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A Clarification about Copyrights and Pictures

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Old 01-15-2009, 11:12 AM
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Munich, Germany
Posts: 529
Blog Entries: 58
Default A Clarification about Copyrights and Pictures

We've had a few copyright issues/discussions, so I'd like to explain a few things to give you an idea on how to deal with copyrights and pictures. I hope the laywers amongst you will forgive me for simplyfying things as copyright laws are one of the most complicated issues you can imagine, not to speak of big differences when it comes to international copyrights.

First of all: EVERY pictures is copyright protected by principle. It doesn't matter whether the print has a copyright stamp on the back or even the name of the photographer. The photographer, whether a professional one or just you and me, holds a copyright immediately and in the moment he takes the picture. This copyright lasts until 70 years after the photographer has passed away; after his death his heirs are the copyright holders.

Under strict interpretation of the law you might only publish (post on a message board IS publishing) a picture when you're the copyright holder (took the picture by yourself or inherited the copyright), or when you have the permission from the copyright holder to do so.

What happens when you publish a copyright-protected picture without permission? The copyright holder may sue you for compensation. And this can become very expensive.

An example from real life: A colleague her at work once took a picture of a shark and published it along with an online article to illustrate something (I don't recall what exactly it was; but it was not an article about sharks and the picture was just 2 by 2 inches big or so). Sure enough, the photographer of that picture found the articl and we had to pay several thousand dollars for using that tiny thumbnail of a picture, while the pictures was online only for a two or three weeks. Bad luck - this photographer was one of the world's most famous shark photographers and he usually takes huge amounts of money for the permission to use his pictures ...

What does this mean? Don't publish pictures from professional photographers without permission. Don't take pictures from the website of a TV station or newspaper. Don't publish a picture where you think the photographer, whether professional or not, might not like the idea of his picture being published without permission.

I think on the message board we found a very good consent on what's okay to post. Let's keep this up and we won't have any problems. If I see something that I think is not okay, just don't be embarassed when I remove it. It's not personal but just to protect you and me from trouble. If you're really in doubt, ask me before you post.

Again: I think we've been okay at the message board for years now, so no reason for panic, no reason for immediately stopping to post pictures. This posting doesn't have the intention to change anything here. It's just meant as a clarification as there seams to be some confusion about copyright issues and I hope this posting has canswered most of the questions.
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