Protecting your intellectual property as a photographer
Even though most of us are strictly amateur photographers we are sometimes approached to provide images for local events, businesses or individuals. Much of the time these images are provided by us at no cost. This is fine, but these days we do need to take a few simple steps to protect our intellectual rights in our own photographs.
To give you an extreme example, you might provide some of your photographs to a local event only to find that the organizers of that event have subsequently sold your photograph to somebody else … perhaps somebody who stands to make money from the use of your work. Without an agreement in place you may find that you can't do much about it.
No matter how unlikely the above scenario may seem, it is wise to protect against such situations by providing a "non-exclusive licence" to users of your work. A non-exclusive licence spells out exactly what users of your work may or may not do with it. There are links to an example of a simple licence document below.
To use the example licence document you only need to edit a few things. Change the parties to be yourself as the Licensor and whoever you are providing the pictures to as the Licensee. Change the titles and filenames to the actual titles and filenames of the images you are providing. In the grant of rights section spell out exactly what the other party is allowed to do with your images … and be specific.
In the Licensees obligations section you spell out exactly what you want from the other party in consideration for their use of your work. Even if you are providing images at no cost it is entirely appropriate that parties using your work provide attribution to you as the photographer. At the very least you should insist on this. The remainder of the document is quite self-explanatory. Make sure you include clause 7 as this avoids the need for both parties to sign the document. If the other party makes any use of your work clause 7 states that in doing so they accept the licence terms. Give a printed copy or email a copy of the licence document to the other party at the same time that you give or send them your pictures.
One further thing you may want to consider is the use to which your work will be put and whether or not you are charging for the use of your work. As a photographer (amateur or commercial) you are perfectly entitled to photograph people in public places. While your right to take the picture is unquestioned, the use to which that picture is subsequently put will determine what steps you may need to take.
If you are providing the picture for subsequent commercial use you may need to obtain a signed model release from recognizable people in the picture. Rather than write reams here, there is a link at the top of this page to a NSW Photographer's Rights web site. The article on that site not only describes your rights as a photographer but also contains details about copyright, model releases and what constitutes commercial use.