Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Microstock: Copyrights

Microstock photography is a creative industry, where protection of intellegent property is of utmost importance. Just as you don't want others to infringe your rights, you should not infringe others' rights either. Copyright is a big topic, I will try to summarize everything into a few areas for your reference.

First, I will start with the simple and obvious. You should not include the following in your stock photos.

1. Any logos or brand names (famous or unknown). Your friendly MacDonald, the popular KFC, etc should all be excluded from your stock photos.

2. Properties. If you have a photo of a particular house, or building, you should always accompany your submission with a properly signed property release as evidence that the owner of the property has given you the permission to use the photo for commercial purpose.

3. Any recognizable person. Whoever that you shoot, as long as his/her face is recognizable in the photo, you should always accompany your submission with a properly signed model release. Sample releases are available at every microstock site's web page.

ShutterStock has a special category called 'Editorial shots'. For photos in this category, you are not required to have a property release or a model release. For example, the photo below will not be accepted without a model release if this 'editorial' category does not exist. Do not get it wrong, it is not a loophole they purposely open. Only news worthy photos will be accepted in this category. Some may ask, can I submit those photos that I took of children from some third world country? The answer is No, unless you have a model release.

The above are the obvious. What are the less obvious then?

1. Historical buildings or landmarks.

Museum Louvre has no copyright, but if you include the glass pyramid, then it is a different story. The pyramid is copyrighted. You want to use the image, get permission from the relevant authorities. Another example is the Effiel Tower. Effiel Tower itself is not copyrighted, by the lighting of Effiel Tower is! So photographers be aware, don't step on somebody's rights unknowingly.

2. Copyrighted objects. This is even wider. Toys, statues, figurines, etc, they all fall into this category. Do some research before you happily start shooting your favourite doll.

3. Animals. This is one aspect that most of the photographers will not notice. Some zoos do reserve the rights of the images of their animals. It is one way for them to raise some funds for the upkeep of the zoo. You may ask, how the hell will they know it is their animal? Well, thanks to human cruelty, many animals are at the binge of extinction. Those that survive may reside in only a particular zoo. So next time, check out whether the zoo you are visiting reserves the copyright of their unique animals.

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