How do I copyright my photography pictures?

A pair of hands holding up a piece of paper representing a copyright symbol

As a professional photographer, there’s no doubt that you put a lot of time, effort and money into capturing the perfect shot.

After all, it takes skill, patience and having the right equipment to take high quality pictures, regardless of whether you’re shooting a wedding or you’re a wildlife photographer. Either way, there is a good chance you then rely on the sale of your images to keep your business moving forward.

However, in this day and age, it’s easier than ever for individuals to copy and share images, especially in the online world. As a result, you may find that your photography gets used without your permission. In turn, this means that not only are you not getting paid for your work, it’s unlikely you’re getting the credit for it either.

That’s where copyright comes in - but how does this work, and how can you prevent others from sharing your work without your authorisation? In this article, we take a closer look at how you can copyright your work to discourage others from using it.

How to copyright photos

The truth is, there is no official process to follow in order to copyright your photos and it’s not something that will be included as part of your photography insurance either. In fact, copyright is an automatic right. In the UK, there is neither a public or Government register of copyright, and there are no legal formalities required in order to obtain copyright protection of your work. So in short, once you’ve snapped a photo, it belongs to you and nobody else.

If someone else wants to use a photo that you’ve created, they will need to request permission to do so from you first. However, this does not always happen, and you could find that your images are being used without your knowledge - especially as it’s now extremely easy to search for and share imagery online, such as via social media platforms.

The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) publishes copyright notices which help explain specific areas of copyright. This is usually for the benefit of small businesses and individuals who may wish to use images online. It’s important to note that IPO copyright notices are not an alternative to legal advice, but it can provide useful information about which course of action needs to be taken if you find your photography imagery is being used without your permission.

The good news is, there are a number of different ways in which you can prevent others from sharing your photography work, particularly on the web. Below, we’ve outlined some extra steps you can take to ensure your work remains your own.

Watermark your images

Placing a watermark on your images is an easy and practical way to prevent others from using your work without permission. Ensuring that your company name or logo is across each photo will render the image unusable and deter others sharing it.

Disable right click functionality

Once an image has been posted onto a website, it is extremely easy for others to copy and paste it without your permission. This is usually done with a simple right click, so disabling this functionality on your website completely will stop this from happening. You could even add coding so that a copyright notice appears when someone attempts to right click on an image.

Post your images at a reduced size or resolution

Purposely posting your images at a reduced size or resolution will make them much less appealing to others. In turn, this should discourage others from using your images elsewhere due to poor quality.

Outline clear terms of use on your website

If you place your photography images on your own website, it’s a good idea to outline clear terms of use. These terms should explicitly prohibit others from using your imagery without seeking permission first.

Can anyone copyright their work?

As we’ve previously mentioned, the person who creates an image will be the owner of the copyright of their photos by default. According to the IPO’s copyright notice, any reference to “images” applies to digital photographs taken on a digital camera or mobile phone, images that have been converted from any photographic film to a digital format, as well as images such as illustrations and diagrams.

However, it’s important to understand that it’s not just photographs that can be copyrighted. In fact, copyright can refer to the creation and sale of any type of creative material. It’s important to note the copyright does not apply to ideas. It only comes into effect once an original idea has been expressed in physical form. For example, copyright would take effect once a song has been written down.

Aside from music, copyright can apply to a whole host of creative material, including literature, art, film, TV and drama, and it can even apply to software and online content.

Markel Direct offers specialist insurance for photographers, with cover available online in a matter of minutes. Get an online quote now to protect your business.


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