When we were researching our post about photographing buildings, one of the sites that caught our eye was Carolyn Wright’s blog, PhotoAttorney.com. A lawyer with a background in the arts (she has a BA in Music, runs photography workshops and is an award-winning nature photographer), Carolyn has been directing her law practice towards photographers for four years.
The decision to focus on photographers, Carolyn told us, came after setting up her own photography business, when she discovered both a worrying lack of legal support for the photography industry and little understanding of the law. Her blog aims to teach photographers about their rights, and her book “Photographer’s Legal Guide” puts all that advice in one spot.
For Carolyn, the biggest legal problem isn’t determining that a photographer’s rights have been infringed. In fact, that’s not usually an issue in her cases; digital technology makes infringement very easy. The challenge is determining the level of damages.
“If the photo is properly registered when infringed, statutory damages are available,” Carolyn explains. “If the photo was not registered when infringed, the photographer can get actual damages (the license fee plus profits that the infringer made from the infringement).”
So that’s two different kinds of damages that can be won, and neither is easy to quantify. For photographers who see their work being used without permission then, but are unsure whether the level of damages makes legal action worthwhile, it’s the circumstances of the infringement that count. No one should be stealing images, but as far as Carolyn is concerned, it’s always much worse when big companies do it.
“Certainly, the more aggressive approach is called for when businesses (that should know better) steal a photographer’s work,” she says.
Of course, a single photographer facing up against a big company is always going to be a tough fight, even with Carolyn on your side. “While my clients receive more than they would have if the photo had been properly licensed (even after legal costs and fees), recovering any money for infringements is a victory these days,” she says.
But Carolyn notes that some professional photography organizations are now showing a greater interest in protecting photographers, and points out that just as the music and video industries have been battling hard against copyright infringement, there’s no reason why photographers can’t do the same.
It’s certainly reassuring to know that there are some understanding lawyers fighting that battle on our behalf.
[tags]photoattorney, carolyn wright, photo attorney, legal issues in photography[/tags]