Revisiting the Image Copyright

Wow! When I decided to write about image copyright—a topic I’d already covered once, I had NO IDEA that I had covered that topic a year ago to the date. On August 14, 2012, I wrote a blog entry called Copyright 101.  I was prompted to revisit this topic since the Getty Museum recently announced that it is removing its restrictions for using digital images that they hold the rights on.  There are about 4,600 images that are now available in a high resolution format that can be used without restriction and without a fee.

A copyright exists to protect the artist.  Basically, in order to reproduce a work of art you have to have permission to do so.  Generally, that permission comes with a fee.  Without permission, it’s illegal to reproduce, scan, photograph, copy, recopy, edit, or screen grab a photograph or painting without an image copyright or license.  It’s the same reason it is illegal to copy a DVD or CD.  It’s the same reason it is illegal to install software without a license, copy a book or plagiarise its words.  Architecture, plays, sculptures, words, phrases and even symbols are all protected under copyright.  These things are intellectual property.

When you illegally use a work of art you commit copyright infringement, also known as piracy or theft.  This criminal infringement is punishable by law and carries the risk of jail time and fines.  You can also be sued by the artist or creator in a civil suit.  It’s become such a problem online that even Facebook has posted a warning to deter its users from committing this crime.

There are some works of art that are in the public domain which means that the intellectual rights have expired and can be used freely, such as the 4,600 Getty Museum images, the works of Shakespeare and Beethoven, the King James Bible, and Newton’s physics formulas to name a few.  However, unless a print release or limited copyright is granted (available with all of my digital packages), images can not be used freely—even if you give the photographer proper credit for the photo.    They are not in the public domain and they are protected by copyright law.

When I went to the Getty Museum website to look at these 4,600 images, I applied the filters “photographs, how we live, and U.S.”  Of the nine results that were returned, I chose this one.  There were a few reasons I was drawn to it.  It was the oldest, contained President Lincoln, was at an Army headquarters and contained a tent.  The image was captured on October 4, 1862—nearly 151 years ago!


By law, even though the image restrictions have been lifted, the following information must accompany the photo:

Alexander Gardner, photographer (American, born Scotland, 1821 – 1882)
Lincoln on Battlefield of Antietam, Maryland, October 4, 1862, Albumen silver print
Image: 21.9 x 19.7 cm (8 5/8 x 7 3/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Until next time, be positive, happy, and healthy, and don’t forget to be photographed.

Wikipedia:  Intellectual property[1] (IP) is a legal concept which refers to creations of the mind for which exclusive rights are recognized.  Under intellectual property law, owners are granted certain exclusive rights to a variety of intangible assets, such as musical, literary, and artistic works; discoveries and inventions; and words, phrases, symbols, and designs.


san antonio senior portrait photographers ata-girl photography since 2010I am a San Antonio-based wedding and senior photographer who started Ata-Girl Photography Co., LLC in 2010. As one of the up-and-coming San Antonio wedding photographers, I am also available to shoot in Austin, Houston and Dallas and the surrounding areas. I am also available for destination weddings worldwide. Ata-Girl Photography Co. offers an amazing wedding photography service that you won’t soon forget.  As a professional photographer, my sole purpose is to provide you the absolute best photography experience.

I am a professional photographer who enjoys documenting the important milestones and captivating moments in people’s lives. I firmly believe that the unique set of circumstances I have faced in life has prepared me to take a personal and genuine interest in my photography clients. When I’m not photographing a wedding, family or high school senior, I enjoy watching my daughter play softball, hiking, cycling, reading, and listening to Elvis!

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