Copyright Your Images

As a school photographer, you may not feel like it is necessary to register your images with the U.S. copyright office. However, there has been a few cases, where if the photographer had take the time to do so, they would have been much better protected.

I don’t think a school photographer would ever sue a parent over copyright infringement. The publicity alone would be enough to put the photographer out of business. But, there have been some cases, where the media copied the image from a yearbook or received one from a parent and used it without the permission of the photographer.

The authority on Copyright issues is:

Al Hopper, CAE
Director of Membership, Copyright & Government Affairs
229 Peachtree Street NE, Suite 2200
Atlanta, GA 30303-1608 USA
phone: 800-339-5451 x232
ahopper@PPA.com

He is from the Professional Photographers of America. They actively lobby congress for image copyright laws.

Images must be registered with the U.S. copyright office. You have up to 3 months after an image is taken to register it. For a flat fee of about $30.00 you can register your images in bulk with the copyright office. This means you can register all of your images 4 times a year (everything you’ve taken over a period of 3 months) and be protected. This doesn’t mean that someone won’t still steal your images, but you have done what you can to legally protect yourself.

Unless a work is registered before a copyright infringement takes place OR within ninety (90) days of first publication, damage awards may be limited to “actual damages”. This is often the fee a creator would have been paid for the work had it been licensed properly.

The problem comes from the fact that copyright law is a federal law and copyright claims must be prosecuted in Federal court. This can be very expensive. Just filing the claim and initial briefs can cost in excess of $10,000.00! In fact, a protracted copyright case can cost hundreds thousands of dollars in legal and court costs!

If your actual damages are only a few hundred dollars, say for an infringement of photograph in a ¼ page ad in a local newspaper, you need to be really motivated or independently wealthy to bring the case to court.

However, if your images are registered, you are eligible for actual damages as well as up to $200,000 in punitive damages per infringement. And, the courts may (and frequently do) force the infringer to pay all legal and court costs. The fear of the legal bill is often the leverage that motivates an infringer to settle a claim long before it moves to court. Registration clearly is the “big stick” for independent creators.

Here is a simple procedure to register all of your work. Keep in mind that you need to register every three months for full protection. Images must be registered before an infringement takes place OR within 90 days of first publication. Registering your current work every three months will keep you within that legal time frame.

You will bulk register all of your images as unpublished images using short form VA. http://www.copyright.gov/forms/formvas.pdf.

1.Setup a folder on your desktop and label it “Copyright”
2.On each assignment you photograph, simply make a low-resolution j-peg copy of each image and drop it in the file.
3.At the end of the second month, write the folder to CD-ROM
4.Fill out Short Form VA completely
5.Write a check to the Register of Copyright for $30.00
6.Send the submission, in a box, to: Library of Congress, Copyright Office, 101 Independence SE, Washington, DC 20559

Digital Fun Packs

I’m looking for a digital fun pack software.  What I envision is some software that one can place a student image into and include it on a CD as part of the picture package .  The student or their parent can load the software on their computer and do fun little things with their images.  Some things that maybe they can do fun screen effects and morph themselves into things, create a calendar, bookmarks, coloring books, and other such stuff with their image.  Does anyone know of anything similar to this?

While I was surfing the web looking for this, I did run into a couple of interesting websites:
Crazy Talk – Animate your image – it’s really cool, it makes any still image computer animated!
Incrediface – Much like I was looking for.  Place your face on a dollar bill and many other fun things.
Maziaka – Create a Mosaic of an image out of a whole bunch of other images.

Also, while surfing, I found one of our customer’s blogs.  ABC School Portraits always has fun and fresh ideas for school photographers.  Check out their blog!

Paperless Photographic Products

What do you think of when you hear about paperless photographic products?

When I used to think about paperless photographic products, I envision images written to a CD which are distributed to the client.  Instead of paper proofs, the client would receive a CD or view their images online where they could place an order for paper products.   Maybe there would be an electronic album, or a way to save your images on “My Space” or as a screen saver on your computer or cell phone.  Paperless to me meant that the image is displayed through some sort of an electronic medium such as a computer, Ipod, digital picture frame, television, pda, or even on a watch.

This past week I visited with several photography companies.  The secret to their success is my new definition of paperless photographic products.  Based on my visits, my definition of paperless has changed.  To me a paperless photographic product means “Any photographic product that a consumer can not produce themselves.”  This definition still includes everything that I thought of as a paperless product in the past, but is now expanded into other products such as T-shirts, mouse pads, key chains, pens, magnets, wall calendars, blankets, back packs, plaques, wall hooks, and even baseball bats.  All products with images printed on them, but would be difficult for parents to produce themselves on an ink jet printer or through Walmart or Costco.

The trend in the school photography business appears to be going paperless.  However, not as I had previously envisioned.  The physical products, such as a mouse pad or a pen with an image on it is what is helping a savvy School Photography company keep orders and make their order averages higher.

The capabilities to provide these items will be what sets school photography companies apart.  For these items to be profitable, they must be produceable in volume through an automated workflow.  It isn’t just paper rolling off of the printer any more.  The challenge is how are these custom made paperless products produced from the order.  Then after they are produced, how do they get married back together for delivery back to the customer? Some of this will never be completely automated, unless Noritsu makes a printer that prints and process right on a baseball bat, or outputs prints that are die cut and laminated.

Keep watching my blog.  In the near future, PhotoLynx will have the solution to some of these problems.

Is Digital Photography Making for Better Photographers?

In the late 80’s the studio I worked for was one of the first companies to get a Kodak Prism system (Follow this link half way down the page).   The photographers using the system were able to see their work instantly.  The Kodak prism system captured the images on film and also digitally.  The digital version was for previewing the images only.  

After only a few weeks of using the system, I noticed that the photographers was improving their work by better lighting and posing very quickly.  Part of it, I am sure was that they got instant feedback and could learn and correct for their mistakes immediately.  The other part of it is that they had to face the client with their work as soon as the photo session was over.

Back then, I never dreamed of the day when photography would be 100% digital.  The best I could hope for is to get contact rolls or proofs back within a week to review most of the photographer’s work with them.

Over the last week or so, I have been visiting with a lot of studios and labs.  I noticed that the work I have seen at these locations seemed better then what I have seen in the past.  Additionally, I have been following the online adventures of an amateur photographer who had a chance to visit Tasmania.  His work looks really great.

From personal experience, I have been able to confirm that I got “that shot” rather it be a sporting event, a nature photo, or personal pictures of my family.  Digital photography has really changed the industry.  Not in just how we present and deliver images, but the quality of the images themselves.

Fuji S5 Rumors

I’ve been hearing rumors from some of our customers that the Fuji S5 camera is being discontinued.  I have consulted with the Sr. Marketing Manager Professional and Consumer Digital from Fuji and he told me that they have more than enough supply of the camera to satisfy demand for a long time yet.

My experience has been that Fuji has been great at supporting their equipment for a long time after it has been discontinued.  In my opinion, there is no reason to not purchase the camera, just because it may be discontinued in the near future.  It works great now, discontinued or not.  If the concern is needing replacement cameras in the future, buy extras now.  Fuji is making great deals on the camera.  Now is the time to buy.

As far as the barcode features, I have been told that they will continue to support the barcode features on other cameras, but I have no confirmation that there will ever be a S6.  It may be put into a more prosumer type camera.  Of course PhotoLynx will continue to support the Fuji S5.

Even More Ways to Beat ….

This post has been removed at the request of a national picture company.

More Ways to Beat ….

This post has been removed at the request of a national picture company.