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Do I Have To Use The © Symbol?

Using the symbol is not essential to own copyright

The copyright symbol, the ‘c’ inside the circle - ©– is used internationally to show that a photograph (or other intellectual property such as a book, video and so on) is subject to the laws of copyright.

However, it is just a reminder. The fact that you don’t include the copyright symbol on the front of the photograph or in the metadata doesn’t mean it is not subject to the copyright protection. It most definitely is, but is this the point?

Struggling To Be Heard

There are a lot of people in the world who either don’t know about copyright or choose to ignore it. In fact, our whole culture is heading this way with social media sites posting photographs that belong to others with impunity.

Can you stop this? Legally, you possibly have a case (depending where the photo originated), but practically there is no point. you can’t fight the teenagers on Pinterest who are using your photographs.

However, if a business uses your photo without your permission, then suddenly it’s game on. Often a letter is all that’s required to either have the photo removed, or if you’re so inclined, receive a reasonable payment for its use.

Whether the copyright symbol is present or not doesn’t change your position, but having the copyright symbol in the metadata is helpful.

Stripped Out

Of course, if the photograph is found on the internet, chances are all your metadata has been stripped out, so the person accessing your photograph may not (choose to) realise it is subject to copyright.

To solve this issue, some photographers are putting a watermark with their name and web-site on all their photographs, so it’s very clear that copyright is an issue.

Do You Own It?

It’s true that a lot of photographers wonder why they should worry about copyright at all. Newcomers to the profession often approach their work on a time basis and are happy for the client to own the copyright.

But flash forward a year or thirty years when you get a call from a publisher who wants to use some of your photographs for a project.

Can you sell the publisher the photographs? If you don’t own the copyright, you can’t!

Do you need to own copyright just in case? Given it’s such an easy thing to implement in your practice, why wouldn’t you do it? Although stock photography is a tough game, owning the copyright just in case is easy enough to do.

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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