A Photographer’s Rights

The photographerOkay, let’s talk about a photographer’s rights.

But before we do, and before we get anybody’s panties in a bunch, I want to put out there first and foremost, SHARE my photos. I have never turned down anyone’s request to use my photos for their own promotion of their band or for their venue or just for fun. NO ONE.

Also, I would like to note that most musicians and venue owners are incredibly sensitive to this issue and go above and beyond the call of duty when using a photo I’ve taken.

So here’s what inspired this post: today while perusing my Facebook News Feed, I spotted one of my photos I had taken over the weekend, but something did not look quite right. The colors were faded and it had been cropped.  Honestly, I can live with that. The faux pas? This individual cropped off my watermark, and they didn’t give a photo credit or a thanks for the photo. THEY CROPPED OFF THE WATERMARK.

I have no doubt that this person had no idea they had offended.  I’m certain that there was no malice in their action.  I’m sure they thought it completely harmless and probably didn’t even realize they had done anything wrong, and for that, I don’t take this personally; but I have had discussion with photographers on this very matter.  Also, I know there are a small handful of musicians who are not clear on who owns the photo of them. So I thought I would take a moment and talk about etiquette and a little bit about copyright laws when it comes to photography.

I’ve seen photographers give long-winded notice that their photos are copyrighted and how you may or may not use their photo and blah blah blah.  Honestly, if I were that worried about people using my photos incorrectly, I would never post them on the internet let alone Facebook!

At first I thought professional photographers shouldn’t even post their photos because there is no way you can police everyone on the internet.  But then I realized that they could use Facebook as a tool to show off what they are capable of creating in the hopes of getting hired someday.  I truly believe that professional photographers deserve to be paid for their art; just as musicians should be compensated for theirs.

I asked a professional photographer friend of mine if this happens to her and she pointed out it happens all the time when people use one of her photos for their profile shot.  I can now hear most people asking themselves, “Holy shit! Have I done that???”

You know I don’t expect to make my living off the photos I take.  I do what I do to help promote Ventura’s music scene. AND, on the very limited occasions I have posted a photo on VenturaRocks.com that was not taken by myself, I first asked for permission, and then I give the photo credit.  The same with my article in The Ventura Breeze.  I basically watermark to further the promotion of Ventura’s music scene. I don’t use my personal name, Pam Baumgardner.

I post photos one of two ways, either directly from my crappy camera phone which I haven’t figured out how to watermark, or I post photos I’ve taken with SLR Canon which I’ve cleaned up and watermarked with “VenturaROCKS.com”.  So it came as a big surprise to me when I saw the photo cropped and no photo credit given.  Couldn’t they have just “shared” it?  That would have shown where they got the photo from.

The bottom line? I am the copyright owner of every picture I take, watermarked or not.


Kodak wrote an article on Copyright Guidelines. I’m going to copy and paste two particular sections:

Who Owns What?

The law says the “author” is the owner of the copyright. The author of a photo or image is usually the person who snapped the shutter or created the image. If you took the photo, you own the copyright. If a professional photographer took the photo for you, then he or she owns the copyright. If that photographer is an employee of a studio or other person in the business of making photos, then his or her employer is considered the author.

Prior to 1978, court cases said a customer who commissioned a photo was the employer of the photographer, so customers could get reprints made without any problem. In 1979, the U.S. Supreme Court said that was no longer true. To be an employee, the court said a person would have to be considered an employee under the traditional tests such as are used to impose payroll taxes, social security, and similar laws. That is not the usual customer-photographer relationship.

What Is Copyright?

The U.S. Constitution and the Federal Copyright Act give “copyright” protection to “authors” for their “original works,” such as photographs. Among the protections that copyright owners have are the exclusive rights to:

Make copies of the work
Prepare other works based on the original
Distribute copies of the work to the public by sales, rental, lease, or lending
To publicly perform and display the work.
These rights are protected by laws which provide for damages and criminal penalties for violations. Both the customer and the lab are subject to the law.


The point of this editorial is not to berate offenders of this rule…make that law; the point of this article is to educate.  That is all.

I understand the confusion, after all it’s the person’s image for crying out loud.  I understand why a musician would think they have the right to use that photo, it’s them!!  But the law states the photographer owns the right to the picture, not the subject, so it’s not only common courtesy to ask for permission to use it for promotional purposes, but it’s actually the law.

Amazing photographer Amanda Peacock

Amazing photographer Amanda Peacock

So to all my photographer buds, I got your back.  And to all my musician friends, I got your back too.  This editorial is to help you better understand the laws on the photographs that are taken of you. I know that you want the promotion that photographers give you. There are quite a number of awesome photographers here in Ventura who help spread the word about your music. I would list them, but I know I would leave someone out by accident.

And as for the legalities of taking pictures?

“Anyone in a public place can take pictures of anything they want. Public places include parks, sidewalks, malls, etc. Malls? Yeah. Even though it’s technically private property, being open to the public makes it public space.” *

Of course I’m not naming names.  I’m not even going to contact the musician who was the catalyst of this piece. If you know who it was, please don’t embarrass them.

I am here to serve this incredible music community.  And again, helping musicians better understand a photographer’s rights, only helps serve them better in the end.

* http://content.photojojo.com/tips/legal-rights-of-photographers/

8 thoughts on “A Photographer’s Rights

  1. Nice I feel the same way I shoot to help local musicians and proud when they use my pictures. I just started to watermark more just so people would know it’s my shot but if musician asked to use it I have sent them copy’s without watermark if they give me credit.

  2. Thanks for educating people on this subject.
    Photographers, If you don’t want your images stolen, you are supposed to watermark the image somewhere in the middle of it, so it CAN’T be cropped out. Unfortunately, this kinda “ruins” the image most of the time. It’s a double edged sword folks….

  3. I’m interested to know where your photo was taking from and then cropped and reposted? Once you post anything on Facebook, photos included, Facebook has the right to use it. They own the rights to all information and photos posted to the site. So if the person took it from Facebook, it was not really your photo anymore.

    Often time’s you call people out on your website but do not inform the reader of who they are. It would be nice to have honest reporting so that when I go out to spend my money to support ventura’s music scene and local venues I’m not inadvertently supporting one of the dirt bags you are talking a out.

    • 1. Actually, Facebook does not own my property and they state it as such under their STATEMENT OF RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES.
      They state: Sharing Your Content and Information – You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared through your privacy and application settings.

      If you post something as Public, they reserve the right to use it.

      2. I point out in my article that I’m sure this particular “culprit” didn’t know he did anything wrong. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt.
      I don’t “call people out” and the fact that you jump to the conclusion that he is a dirt bag is one of the reasons I don’t. It could be an honest mistake.

      3. I find it interesting that you don’t think I offer “honest reporting.” Honestly, that hurts. I guess that’s a personality difference? A pessimist vs optimist maybe? I wrote editorial to help musicians understand. Not blackball them.

    • Jonathan, I’m not sure why you’re hell bent on making me wrong. I never said I could use the photos I take for whatever purpose I want.

  4. Good and helpful info, Pam. With all the social media swimming around this is quite murky water.
    I think this can help people be more mindful to at least be respectful.
    I’m positive I’ve disrespected photographers as most have.
    My apologies.
    And thank you.

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