Beyond taking photographs, photographers need to know about licensing their work and how to properly prepare contract agreements. While there are some basic terms relating to licensing, there are as many different licensing situations as there are photographs. Understanding the legal considerations will help you be aware of more complex and customized terms as you endeavor to license your images.
Managing the Improper Usage and Licensing of Photos
Catherine McLaren and Eugene Lin of Kiss My Flash Photography in Vancouver have been in operation since winter of 2009. Eugene shares how they manage to monitor the reoccurring problem of improper usage and licensing of photos.
“We try to mitigate this problem with our carefully worded contract agreement, stipulating specific use of our work. Each contract is negotiated and agreed upon by all of our clients before we take the photos. Clients are really excited to share the images on social media sites, which also provides us with much appreciated exposure so the line we draw in our protection of our copyright can be a double edged sword. One way around this problem is to ensure images on these sites are large enough to make our clients happy and yet small enough that they do not threaten our copyright. Therefore, we provide our clients with two sizes, one watermarked for web and the other for print.” – Euguene Lin
Jennifer Marles, an associate lawyer of Vancouver-based intellectual property law firm, Oyen Wiggs, Green & Mutala LLP, observes that photographers are responsible for monitoring any potential infringement of their copyright, and also for enforcing the copyright by way of a court action if there is any infringement.
“The Canadian Intellectual Property Office does not enforce copyright. If a photographer believes her copyright has been or is being infringed, she should contact a lawyer who is knowledgeable about copyright law to help identify potential ways to address the infringement. Because the government does not enforce copyright, the onus is on the photographer to take steps to do so.” – Jennifer Marles
Jennifer continues to explain that each agreement should be treated uniquely and the process of formalizing a written contract helps the photographer determine what terms she wants to include.
“Whether the agreement is an exclusive or non-exclusive license, or an outright transfer of rights, a carefully prepared agreement that clearly expresses the intentions of both parties will reduce the risk of disputes down the road,” – says Jennifer Marles.
Kiss My Flash Photography has already secured two big clients who have provided them with regular studio work and referrals. Catherine and Eugene believe it is their diverse backgrounds that give them a competitive edge, allowing them to bring varied insight as they develop and build a unique visual story and language for each client.
Advice for Other Entrepreneurs
What advice would Catherine and Eugene give aspiring entrepreneurs?
“Do your research and ensure important documents are carefully worded. We have the base samples of our agreement forms but will hire an experienced lawyer to check the terms and make sure our work is properly protected by copyright,” – states Eugene Lin.
“Also, build on your business knowledge. Having attended several Small Business BC seminars have given us to confidence to seek advice from experts in their field. We are currently applying with the Canadian Youth Business Foundation (CYBF) to be matched with a business mentor," – says Catherine McLaren.
There are significant benefits with seeking expert advice, like approaching a knowledgeable lawyer to help prepare agreements that are enforceable and deal with necessary issues.
“A lawyer can also provide more general forward-looking advice regarding preserving your rights in your works and running your business in a way that will avoid future problems,” – concludes Jennifer Marles.
Kiss My Flash Photography
Offering a full range of photography services from weddings, corporate events and much more.
Oyen Wigg, Green & Mutala LLP
Western Canada’s largest independent intellectual property law firm.