Copyright vs. Personal Print License

One of my most commonly asked questions is “Do I get the copyright to my images?” So today, I wanted to address the topic of Copyright vs. Personal Print License.

copyright vs. personal print licenseBasically, the whole discussion of Copyright vs. Personal Print License started because someone didn’t use the right word. A photographer probably said in their collection description, “Copyrights of all edited images” or something like that.  All the couples getting married wanted this amazing copyright thingy. Basically what the photographer or photographers who started offering this were using the wrong term. What they should have said was personal print license. This is really what you’re asking for when you ask for copyrights. Use the phrase personal print license instead.

To make a long story short, when a photographer creates images of your wedding, they own those images. They reserve the right to use them however they wish. You as a couple usually sign a waiver that’s part of the contract that says that you agree the photographer can do what she likes with the images. When they include digital images on USB, like I do, they are granting you the right to use those images for personal use: printing, gifting, online with credit to the photographer, and any other use they outline in that agreement. The terms and conditions should be listed in your contract.  This is what is commonly known as a personal print license. You receive copies of the images, they are yours to use however you see fit as long as you do so in a personal nature. This is what I call a personal print license in my studio. 99% of all clients what a personal print license, they just don’t know what to call it. So they call it a copyright instead. But here’s why you shouldn’t.

Where a copyright comes into play is when large companies commission a photographer to create images for them. Most of the time, they want to own the images to do with as they see fit. In this case, the photographer charges accordingly per image. She can’t use the images in a portfolio, she can’t put them online or make any more money with that image, ever. So she, naturally, would charge at least $10,000 or however much she deems fit to feel comfortable signing away her rights to the images completely and irrevocably. It’s a huge deal, and often and emotional one, involving lawyers, and negotiations. If you’ve asked in the past for a photographer to give you copyrights and they balk, it’s for this reason.

So 4 practical take aways from Copyright vs. Personal Print license:

  1. Ask if you receive a personal print license with your USB and what the terms of that PPL are. This protects everyone and set forth expectations regarding use, care, maintenance of files, etc. Words matter! Use the right phrase. And this is true for everyone, especially photographers!
  2. Look through your contract for the terms of the personal print license and model release. A good photographer will have these included. If they aren’t included in the contract ask for one. Because #1.
  3. Value your online privacy and presence? Rather than tell a photographer you don’t want your images posted online, which will only frustrate everyone, ask what their non disclosure agreement looks like. Good photographers will have this ready to view, along all the fees associated with it. And yes, most photographers charge a sum equal to the wedding package to make up for the inability to market using images from your wedding. Photography is a visual industry and not being able to use all the images we produce inevitably results in a loss of business.
  4. Still concerned? Think about this: Have you ever streamed anything like a video or tv show? You agreed to a personal use license with your streaming provider when you signed up with them. Bought music from Itunes or Amazon? You purchases a copy of the song under a personal use license. Same thing with your wedding images.

Finally, a simple change of phrase will help you be a more knowledgeable happy consumer. Look at the terms and conditions in your contract. They’re pretty generous in my studio. I usually ask that if you submit your images to be published in a magazine to let me know. I’ll probably never say no. I also ask that you don’t put your images through filters on any app, internet or phone based. Otherwise, we’re good. I want you to show off your images. You invested in a beautiful visual history of your wedding day and I want you show it to people!

Happy Photographer Hunting!

P.S. All of my packages comes with USB of beautifully edited images and personal print licenses. Say Hello to hear more about them.

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