Are you a musician or artist looking to better understand copyright laws? You’ve come to the right place! In this post, we’ll be discussing the basics of copyright law, what it means for you when you use our work, and how you can best avoid infringing on someones’s copyright.
Our goal is to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of our copyright policy so that you can make informed decisions when it comes to posting, sharing and/or using our work to promote yourself, your band or just sharing as a fan.
This is a topic that often comes up in our conversations with clients and with the musical talent we cover at live music events. Everyone wants to use our work (and we want you too as well) but honoring our copyright is required to do so legally. Before we get into all that, let me give you a bit more information about our experience with copyright and intellectual property laws and professional etiquette. Adam has been a professional musician for his entire adult life. He has recorded well over 60 albums, written and/or contributed to countless songs and tracks plus he’s been a professional photographer for almost as long as he’s been a musician. I have been professional photographer since 2012 and I have an extensive background in management, marketing and as a paralegal. I have worked extensively with trademarked logos and brands participating in the world market and I learned very quickly to respect the creative process and its contributors. There are a lot of misconceptions out there about copyright and intellectual property laws but we thought maybe would could clear up a few things as it relates to our specific business.
The Federal Copyright Act (U.S.C. Title 17) and other cases, establish the following:
A copyright comes into existence automatically the moment a professional photograph is created.
By law, that copyright belongs to the photographer or the photographer’s studio.
A customer who commissions and purchases the photograph does not thereby obtain ownership of the copyright.
Any transfer of the copyright’s ownership to a customer must be outlined in writing.
A lab, or other third party who prints or reproduces photographs commercially, has a legal duty to ensure that the requested copy or intended use is lawful before filling the order.
A photograph does not need to be marked with a copyright notice to be protected.
A photograph does not need to be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office to be protected by copyright law, but more enforcement options are available for registered photos.
A photograph can be marked with the © symbol immediately upon creation; it does not need to be registered first.
Source: Professional Photographers of America (PPA)
For us… the answer is simple. We are small business owners and everytime our copyright is infringed upon, we risk losing money by not holding the infringer accountable. While we are certainly not money hungry and ultimately believe in community over competition, but money is a necessary evil. It goes towards our overhead, our family and towards our gear. We do A LOT of work in our community and it can feel like an insult when people take our work for granted. It is not okay to remove or crop out our watermark. It is not ok to not give proper credit on social media, especially when we have clearly stated the terms for reposting our work. We have very reasonable guidelines. Share with Attribution to Black Moon Media, LLC. With that said, there are so many members of our community that go out of their way to contact us with questions and who consistently provide appropriate credit each time they use our work. THANK YOU! You guys are the real MVP’s and you are the reason we do what we do!
DID YOU KNOW?
More than 140,000 photographers in the U.S. rely on copyright protection to keep their businesses afloat.
A photograph is copyright protected the moment a photographer snaps the image until 70 years after their death. Protection covers both published and unpublished works.
Photos don’t have to bear the © mark to be protected. Even if the image hasn’t been marked as copyrighted, that doesn’t mean it is free to use or in the public domain.
Just because you see others posting a photograph with no © mark doesn’t mean you can too. Many people have licensing agreements that grant them the use of images with no watermark.
Images you find online are copyrighted unless otherwise noted. While it’s true that Fair Use Laws are vague and open to a lot of interpretation, courts will generally rule in favor of the copyright owner.
Posting a photographer’s work on social media without permission most likely represents a copyright infringement. The Internet makes online copyright infringement a ballooning problem and legislation changes are underway to address this issue.
Just because you purchased a print or paid for a photo shoot doesn’t automatically mean that you can do anything with it. Printing, copying, displaying, or altering photographs without permission are examples of copyright infringement.
Copyright infringements can result in civil and criminal penalties! It’s the rule of law, and ignorance of the law (the Intellectual Property Law) is not an excuse; you may be held liable whether the infringement was intentional or not.
Infringement cases affect your local economy because they impact the small photography businesses in your area.
Not every copyright infringement case ends up in court, but those that do can be very costly for the infringer! Copyright lawsuits will be heard in front of a federal court (not your state’s court), and most courts will rule in favor of the photographer. It is not uncommon to see verdicts with up to $150,000 in statutory damages per image!
Ask for permission. Never print, post, or reproduce a photograph without our permission
We generally give permission in the description of the image if it is posted on social media (example below). If you are a formal client, our provisions are outlined in your contract, which you can find in your client portal.
If you want an un-watermarked copy or a digital file, ask us how to obtain it, legally. You will be supporting our business and protecting yourself.