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Sunday, 03 June 2012


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Looking around the Internet postings, particularly sharing websites, it appears that there sometimes isn't a location on the site to post copyright information.
I suspect many of us include it in the metadata, but it will be interesting to see the arguement about whether this is effective enough to defend infringement.

Its not necessarily true in most parts of the world. At least European copyright law is quite different from the US. In Denmark the creator of a work of art automatically gets the copyright, and it will be in effect for 70 years after his or her death. There is no obligation to put a notice on your work, and the © symbol has no meaning under Danish law. I think the laws are similar in many other European countries.
Never the less, your advice is valid, since in these days of the internet, your work can be seen (and copied) from all over the world, and - like it or not - the US copyright symbol has become more or less universal. Its probably a good symbol to use, if you want to expressly state your claim - but again: in some (many?) countries, it is not formally needed.

I wouldn't say that notice is required for copyright to subsist in "most parts of the world" - it's not needed in the 165 Berne Convention countries.


And this is what I see when looking at a "copyrighted" photography:


Just sayin'.

Mike, do you have any reference indicating that (c) is not as valid as ©, or that "© All rights reserved" is less effective?

IANAL, but it seems to me that any copyright notice, no matter how ill-formed, would prevent the thief from using the "innocent infringer" offense.

"And this is what I see when looking at a "copyrighted" photography:"

Oh, and speaking of that: the copyright notice doesn't have to appear ON the image. Just near the image is sufficient. For a print, a.k.a. a "single leaf work," it can be on the front or the back.


"I wouldn't say that notice is required..."

That's why I specifically stated that it's optional.


Timely tip, thank you Mike.

If you want money in damages, you do have to register it here in the USA. This was left out. Which reminds me I need to bug them about my submission last September.

An addendum: The year should be the year of first publication--images taken in 2008 but not published (internet publication counts) until 2012 should have 2012, not 2008.

AFAIK in Poland the copyrights are valid by default, regaldless of the (c) mark. However the polish courts are very uneffective and the judgement depend strongly on he fact if the author is professional photographer or amateur one. In the cases in which the company or the institution steals the photo of an amateur the judgements are usually much lower than the company's income from the infringement.

"(...)the copyright notice doesn't have to appear ON the image(...)"
But it always does, doesn't it... "protection", some call it. "I love my name and hate my photos" is what it looks like.

Is there a minimum size for the copyright notice, or a required contrast?
If it can be just big enough and just bright enough to be visible, it doesn't need to be obtrusive.

I used to avoid watermarking most of the photos on my blog, though I did put a copyright notice on my blog pages. Why would anyone steal my images? But Google Image Search revealed that quite a few of them had indeed been stolen and a handful of the best ones had been ripped off many times. I went back and watermarked everything with a proper copyright notice and my contact info, and every new image that I put online gets the same treatment. It seems to reduce the incidence of theft significantly. Also, as a general principle, if you're proud enough of your photos to post them online why wouldn't you want to watermark them? Artists sign their work.

"If you want money in damages, you do have to register it here in the USA."

No, this is not true. Even without registration, you are entitled to "actual damages and profits." That means that if you normally charge $1000 for a print, and someone downloads it and sells the print for $200, you could get back $1200.

However, if you register, you have the added option to request statutory damages and attorney's fees, instead of "actual" damages. Statutory damages can be as high as $150,000 if you can prove they did it intentionally, and the judge is feeling punitive. Or it can be as low as $200 if the judge thinks the infringer was clueless.

So registration just gives you more options. But at $35 per image, it can be quite expensive.

The above is not legal advice, and I am not a lawyer. But you should check out the Copyright Office's circulars, particularly Circular 1 (Copyright Basics):

I'm not a lawyer either, but I think for the "innocent infringer" defense to stick, it'd have to go beyond "Oh, I totally didn't realize that (c) was meant to be a copyright symbol; the law says it has to be a © to be a valid copyright notice!"

There's a reason we have humans deciding cases rather than robots, and I'd be pretty surprised if the ruling didn't go in favor of the author/artist's pretty clear intent. (Now, lack of a year might be more of an issue, if timing is at stake.)

Yep, that's also my understanding of U.S. copyright law, but as a signatory to the Berne convention, the US and all other signatories are compelled under the Berne convention to observe the laws of the country of origin of the original copyright owner.
So, here in NZ the current version of the copyright law gives copyright to the creator unless it has been commissioned, in which case, by default copyright goes to the commissioner, unless it has been contracted out of by mutual agreement (the usual case for career photographers).
Either way, it is wise for a NZ photographer who has copyright of their images to use the © photographername on or alongside the image when posting on the internet to avoid the "innocent use" exemption in U.S. law, and other casual exploitation of the image.
So, even though the U.S. requirements are more stringent with the 3-fold lodging of copyright, U.S. and all other Berne convention signatories must observe the NZ exerted copyright.

Good to know a name is required. I've been using the URL of my website, which I find less pretentious.

My site does state my name with a copyright notice, which can be interpreted as `near the image', so I guess the combination works.

Dear Ben,

You don't have to register each image individually. You only have to register each “work” individually. A work can be a compilation or assemblage. For example, you could take all your photographs from a trip, put them into a single PSD file, and register the PSD and that would protect all the images it contained. The copyright office may have some limits on total file size, and there is the requirement that all the images be clearly identifiable as yours, so they need to be large enough to be recognizable; 50 pixel by 50 pixel thumbnails likely wouldn't cut it. Otherwise, the sky is the limit.

Hope this saves you some money!

Regarding the circle-C vs. "(C)" I haven't checked the law currently so it may have been rewritten, but there was a specific court case about this either in the 1980's or early nineties. The ruling was that (C) did not constitute legal notification; you had to use the circle-C symbol.

The circle-C symbol was agreed upon internationally because it isn't in any language; it's a glyph. The word “copyright” may not be recognizable to you if you don't read the language it's written in. (How many Americans know the Chinese characters for copyright? I don't.) "( C )" isn't even writable unless you're writing in Roman characters, which only about half the world does. So, as a practical matter, all countries that were signatories to the Berne convention agreed on circle-C as the universal indicator of copyright.

As English has kind of become the default language of the web, I suppose it is possible that later international IP treaties have given (c) official legal status; if there is a copyright attorney reading this, I would love to hear from them. But, the only (old) determination that I am familiar with says no.

pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

Another correction. The filing fee is not $35 per image. You can download or mail in a CD that is a group of images for the one fee. One subject group I mailed in was about 1,200 images. This was due to the fact the whole group would not be able to load to their system in the alotted time they give. This was back in September and I still do not have the certificate. I electronically submitted two weeks later another group of about 40 images. That was certified about six weeks later. I guess the larger group choked the system.

Ben S. said, "So registration just gives you more options. But at $35 per image, it can be quite expensive."

While it's been some time since I took the Mass Media Law course, I seem to remember that you could submit a proof sheet so that you wouldn't have to spend $35 for each photo.

I'm with Matthew Miller—good luck in court if you claim that "(c) Copyright 2012 Ben Syverson" is more ambiguous than "© Copyright 2012 Ben Syverson." There may have been a difference between © and (c) in the 1980s, but in 1989 we signed the Berne Convention, and both symbols became entirely optional.

I too would love an IP attorney to pipe up and set us all straight! :)

So if the (c) is not legal as a copyright symbol why does Nikon force me to use that since the EXIF comment section on any of my Nikons doesn't provide me with the © to use in the comment?

Dear Bob,

Not sure if you're asking seriously or rhetorically. Either way, this direct from the US Copyright Office, as of August of last year:

"Omission of notice means publishing without a notice. In addition, some errors are considered the same as omission of notice. These are:
• A notice that does not contain the symbol © (the letter C in a circle); the word “Copyright”; the abbreviation “Copr.”;


And this:

"To guarantee protection for a copyrighted work in **ALL** [emphasis mine] UCC member countries, the notice must consist of the symbol © (the word “copyright” or the abbreviation is not acceptable), the year of first publication, and the name of the copyright proprietor. Example © 2007 John Doe."

Nothing indicates that "(c)" is an acceptable substitute.

Why does Nikon force it to be wrong? Likely because the software engineers didn't bother to consult a copyright expert before writing the code.

pax / Ctein

I note that the licensing notice on Flickr is of the form © All Rights Reserved. Potential problem?

For those in the United States probably the best source of information on copyright, at least as far as photography is concerned, is the ASMP web site's copyright tutorial: asmp.org/content/registration-counts. This part of their web site is accessible even to nonASMP members.

ASMP also manages the "DP Bestflow" web site, partly funded by the Library of Congress, with recommendations for photography workflow, including copyright.

Both these resources are written by real IP lawyers. The following notes are based on information from those pages:

• Copyright is Federal law in the U.S.: You can only bring an infringement case to Federal court (which is expensive).

• You can only sue for infringement in Federal court if you have registered your copyright.

• Your $35.00 registration fee can cover as many images as you can pack into a zip file that will upload in less than 30 minutes (400 x 600 pixels at low JPEG quality is fine: they just need to be good enough that the photo can be identified as yours)

• Your copyright registration is valid even if your images aren't marked "Copyright" in any way - but it's a good idea to do so because someone who deliberately removes the marking can potentially be made to pay more for an infringement

I register photos once a month or so, including all the images I've shot since my last registration. Photographers who shoot thousands of images a week (or day) will obviously need to do this more frequently than once a month.

I would encourage all photographers who take their copyright seriously to read the above linked web sites and register their copyright consistently. (Also, keep an eye out for seminars the ASMP holds - often free even to non-menbers - on copyright.)

It is the photographers duty to place a copyright mark into his photographs prior to publishing his/her photos on the net. Copyright infridgement issues is now very rampant nowadays so placing some copyright notices protects you and your photographs.

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