I've shied away from talking about the business of photography on this blog. There are plenty of people around the web who talk about the business of photography with more authority than me. But I spent Wednesday at Kilpatrick Stockton's office in Atlanta. They are one of the Intellectual Property powerhouses in the legal world.
I was showing them pictures during a partner's lunch, they were giving me advice on protecting my business. So here is a little free legal advice.
The single most important thing you can do to protect yourself as a photographer is register your copyright with the US Copyright Office.
Why you might ask? After all copyright law gives the photographer automatic copyright protection. Absolutely true, as a freelance photographer you own the copyright to your photos automatically, but actually registering the pictures with the copyright office gives you additional protection. If you ever have to recover money from someone for an unauthorized use having a registration certificate from the copyright office in hand makes things much easier. 1 you don't have to prove damages, 2 the offender is liable for your attorney's fees. The attorney's fees alone are enough to bring anyone to the bargaining table. The only caveat is that registration must happen before the infringement.
You can register photographs as a group online for a $35 fee. There is no time limit, though it is best to register images within 5 years of creation.
How do you do it? Go to the Electronic Copyright office (here). You can register online for $35 a group, or with printed forms from that page (printed form registration is $50).
Next business post:knowing when to walk away. Bob Krist sure does, you should too.