Only a few can resist the urge to express the “exuberance of the moment,” as experts put it: social media and clever smartphone technology in particular have made it ever so easy to throw up a peace sign, strike a pose and voilá – selfie heaven for well-knowns and unknowns alike.
In fact, according to psychologists, the advent of the selfie era has to do with achieving a level of ‘intimacy-at-a-distance’ with those larger than life people and places we admire.
Photography and copyright can be tricky subject matter.
For most of us, copyright violations rather than copyright facts bring issues to light, so we learn by the mistakes of others.
This path, however, leaves room for the spread of rampant misconceptions about the proper application of the law.
The risks are high, too. These days copyright violations can lead to hefty fines and even criminal charges in some instances. At least, infringers can expect a pushy take down email with a lawyer’s threat of court time. Clearly, it’s essential to know key facts.
Even though photographic copyrights can get complicated, the facts can bring clarity and clear up confusion.
Granted, it’s not always pleasant to discover all the sharing you’ve been doing on your Tumblr feed is probably actionable in court should the photographer choose to pursue it, or to realize that the fellow you verbally abused via email for copying your Instagram photo might actually have a good claim under the fair use doctrine.
Still, when it comes to photos and copyrights, it’s always good to get the facts first.
Fact 1: The minute someone snaps the shutter, that person owns the copyright.
This seems straightforward. Copyright is a right of ownership in original works fixed in a tangible form. A photo fits easily in this category. Unless there is a contractual agreement declares otherwise, the person taking a photo owns its copyright. Some have raised the idea that a photo is a mechanical representation of fact. Even with this description, a photo is definitely the original expression of the photographer, in tangible form.