“Copyright” describes the rights given to creators for their literary and artistic works.
But we often don’t consider copyright when we look at our family photos, or go to get them copied.
Even though it is so easy to copy an image—with scanners, photo-quality printers, and copy
stations—it is still illegal.
Things to remember about copyright:
• Copyright is a property right.
• Just because you buy a print does not mean you have purchased the copyright.
• Professional photographers are the smallest of small copyright holders.
• Under the Federal Copyright Act of 1976, photographs are protected by copyright from the
moment of creation.
• Photographers have the exclusive right to reproduce their photographs (right to control the
making of copies).
• Unless you have permission from the photographer, you can’t copy, distribute (no scanning and
sending them to others), publicly display (no putting them online), or create derivative works from
• A photographer can easily create over 20,000 separate pieces of intellectual property
• Professional photographers are dependent on their ability to control the reproduction of the
photographs they create.
• It affects their income and the livelihood of their families.
• Even small levels of infringement—copying a photo without permission—can have a devastating
impact on a photographer’s ability to make a living.
• Copyright infringements—reproducing photos without permission—can result in civil and criminal
Put copyright in perspective:
• 65% of PPA photographers are self-employed photographers relying exclusively on photography as
their primary source of income.
• 47% of member studios rely on reprints as a profitable source of income.
How to get legal copies of professional photographs:
• Contact the photographer/copyright owner. Photographers are happy to discuss options for
reproducing photos with you.
• Check both the front and back of a print for a copyright notice. If it is a school, sports or
type photo, you may want to contact the institution where the photo was made.