Our Most Valuable Asset

If, as photographers, we were asked what was our most valuable asset, it is likely that many of us would immediately think of our equipment that cost so much to purchase, or our image library which may well be a life’s work. While these are both natural and reasonable answers that many of us would make, we would be wrong.The most valuable asset we have is something that has cost us absolutely nothing either in monetary terms or in effort. These are our photographers’ rights as enshrined in copyright law. Without these rights many would find it impossible to make a living as photographers. Anyone could take our images and use them without penalty or payment to us.

Rights Under Attack

Since the dawn of the internet, the pressure to give up our rights has been constant. Images can be easily copied/shared and commercial concerns are increasingly pressing photographers to either give up their rights or pay peanuts for professional work. Companies do also indulge in unethical practices which remove important rights from the naive and unwary.

It is important that photographers of all levels of competence be aware of their rights and how best to protect them. This applies to amateurs as well as to professionals. Copyright law does vary by individual jurisdictions throughout the world and are specific to country or treaty. Therefore, in cases of infringement, it is necessary to employ the services of a lawyer who specializes in the field and has actual case experience in your jurisdiction.

Defending Your Rights

We can highlight the simple steps that all photographers can take to protect their legal rights and maximize the chances of prevailing in a copyright infringement case. However, you should realise that it is up to you to protect your copyright; no one else is going to do this for you!

Be aware of your rights and check all terms and conditions before submitting images to anyone. Make sure you are not relinquishing  any rights by ensuring your terms and conditions are outlined in plain simple language. All your images, analogue or digital, should carry your copyright notice and contact info. Failure to do any of these things could cost you dearly in lost income.


If you need legal advice, consult a lawyer, particularly one who has actual court experience in the jurisdiction of your potential case. Don’t depend on the assorted wisdom and anecdotes. You need good advice for the best resolution. One good online resource, however, can focus you on case issues and photography conundrums: the excellent blog, The Copyright Zone, by Attorney Edward Greenberg and photographer Jack Reznicki.