Photography Copyright and Licensing Simplified and Explained

Although professional photographers may deal with copyright and licensing regularly, it is not right to assume that clients are just as versed. For that reason, an architecture photographer has put together a simplified explanation to help business owners better educate their clients on who owns the produced photos and how they can be used.

Questions surrounding copyright and licensing can be a complex issue to navigate not just for clients — who may not have dealt with purchasing and using intellectual property before — but also for beginner photographers who are just entering the business. Clear communication between the photographer and the client prior to booking the job can help resolve any legal issues that may arise due to ambiguous wording in the contract or a misunderstood verbal agreement.

To help photographers better educate their clients about copyrights and image use — and to explain this in a simple way without the use of complex legal jargon — Kansas City-based architecture photographer Matthew Anderson put together a brief YouTube video that puts the topic into a simple context for better understanding. Not to be used as professional legal advice, his simplified explanation compares image use with that of other intellectual property, such as music.

Image theft and misuse is something that photographers are likely to encounter in their career at some point — such as the below example from Anderson himself where a company wanted to use his image on the social media app for free — which is why it’s important to clearly articulate who the produced work is owned by and how it is permitted to be used by clients.

Although adding clarity to the discussion of image rights and usage is not a guarantee that the guidelines will be adhered to nor does it protect the photographer from strangers stealing work, it can at least help avoid certain situations that could have been resolved if the client or shoot collaborator fully understood the received image rights. This also includes situations when a client is happy to share the produced images with a third party — although no malice may be intended — without realizing that they might be required to ask for the photographer’s permission first.

Intellectual property is one of the most important assets of a photography business, so it is important to guide clients with clear instructions at every possible opportunity which will help avoid profit loss in the future.

More of Anderson’s architecture photography-based videos can be found on his YouTube channel and his own photography work can be seen on his Instagram.