Ask any group of professional photographers, what the most important thing a photographer can do is, and you’ll probably get a plethora of different answers. Some might say that knowing your camera, or knowing your equipment, is the most important thing. Others might say that knowing how to create a harmonious composition using the proper perspectives and angles is the most important thing. Still others yet might say that understanding light, and its nature, is the most important thing you can do—after all, photographs are still images of captured light!
However, if you were to ask an attorney, all of those answers would be wrong!
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU CAN DO AS A PHOTOGRAPHER IS REGISTER YOUR WORK!
As a photographer, it does not matter how skilled you are at using your equipment. It does not matter how artistically you are able to weave perspectives and angles to create the best compositions. It does not matter how well you understand, have mastered, and play with light. None of those things matter if your photograph, your work, can be stolen from you.
All of your work, all of your time, all of your knowledge, all of your effort—stolen. Stolen, with today’s technology, with a few clicks of the button. Stolen, only for your work to spread across the internet. Spread across the internet far and wide with you having little power to do anything but sit there with an awful feeling of loss and anger.
However, if your work was registered with the United States Copyright Office you could have stopped the theft. You could have forced the thief to never use your photographs again. You could have forced the thief to pay you for your work.
It is therefore imperative that you register your works with the United States Copyright Office.
17 U.S. Code §411 states that “… no civil action for infringement of [a] copyright in any United States work shall be instituted until preregistration or registration of the copyright claim has been made in accordance with this title.”
This means, in simple terms, that you usually cannot bring a lawsuit against someone for stealing your photographs until you have registered (or in some cases preregistered) your photographs with the United States Copyright office.
However, once you have registered your photographs, you will have the law in its entirely at your disposal. Therefore, as a photographer, you should view registering your work as just a fundamental part of being a photographer as taking the picture itself.
These blogposts shall not be constituted as legal advice and are for informational purposes only. Each and every case is different and requires an attorney to examine the specific case in question to arrive at an adequate legal conclusion. In addition, these blogposts are not updated, or edited, after the date of their initial post, and as such, the information contained within them may be outdated. Consult with your own personal attorney for more information on the subject matters.