A copyright gives its owner the right to copy, distribute, publicly display or create derivative works from the original work. A copyright also gives its owner the right to license those rights to others.
A photograph is copyright protected from the moment it is created. This means that even if you purchase a print or digital file from your photographer, you still need to talk to them about making reproductions from that item.
The current copyright term is the life of the creator – in this case, the photographer, plus an additional 70 years.
Purchasing a print or digital file from your photographer does not mean you have purchased the copyright.
Unless you have permission from the photographer, you can’t copy, distribute (no scanning and sending them to others), publicly display (no putting them online), or create derivative works from photographs.
Professional photographers are dependent on their ability to control the reproduction of the photographs they create.
Copyright infringements—reproducing photos without permission—can result in civil and criminal penalties.
Contact the photographer/copyright owner. Photographers are happy to discuss options for reproducing photos with you.
Check both the front and back of a print for a copyright notice. If it is a school, sports or similar type photo, you may want to contact the institution where the photo was made.
Use the Photographer Registry Web site to locate a photographer/copyright owner at www.PhotographerRegistry.com, so you can obtain reproductions or permission. With a few pieces of information about a photographer (i.e., they did portraits in Anytown, USA in 200X), a search can be conducted to find the copyright owner.
Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any further questions or to obtain a copyright release form.