Photo by Jessica Christian

What Photographers Need to Know to Protect Their Copyright

A webinar with intellectual property and technology attorney Carrie LeRoy

How do you prevent the misuse of your content? Why register your images at the copyright office? What are your rights on social media?

Photo by David Slater (and a black crested macaque)

To answer these questions and more, intellectual property and technology attorney Carrie LeRoy hosted a webinar on copyright.

Covering everything from the benefits of licensing to the nebulous implementations of Fair Use, LeRoy outlined the knowledge that every creative should be equipped with before publishing their content.

Highlighting how fraught (and humorous) photo ownership can be, LeRoy pointed to a case in which a monkey grabbed the camera of photojournalist David Slater and took a selfie.

“So, who owns the copyright?” asked LeRoy. “I’ll give you a clue: It’s not the monkey.”

The owner of a copyright, LeRoy explained has the following exclusive rights:

  • Reproduction (right to copy)
  • The preparation of derivatives (subsequent versions)
  • Distribution (posting online content)
  • Public performance (for film makers and musicians)
  • Public display (for artists and exhibitions)

Expanding upon how copyrights are obtained, Leroy explained they’re attached to creative works that are fixed in a tangible medium, whether or not they’re published. This work cannot be fleeting, transitory or simply an idea.

The Associated Press versus street artist Shepard Fairey

Outlining the self-help remedies for protecting a copyright, LeRoy suggested: watermarking, monitoring online use, disabling “right-click” on photos and utilizing take-downs under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

Tackling the subjective nature of Fair Use, LeRoy said it depends upon four factors:

  • Purpose and character of use (educational v. commercial)
  • Nature of use
  • Amount of copying
  • Effect on the potential market for copyrighted work

“What is Fair Use and what is not is murky and replete with uncertainty,” said LeRoy. “Ultimately, it is a case-by-case basis.”

In conclusion, LeRoy advises:

  • Consider registration
  • Monitor and notify third party of unauthorized use
  • Secure rights
  • Use license agreements
  • Contact an attorney to consider specific enforcement strategies

In an age of search engines and immediate social sharing, LeRoy makes it clear that it’s never been more important to protect your work.

Watch the full lecture with LeRoy:

Carrie LeRoy, an attorney at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, was recently recognized by The Recorder as one of the “Women Leaders in Tech Law.”

In 2015, Silicon Valley Business Journal named her a “Woman of Influence.”

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