It happens to me a few times a year. An author calls me up needing new head shots for the next big book release. They explain they will require full copyright. This is an odd request for just a simple portrait so we’ll dig a little deeper, asking, “What do you mean by ‘Full Copyright?’” The author then proceeds to describe a “License.”
“Okay, you mean, can we license the image for you?” I reply.
“No” they say with conviction, “I must get the full copyright transferred to me.”
I must pause here and acknowledge it is the members of the photography profession who are solely responsible for perpetuating this confusion between the meanings of Copyright and Licensing. Prospective clients are only repeating the term that has been ingrained in their memory for years now. On behalf of the photographers who have misused the word copyright, I apologize.
Let’s start over and see if we can’t unpack their meanings in a way that is much easier to understand...
Copyright: The person who created the original artistic work has the exclusive legal rights of ownership from the first moment of creation.
License: The owner and originator gives someone permission to use the work that they have created.
It can be argued that the legal definitions are actually more complicated, but with respect to making a portrait, they’re quite simple. Both terms are designed to grant a specific kind of right to an individual. However, one is specific to the creator and owner of the work, the other is a grant from the owner to the one who wants to use the work.
Consider these three common scenarios…
I purchase and install Microsoft Windows 10...do I now own the entire Microsoft platform or am I granted a license to use the software?
Your friend downloads U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name” on the iTunes store...are they now the exclusive owner of the song or just granted a copy to download and listen to?
Blackstone Audio is going to produce an audio version of your book...will you and your publishing company relinquish all rights and ownership of the book to Blackstone or will they be granted a license to read, record, and distribute the audio version?
So when an author asks a photographer for full copyright on a photo, do they actually mean they want the photographer to (1) send them the master files, (2) transfer all ownership over to them, (3) destroy the original copy, and (4) never have the right to show the image in their photography portfolio? Likely, this is not what the author actually meant.
What the author really wants is the right to reproduce the image on the inside cover of their book, include the image with a press release or media kit, upload one to their website or social media profile, and print something up for speaking engagements.
Of course, we can license this for you!
Contact us today and ask about the hassle free licensing we provide with professional headshots. 206.659.7468