Friday, September 23, 2011

How to Print Copyrighted Images

Printing Copyrighted Images

Posted by brother7 Have you ever tried to print images from a TFP/TFCD photoshoot only to be denied by the photo lab clerk? This often happens when the images look professional or bear a photographer’s watermark. Most models think that since they are the subject of the photos to be printed, they should be able to print them. Wrong! And here’s why.

According to A Digital Photographer’s Guide to Model Releases by Dan Heller:

A copyright springs into existence the moment a given work is created. For photography, the work is instantly copyrighted by the photographer when the shutter is released. [...] Anything that involves an original creative process is automatically copyrighted by the creator when it takes a physical form.

As the creator, the photographer owns the copyright, not the model. Therefore, in printing images from a TFP photoshoot, the model violates the photographer’s copyright, a legal no-no.

Once upon a time, photo labs were lax in their enforcement of a photographer’s copyright. As the saying goes, it’s all legal until you get caught. In 1989, Professional Photographers of America (PPA) sued Eckerd Drugs for copyright infringement and won $112,500 in damages. PPA won a similar suit against Linn Photo in 1994 and settled another suit with K-mart in 1999. In 2001, PPA formed Copyright Defense, a legal watchdog that lobbies for photographers’ rights on Capitol Hill. With more attention focused on copyright issues, places like Walmart, Sam’s Club and Costco implemented measures to stem copyright infractions.

What’s a model to do to get her digital images printed? The answer: get the photographer’s permission to print the photos. Here are the links to Walmart Photo Copyright Policy and Sam’s Club Copyright Release (PDF). For other photo printers, use the Permission to Print Photographs Form (PDF) that I created, compliments of brother7!

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