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Should I mark my images with copyright information?

Copyright is automatic once you create a work, and you donít have to mark it, however there are a number of  reasons why you might like to.

  1. If someone wants you use a copy of your work, and they cannot identify who to approach they sort of have half an excuse to just use it and feel that probably you wonít spot anyway. If you do they just say they thought it was pubic domain and while in theory you could take an action against them in practice the legal costs and time involved would not justify it. If they can identify who has the copyright then they have no excuse, and most would not risk just using it.
  2. Someone may like your images and not being aware who created it feel it should get wider coverage and put it on one of the image sharing websites, then others who use it could justifiably argue that they got it from a public domain website.
  3. Someone may create a near copy, or have taken a similar picture and it can be difficult to identify if this is your image or not.
  4. You yourself may get challenged by others who feel you are using their work, while if it is and always has been clearly marked as your own, this is less likely to occur.
  5. Your work is an advert for you, but only if people can identify itís your work.

You will find that many of our images on websites contain an element of text on the picture, this is done in a way that does not take away the focus from the image, its usually small, in the edge or corner and often we lighten it or part merge it with the background so that unless you look for it its nearly invisible. This is not intended to stop people using an image and of course could be just trimmed off. Many go a lot further and put something very strong across the centre of the image, that makes it impractical for anyone to use the image, but it destroys the appeal and representation of the image.

On prints that are sold we donít put anything on the image itself, but do have a title bar and information below the image. Prints that are produced to use at exhibitions and for sales portfolios etc,  have a note under saying that they are Ďnot for saleí but this is also superimposed in a smallish size and merged with the background in two places, so that when people initially see the image they donít spot it. It just means that these images, even if trimmed, cannot get sold as limited editions.

We tend to put a website rather than a physical name in the images, as this then also entices those who do spot it to look at our other work.

Some photographers sign prints, but we feel this distracts from the image and there are problems about the life of different inks and effects on material.

Wedding and portrait photographers often either rubber stamp or have stickers made that are put on the back of photographs. If you do this itís a good idea either to get a local rate number that you can move with you easily, or put a web address rather than a physical address and telephone number that is likely to go out of date.

I am intending within the next couple of weeks to do an article on Copyright and marking prints for the weekly newsletter and in this I will cover a number of other ways information can be encoded within pictures without it being visible.

Is it necessary to use terms like 'edited by' or 'compiled by' as well as my name?

I would suggest against putting something like edited by or compiled by, as it sort of implies you donít have the original copyright. If you have a public domain image and you edit it, you have the copyright of your version, it just can be difficult to tell your version from another. With many of our historic images we have added a border and the border is definitely our copyright and marks the prints as being definitely ours.


By: Tracey Park Section: Photography Section Key:
Page Ref: copyright_marking_images Topic: Legal and Insurance  Last Updated: 07/2009

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