Tuesday, February 21, 2012

May I Use Your Photo?

Personally, the joy experienced in taking and processing photos is only surpassed by the act of sharing the better of those images on my website, www.KenSchramPhotography.com, or one of many social networking sites such as  Flickr, Google+, 500px, and yes, even Facebook via syndication of my blog.  So when one of my images touches someone in that vast audience enough that they either purchase a print of their own or ask permission to use an image in some other capacity, it only serves to fuel that passion.

When someone takes the time to contact you and ask if they can use one of your images, the first instinct is often to say, "Sure. Go ahead".  In reality, it's probably best to respond to that question with a question of your own - "What are your intentions for my image?".

For example, I was recently contacted by an individual who wanted to use one of my architectural images, similiar to the one above, to augement a post in an online social forum.  First, I was thrilled that this person had taken the time to respect my intellectual property rights by contacting me and asking my permission to use the photo.  After checking out the site to which the image was to be posted, I eagerly blessed the request subject to a handful of conditions. I think most of us would likely react in a similiar manner. 

What if, however, I had just blindly said "Yeah, no problem." and later found out that the image had been used in an ad campaign and reprinted in 100,000 copies of Architectural Digest?  I don't know about you, but I would have expected to have been compensated in that scenario!

So how should you respond to the "May I Use Your Photo?" question?  Here are a couple of comments and suggestions you may find useful.
  • First and foremost, understand that YOUR images are YOUR property.  This means you have control over what rights you grant to others to license the use of those images and what the expectation is in return for that right.
  • Be VERY clear in communicating any conditions you have when granting rights to another party.  In my example above, I had 3 conditions I wanted met before I would allow this individual to use my image.  The conditions were:
    • The specific named and described image was ONLY to be posted by the named individual on the named web site forum.  This right could not be transferred to anyone else and any other use of the image required a signed agreement from me.
    • The image had to be posted in its original, unedited, unaltered format.  In other words, I want my work to represent me in the way it was originally intended. Blowing it up past its intended resolution or reprocessing it into some hidious monster in full psychedelic colors was NOT a right I was extending.
    • The image had to retain my "Ken Schram Photography.com" watermark in a manner that it was clearly visible.  If for any reason the watermark was not legible, photo credit had to be provided via an alternate method to KenSchramPhotography.com.
  • Follow up.  After you've granted rights to use your property, follow up to be sure that the conditions you've outlined have been met.  How do you know where your images have been used online?  Check out reverse image search engines such as TinEye, Google Images, or services such as Digimarc.
Do you have other suggestions you'd like to share relative to protecting your intellectual property right?  Add a comment below.  We'd love to hear from you.

Until next time, keep click'n.


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