Copyright

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Should I Ever Sell My Copyright?

Is there a fair price in special circumstances?  

The AIPP fought hard to secure copyright for photographers as their creative right, but as the law stands, copyright is only automatically owned by professional photographers when shooting for another business. If you’re shooting for the domestic market (family portraiture and weddings), then the client owns the copyright – unless they sign an agreement with you that you own the copyright.

Copyright Gives You Control

Owning the copyright is important if we are going to control how our photos are used. It is also important if we want to stop people from using our photos without our permission.

For this reason, it is generally recommended that photographers always own the copyright in their work. This is our starting point.

For commercial photographers, we don’t have to say anything because we own the copyright automatically, but it can be helpful to remind our clients about copyright, as they will often believe they can do what they like with our photos. It makes much better sense to communicate this up front so both parties know what they can and can’t do.

For domestic photographers, we need to discuss copyright and have our clients sign the copyright over to us as part of our photography agreement or contract.

So, what happens if in these discussions our clients insist on owning copyright? For instance, some large publishers will only accept work from commercial photographers if it includes copyright.

Negotiating Tool

It was never the intention that photographers should always retain copyright. If clients are prepared to pay a higher fee, then there is no trouble selling copyright. It is a commercial decision.

Of course, a higher fee isn’t always available. Those photographers working for large publishing houses either work and lose their copyright, or they don’t work. Simple!

However, those same photographers as they become more experienced or photograph something important may find they can change the terms of their contract. It all comes down to your skills as a negotiator.

You want to retain copyright so you can use your photos for self-promotion or additional sales.

If you sell the copyright, you can’t do this unless your client then gives you permission (a licence) to do so. And this may be all you need!

This is general information only. We do not know your specific financial or legal situation and we are not providing you with advice. As such, this article should not be relied upon as legal, financial or accounting advice. Please use this article as a conversation starter with your own adviser.

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