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How to protect your work as a photographer

Thousands of people around the country consider themselves amateur photographers, but there are some who call it a profession. Because you are a professional photographer, you rely on your photos to make a living. You probably display your work online through websites and social media pages. While online marketing is necessary to gain new clients, it could spell trouble if you don't take the right steps to protect your work.

A simple Google search will reveal thousands of photographs on a desired topic, any of which someone could potentially use for free on their website. The wide open nature of the web can undermine the livelihood of professional photographers. If someone uses a photo of yours without permission, they may be in violation of United States copyright laws.

What can you do to effectively grow your business while protecting the copyright license to your photos?

Use a watermark

A watermark is a faint design or logo that appears in the foreground or background of a photograph. It is a good idea to utilize a watermark for all photos that may be openly accessible online. A watermark does not give others permission to use your photos, but it may dissuade them if they can't get a clean, original image.

Date photographs

Many online blogs and publications rely on timeliness to drive traffic to their websites. Use of an old photo can be a telltale sign that they may be using copyright material without permission. Like a receipt you would get at a store, it assigns a date to the ownership of property. Establishing when a photo was taken can be the key to holding someone accountable for copyright infringement.

Release with license for limited use

When you take photos for an event such as a wedding, you may be unable to use a watermark or date on the photographs you give to the customer. Instead, you can provide a compact disc or thumb drive to the couple with proofs and accompany the photos with a letter that releases your work for limited use.

This permission will allow the couple to use their photos for personal use without threatening your commercial interest in the work. A letter that outlines the license can also be used to hold someone accountable if they go beyond your permission.

Consult with an attorney

Content and media today is created at a faster rate than ever before in history. Because of this, threats of copyright infringement are constant and may be tough for small business owners to keep up with. Likewise, the law is often slow to change which can leave organizations unable to defend their work in accordance with the law.

However, accountability may be available with the help of an attorney who specializes in intellectual property and copyright law. When a top-down approach to law making is ineffective at protecting small business owners and entrepreneurs, civil litigation is available as a bottom-up approach to enforcement.

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