A word on copyright ~ Quebec & New-Brunswick photographer

After much thought, and waking up with this on my mind, I decided to write a blog post on this topic. It seems that people; my clients and other photographers’ clients are either not aware of the problem they create or that they underestimate the long-term effects this can pose to a photography business. And I understand that sometimes it’s just not understanding copyright, or how it impacts a photographer to have their work reproduced, without receiving compensation.

This is why I don’t believe in copying movies, downloading music illegally, and buying knock-offs. It hurts any industry, including photography. And yes, some will argue that the people making the movies and music are rich. I still consider it to be wrong.

As of June 29th, 2012 photographers in Canada have received the same recognition and protection legally as artists. It is now illegal and punishable by law to copy, reproduce or sell a photo that a photographer created, whether it was commissioned or not. In short, photographers are the sole owner of copyright on any image he or she created up to 50 years after they are deceased. I won’t go further into the particular details, you can refer to the amended bill C-11 for more information.

A photographer doesn’t just take and print photos. They freeze time and moments for their clients. When a client purchases a print, canvas, or any other type of product, they are not paying for the paper or fabric it’s printed on, but rather for the work that it took to create the image. The value of a photographer’s work is in the price of their end product. Not only does this ensure that they are here for you the next time you need a special time or moment captured, but that they can stay in business.

There are many expenses that go with owning and running a full-time photography studio. Some of the expenses that I incur are rent, utilities, insurance, marketing, education and training, computer hardware and software, backdrops, props, photography association memberships, and among the many other things expenses let’s not forget this is my livelihood.

Although some argue no harm is being done, in many cases it does hurt a business, especially in a small economy such as the one I live in. Here are some of the key points as to why you shouldn’t reproduce and/or share (without permission) a photographer’s work.

  • when taking a picture of a photograph, proof, or computer screen the quality is not the best, therefore it showcases a photographer’s work at it’s worst.
  • when copying from a blog, website or facebook and removing the watermark, you remove credit. If someone admires a photo, the person who took it should be given the credit, rather then the one copying the original work. Leave the watermark. It helps the photographer and potential clients. It’s a win-win situation. I encourage my clients to share my work, which I often provide on a public forum such as my blog or facebook. This way the integrity of the original image remains intact and can be viewed in all it’s glory, as it was intended; a final product.
  • the money a client pays, often gets re-invested in the business to improve services, purchase new equipment, backdrops, and props to make the service and experience of the clients even better. Without receiving compensation for the work that is done, the business can’t invest in improving it’s services and products.
  • when working with a client, there was time dedicated to the concept, the set-ups, the cost of goods for the products, the online gallery, the packaging, and in a newborn photographer’s case, loads and loads of laundry! All this work is a huge investment by the photographer. Breaking copyright is a huge loss on investment for the photographer.

Often, I try to compare how this can relate to an everyday situation to make it easier to understand. Here’s is my metaphor. Imagine going to work one day, and a fellow co-worker has taken your work, erased your name at the bottom and handed it to your boss as his or hers. In doing so, the co-worker was not as careful as you would have been. They didn’t check for typos or errors, forgot to print on letterhead, used the wrong colour font, and to top it all off the printer was printing fuzzy that day. Worse yet, let’s say they left your name on it and gave it to the boss that way. Either way, this affects your name and your reputation around the office. To a photographer name and reputation are everything.

A word on price increase in a photography business as it relates to myself and many others. When I increase my prices, often times it’s because my own suppliers have increased theirs (part of inflation), transportation cost and duty on imported products has risen, and the extra every day expenses it takes to create a clean, comfortable space for you all gets rolled into the prices of the products you purchase.

So, the next time you commission a photographer to capture that moment, special day or special someone, I urge you not to be tempted to scan, photograph or crop watermarks out. It’s a simple question of respect and appreciation for the artist ; not to mention it helps them be able to run a successful and profitable business. It may mean the difference between being open or closed next year.

I know this was a long winded blog post, but it’s something I think had to be written to be understood. I thank you for taking the time to read through it and I especially thank you for your understanding. Not only for me as a professional, but for other photographers also. Sometimes just asking can make the world of difference when uncertain as to what is okay and what isn’t.

Cheers and here’s to the weekend!

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