All of the photos I post online include a copyright symbol and my name or Web address. No, this won’t prevent everyone from using my images without permission — but it will stop some people from doing it.
And if someone intentionally deletes or hides my copyright notice, it shows intent to commit a crime.
Protecting Your Work
I’m not an expert on copyright, but I do know that the moment you create a photograph (under U.S. law, anyway), the photograph is copyrighted in your name. Technically, you don’t have to register each image with the copyright office, but there are benefits if you do.
If someone uses one of your photos without your permission after it’s registered, for example, you are entitled to statutory damages and legal fees, in addition to being compensated for usage fees. Without registration, you would only get compensation for the usage.
And you don’t have to register each individual photo. You can group your images together and register them for one fee; putting 100 images on a disc and calling them “Collected Works of Jeff Wignall, Volume I,” for example. The United States Copyright Office has an informative Web site that explains the laws very clearly.
Projecting Your Brand
Legalities aside, adding your copyright notice has the effect of discouraging at least some people from casually downloading and using your images.
Personally, I don’t mind if a college kid uses one of my sunset shots as their wallpaper. If someone uses one of my sunsets on their Web site, however, they’ll have to negotiate it with me first.
Adding your name to your images demonstrates that you have a certain pride in your work, and projects your brand. You see brand names on everything these days, so why shouldn’t your photos carry yours?
Where’s the ©?
OK, now that I’ve convinced you, you’ve probably noticed that there is no “©” (copyright) symbol on your keyboard. So how do you put a copyright symbol on your work?
If you’re using Photoshop and a Mac, it’s easy. Just click on the type tool and hold down the option key and type the letter “g” and that will produce the symbol. If you’re using Windows, click on the type tool, hold down the Alt key, and press 0169 on the numbers keyboard to produce the symbol. Then, type your name or business name into the text box.
You can also find the copyright symbol in your extra characters palette in either Mac or Windows. You can then just copy and paste the symbol where you need it.
Where should you place the copyright notice? On pictures that I know might be in high demand (like those of the popular musicians I photograph), I put the symbol in a place where it’s difficult to alter. I even put it across the face if I think it’s warranted.
For most images, however, I think a subtle notice in a corner makes the point. Sure, that makes it easier for someone to clone it away if they have larceny in mind — but again, cloning out a copyright notice with intent to avoid paying for an image is a serious crime.