Copyright “Clues” Regarding Wedding Photos- The Client Gets Copies But The Photographer Owns The Copyrights…

I’m pretty easy going with my client base through Texas Twins Events & The Pawning Planners and often use  clients photos on blogs and social media to promote my businesses.

Since clients (whether they are paying or not) often want to see their photos right away- I post them on my business pages and do not prevent them from being copied as a courtesy.  Many of our clients cannot afford to pay for the photographers much less the prints so we share them in order to save clients the expense.

As a matter of Copyright Law, owning your wedding day doesn’t mean you own your wedding day photos.  Here is how  Copyright Law works:

Under U.S. Copyright law, the original owner of a created work is exclusively the creator unless it is a “work for hire.”  In the wedding scenario, a photographer is hardly ever “for hire.”  This means the photographer has the right to do with photos as he or she pleases which includes promotion in advertisements and on websites for the business.  Most often, the photographer excercises this right wholly and completely while charging a hefty fee for reproductions that are usually burned onto a cd and sold to the couple.  Many photographers though they absolutely could, would never sell or transfer their copyright to anyone else due to the highly lucrative nature of such rights.  

I own Copyrights and Trademarks for all of my businesses and although many of our clients have very little money- have never encountered an issue of a previous client demanding that I remove photos from my sites or social networks because they understand that photos are used to promote my business and because I often provide copies to the clients at no charge when they have no money to pay for this service.

Regarding payment and possession- no it does not equal ownership.  This particular client believed that since I had given her photos and she now owned them.  This is not the case under Copyright Law.  The ownership emphasis is always on the creator of the work.  This means that even if the client has paid for the work–they do not and never will own the photos.

U.S. Copyright Laws are keen on fairness and therefore, convey creators of original works as a “bundle of rights.”  Within that “bundle” is the creators exclusive right to control the way the work is used.  Specifically, no one else can reproduce, adapt, publicize, perform or display the work without the original creator’s written permission.

In fact, it’s quite normal for my photography team or I to allow couples permission to use and share or even copy wedding photos through a usage license or similar agreement.  Of course, this license limits use of the photos to the couples personal use and never for commercial purposes.

It is important to note that a photographers license almost always covers digital sharing as well.  While most photographers will only permit the sharing of of photos online when a watermark is used to give credit to the creator of a work.  It is always a good idea to do this now that you have a clearer understanding of how the laws are on the creators side.

Many photographers will refuse to sign a Copyright Release to give a full copyright to your wedding photos- I won’t either without payment prior to services and an iron clad contract.

You’ve never heard of a Copyright Release?  Essentially, a Copyright Release and transfer is an agreement between the creator of a work and a future user of the work.  For an agreed upon price, a photographer gives up the copyright to the work, without any rights retained, granting the couple full permission to do as they please with the photos but–get ready to pay for this because it won’t be cheap!!!

I’m well aware of laws associated with my businesses and therefore am writing this blog with this “client” in mind.  Other clients who have no money benefit from my generosity and enjoy sharing photos posted to social media as a bonus since they can copy them without having to buy them.

I no longer work without a contract or payment up front after being burned 5 times in 5 years, I’ve learned to get rid of problems early and have a Bridezilla/Guestzilla Clause.

The majority of my 500 plus clients are a joy to work with but when you work with the general public, you’re going to run across an occasional “demanding diva or dude” and the wedding/event business sees quite a few of these type of clients.

If you’re behavior is so outrageous that I “have to cut you loose” you may want to “check yourself before you wreck yourself” because I try to help anyone regardless of their ability to pay myself or my staff which is difficult to find in this day and age.

Wendy M Wortham No Money For Photography? We Can Help- The Pawning Planners