National Press Club

Photographers advised how to protect rights to their work

May 1, 2014 | By Jack Williams | weatherjack@me.com

Mickey Osterreicher and Jacquelyn Martin, president of Women Photojournalists of Washington, pose before Osterreicher's talk on "Copyright and Social Media" at the National Press Club, April 29, 2014.

Mickey Osterreicher and Jacquelyn Martin, president of Women Photojournalists of Washington, pose before Osterreicher's talk on "Copyright and Social Media" at the National Press Club, April 29, 2014.

Photo/Image: Al Teich

The instant a photographer presses the button to open the shutter, he or she creates a copyrighted "work" that no one can legally use without the photographer's permission, Mickey H. Osterreicher told approximately 70 attendees at the April 29 evening presentation on "Copyright and Social Media" in the National Press Club's First Amendment Lounge.

Nevertheless, the Internet, social media, and myths about the rights of those who create online "content" are robbing photographers of these rights, said Osterreicher, who is general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA).

The Women Photojournalists of Washington (WPOW) and the Press Club's Photography Committee presented the event, which was sponsored by the NPPA.

Osterreicher described a couple of common myths: “Anything on the Internet is not protected by copyright,” and “If a blog or website gives you credit for a photo, those responsible don't have to ask permission or pay.” "False," he exclaimed.

Those "terms and conditions" or "terms of use" agreements you click on to use a social-media site, without wading though line after line of legalese, are another pitfall, Osterreicher said. That quick click can take away some of your rights because it amounts to a contract.

While clicking the shutter creates a copyrighted work, "that doesn't get you paid" if someone uses your photo without your permission, Osterreicher said.

In order to get paid if a court decides someone has violated your copyright, you must register your work with the U.S. Library of Congress' Copyright Office. This can be done online for batches of photos as long as each image has a unique name. This should be done within three months of the date the photos were taken.

For further information, Osterreicher recommended that photographers visit the NPPA page on understanding your rights.