By Attorney Brendan Conley
People often have misconceptions about copyright on photographs and other images. Many photographers and other visual artists have questions, such as: Do I have to register my copyright? Do I lose the rights to my photographs when I post them online? What can I do if my photo is used without permission? What is fair use? What is Creative Commons? How do I issue a DMCA takedown notice?
I wrote these answers because I kept noticing confusing or incorrect information showing up in Internet discussions about these issues, and I wanted to provide a reference guide that people could turn to for accurate information. I hope that it is useful to you.
Please note: This article mainly addresses U.S. copyright law, which is a field of study for me, not a current practice area. This article presents general legal information and the sources of that information; it does not constitute legal advice and your use of it does not create an attorney-client relationship. For additional information, please consult the links, footnotes and recommended resources.
I can’t give advice about any specific situations you may encounter, but if you have a general question that I didn’t answer, or another perspective to share, please Leave a Comment.
- What is copyright?
- Do I need to register my copyright?
- How do I register my copyright?
- I posted my photo online. Does that mean it is “published” for registration purposes?
- What is preregistration of copyright?
- Do I need to post a copyright notice with my work?
- Can I use a range of dates in a copyright notice?
- Do I have to deposit copies of my photos with the Library of Congress?
- How long does copyright last? Do I need to renew my copyright?
- Why do copyrights expire?
- Can I buy or sell the copyright to a photograph?
- Who owns the copyright to a work made for hire?
- Does a photograph need to be “original” to be copyrightable?
- Can I sue a copyright infringer if I did not register my copyright?
- Are there time limits for filing a copyright infringement lawsuit?
- What is “poor man’s copyright”?
- Can I lose my copyright if I post my photos online?
- When I post to Instagram, Flickr, Imgur, Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr, do I lose the copyright to my photos?
- What are the copyright terms for Instagram?
- What are the copyright terms for Flickr?
- What are the copyright terms for Imgur?
- What are the copyright terms for Twitter?
- What are the copyright terms for Tumblr?
- What are the copyright terms for Facebook?
- Does posting a special Facebook status update help protect my copyright?
- Are photos posted online in the public domain?
- Where can I find free or public domain images?
Protecting Your Photos
- How can I protect my photos from copyright infringement?
- How can I use metadata to protect my photos?
- Does a watermark provide any copyright protection?
- My photo was used without permission. What can I do?
- How do I issue a DMCA takedown notice?
- Should I send a copyright infringer an invoice?
- Should I sue a copyright infringer?
- How much are statutory damages in a copyright case?
- How are actual damages calculated in a copyright case?
- Can I get a court order forcing an infringer to stop using my photograph?
- Will a court award attorney’s fees in a copyright case?
- What are the damages for removal of copyright management information under the DMCA?
- Can I file a copyright infringement lawsuit without a lawyer?
- Can I file a copyright infringement lawsuit in small claims court?
Contracts and Other Rights
- What kind of photography contract should I use?
- Do I need a model release?
- What can I do about an unfair contract regarding rights to a photograph?
- Can I be sued over my photographs of a copyrighted toy or other product?
- Do my photographs of someone else’s artwork infringe copyright?
- Can a building be copyrighted? Do I need a property release?
- Do I own the copyright to photos taken of me?
- Do I own the copyright to photographs of my own wedding?
- How does the right to privacy affect photographs?
- How does the right to publicity affect photographs?
Fair Use, Licensing, and Excuses for Infringement
- What is fair use?
- Can embedding, hotlinking or inline linking constitute copyright infringement?
- Are thumbnails fair use?
- Is only using a portion of a photo fair use? How much does a photo have to be altered to be fair use?
- How should I license my photos?
- What is Creative Commons?
- Should I license my photographs with Creative Commons?
- Which Creative Commons license should I use?
- What is “commercial use” in a Creative Commons license?
- Are news websites allowed to use photographs without permission for “editorial use”?
- Can a photograph be licensed just by using a certain hashtag?
- What if an infringer states, “I do not claim any rights to this photo”?
- What if an infringer claims they made no money from the use of a photo?
- What if an infringer claims they used the photo by mistake?
- What if an infringer claims they didn’t know the photo was copyrighted?
- Are there penalties for false copyright claims?
- Is profiting from public domain images allowed?
- What is copyfraud?
- What’s wrong with copyright law and how can we make it better?
- Does copyright law protect me from infringement by someone in another country?
- How would proposed Orphan Works legislation affect copyright?
- How would the Trans-Pacific Partnership affect copyright?
This website is copyright 2017 by Brendan Conley. All Rights Reserved. If you wish to share it with others, please do so by linking to this page.We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. Many photographs featured on this site were kindly released into the public domain with a CC0 designation by the photographers through unsplash.com and pixabay.com.