Copyright for wedding suppliers
A brilliant article from Katie Mortimore
As a wedding supplier, quality imagery is vital for the success of your business, but it can be expensive to source and sometimes difficult to know what rules apply as to how you can use it.
DO I HAVE RIGHTS TO A PHOTO BECAUSE I’M IN IT?
In a word, ’no’ you don’t. This is the most common misconception regarding copyright law. There are rights regarding use of your personal image (i.e. your recognisable face) for commercial purposes, and also taking photographs on private property, but these rights don’t give you ownership to a photo, only the right for it to be used, or deleted, or not.
DO I HAVE RIGHTS TO A PHOTO BECAUSE MY PRODUCT IS IT IN?
Again, the basic answer is ‘no’ but there is a minor possibility that the photo might breach your copyright! In order for a 2 or 3D product to have a level of copyright whereby a 2D photo could infringe it, it must meet some requirements.
• It must be a sculpture, graphic work or a work of artistic craftsmanship.
• A work of artistic craftsmanship would be an original handmade individual product and a court would be required to judge the product as artistic meaning it is not an automatic category of protection.
• There are very few wedding products that would fall under these categories, and even if they did the photographer at a wedding would have justified reason for the products to appear incidentally within the wedding coverage and therefore would not be subject to this area of copyright law.
WHAT CAN I DO WITH AN IMAGE PROVIDED BY A PHOTOGRAPHER?
If the photographer has given you permission to use a photograph… that’s great! However, that permission will be to use the photograph as it is unless stated otherwise. This means you cannot edit the photograph or apply an Instagram filter or similar, even converting it to black and white would not be allowed. Not only does editing breach copyright but it also does not give an accurate representation of the photographer’s style, something that they work very very hard to develop. How clients see their work affects whether they hire them. If there are differently edited images being credited to them this will mislead clients who may then not hire.
WHAT IMPLICATIONS ARE THERE IF I BREACH COPYRIGHT
The answer to this is very open ended, to a degree. There is a chance that if you use a photograph illegally that the photographer will never know and there will, therefore, be no further implications. However, with sophisticated image recognition software it is now easy for photographers to search for unauthorised use of their images. Large photo agencies (such as Getty) are well known for sending out large invoices to people using their images without permission. When I say large invoices, these can easily be 4 figures just for website use. Small photographers are also upping their game and I have heard of many taking claims to the small claims courts. Everyone I’ve heard of who’s gone that far has been awarded funds to the photographer. Do you really want a small claims judgement against you, especially when there are legal, free or cheap solutions available to you?
SHARING PHOTOGRAPHS FROM OTHER SUPPLIERS & SOURCES
Sharing photographs others have shared online often seems an easy way to find imagery – but there are, again, hoops to jump through to ensure you are using the image legally. On Facebook, Twitter and some other social media channels you can ’share’ an image directly from the source, this you can do legally (presuming the source is using it legally) without issue but it is polite to credit/tag the photographer in addition to sharing. You cannot though, save the image and then repost it direct from your account without permission. It’s important to understand that ‘re-gramming’ on Instagram falls under the latter and not the former – as to do so requires the image to be saved separately. Few Instagram users will take issue but it’s worth taking note and always best to ask permission of the photographer
CAN I USE IMAGES FROM GOOGLE?
No, quite simply, not without express permission from the photographer. Sometimes it can be easy to find the photographer, other times it is hard. Some may want a fee for commercial use, others may just want a credit. Don’t be afraid to ask but don’t be too cheeky!
There is a misconception that there is an allowable use for personal use or if edited to be part of a manipulated/combined image – this is incorrect. There are though some sites like Pixabay that offer free stock photography. Whether there will be anything representative of your business is questionable, but if it does, this is a viable source of imagery.
HOW TO SOURCE PHOTOGRAPHS FROM WEDDINGS
Many suppliers will ask their couples for photos after their weddings, not realising they could actually be in breach of copyright law if they then use the photos to promote their business. Most photographers grant their couples a ‘personal use licence’ which means the couples can not grant permission for others to use the photos for commercial use. Now most photographers (such as myself) are also very reasonable human beings and actually do want you to use our photos, but with some reasonable terms and conditions attached. For example, I allow suppliers to use my photos (with a couple’s permission) on the agreement that I am credited and that images are not edited in anyway including Instagram filters.
The best way to obtain photos from a wedding you worked at, and permission to use them, depends on the individual photographer. Normally the best thing is to drop them an email and ask if there is any possibility of them providing a few images of your work and that in return you will happily credit and link to them when you use them. Be wary in prime wedding season that it may take a photographer a while to get back to you as your request may well be low on the list of priorities. Some photographers may ask for payment, which is totally their prerogative to do so and they are totally within their rights. If I was a different supplier I would be asking the photographer on the day of the wedding itself (presuming in attendance) so that you have a clear expectation as to what will or won’t be possible at the time.
You can also use the Hampshire Wedding Club image sourcing services available here.
STYLED & COLLABORATIVE SHOOTS – A COST EFFECTIVE SOLUTION
Currently, one of the best methods of obtaining imagery is either via a styled or collaborative shoot. A collaborative shoot will normally be between just a couple of suppliers including a photographer. Services will be traded – for example the photographer will take and provide photographs of a cake makers cake, and the cake maker will supply the photographer with a cake!
A styled shoot normally involves a larger selection of suppliers, with the intention of putting together an inspiration blog for submission to online wedding blogs or magazines. All suppliers generally donate their time and products free of charge in exchange for access to the photos after publication, and the publicity that the feature will generate. There is also an agreement that all suppliers involved will share the feature and will tag the others involved when using on social media. The only real downside of styled shoots is that images are often not released until after the feature has been published which can often be up to 5 or 6 months after the shoot takes place.
PAYING FOR A PHOTOSHOOT
If a collaborative photoshoot isn’t possible, you may well need to pay for a professional photoshoot. Do your research when choosing the photographer to ensure they can produce the imagery you want. If their image style does not match your brand, they will not be the right fit for you. You will also get what you pay for a lot of the time, so don’t simply go for the cheapest option. Also, check what is included in the shoot.
• Do you receive all the edited images or do you need to pay on an image by image basis.
• Check what you will be allowed to use them for, can you supply them to magazines and blogs in addition to using on your website. You will also likely be unable to edit them under most agreements so again ensure the style fits.
Hopefully this article clears up a few misconceptions regarding copyright law and will help you source imagery for your wedding supplier business.
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