In short… If we make the photograph, we own the photograph. But, if you’d like to take ownership of the imagery, then we can discuss a transfer of copyright (just know this is a very costly transaction). Or, you may offer us a work-for-hire contract that buys us out of my copyright before production even begins (this option may not be used after the production has started, and it most certainly costs more to hire me under these circumstances, too).
The American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) is a national professional photographers organization and advocacy group, frequently involved in influencing legislation at the national and local level in support of photographers and their copyright protections.
“The business of professional photography is broken into three main categories of use. Commercial refers to photography that is used to sell or promote a product, service, or idea. Editorial refers to photography used for educational or journalistic purposes. Retail refers to photography commissioned or purchased for personal use.
The difference between these categories is not in the type of photography, but in the use of the images. Commercial, editorial or retail, photographs are intellectual property. Unless the photographer is an employee or they have contractually transferred ownership, the photographer becomes the owner of this property when they create an image. Licensing this property for specific uses is how a photographer’s business generates gross income.” – ASMP
Copyright gives the photographer the sole right to decide who can use the work that has been created. US Copyright Law, Title 17 of 1976. European Law under revision at the time this page was created.
You create it — you own it. Copyright comes into existence automatically when the original image is captured.
Any person or business must have permission (a license) to publish (reproduce) images in any medium, physical or electronic.
The photographer does not have to register the work with the Copyright Office to acquire copyright.
The photographer’s name and/or the copyright symbol does not have to appear on or next to the image to have copyright protection.