credit rating! They can also blacklist you by not taking photos at events and share your name with other photographers.
How will they find out though? Photographers often ‘stalk’ facebook and the internet searching for illegal use of their photos. There are even special programs which can search automatically by looking for specific information hidden inside a file. Just because you consider yourself a ‘nobody’ don’t presume you won’t be found out.
Isn’t that rather sad, why do they bother? Very simply taking photos is their livelihood and they need to make a living just like you and me. If people stop buying the photos and instead just copy them off the internet they will not make any money and will therefore go out of business. End result no more event photographers and no more photos of you.
A good general rule is if a photograph is good enough for you to warrant wanting to share it with others then it is good enough to pay for.
If you don’t like a photographer’s pricing structure ask them if there is any flexibility especially if you want multiple images, most will be able to come to an agreement.
Hopefully you will now appreciate copyright is there to protect a photographer’s livelihood and it is only by respecting that will they continue to be able to attend events rather than diversify to other markets.