1. Understand copyright
Any original photographs you create attract copyright, having protection from creation, for your lifetime, plus 70 years. If anyone infringes this right, you have a right to sue them for compensation and to stop further use. Note that there are exceptions to copyright which, under certain circumstances will allow third parties to use your work.
2. Know your moral rights
Moral rights only apply to copyright and are not assignable, therefore you cannot transfer these to third parties. Moral rights may, in some circumstances, be waived. Like copyright, if these rights are infringed, the creator can sue. The rights are:
* The right to be identified as the author or director of a copyright work (known as the “right of paternity” or “right of attribution”)
* The right to object to derogatory treatment of a copyright work (known as the “right of integrity”)
* The right not to suffer false attribution of a copyright work
* The right to privacy in respect of certain films and photographs
All of the above apart from false attribution last for your lifetime plus 70 years after death. The false attribution right is limited to 20 years after death.
3. Rules of ownership
Just because you took the photo does not mean you are necessarily the owner and therefore able to enjoy copyright. If you took the photo as part of your employment, your employer will own the copyright and you will have no rights. You should always check the intellectual property clauses, if any, of your employment contract to make sure you understand what will happen with your work.
4. Licensing versus assignment
Do not confuse a license to use copyright works with an assignment of copyright works. A license allows another person to use your work, but you can define the scope and duration and potentially charge for such use. An assignment will transfer your copyright to that person and you will no longer have the right to use the original work. If you are approached by someone wanting to use your work, check any documentation carefully to ensure you understand the terms of the agreement. If you have any doubt, seek advice before signing.
5. Negotiate your contract
Firstly, do not sign a contract without reading it through. If you don’t know the terms agreed, you could be signing away your copyright when you never intended to. Once signed, it will not be easy to prove in a Court that the agreement is invalid just because you didn’t read it. Don’t be afraid to put forward ideas and requests to the other side, you have a right to negotiate, especially if the agreement is unfair towards you. Nevertheless, if you need to seek help, speak to a legal advisor who can help represent you.
If you would like further advice on copyright or intellectual property in general, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0203 405 9030.