This section is from the book "Complete Self-Instructing Library Of Practical Photography", by J. B. Schriever. Also available from Amazon: Complete Self-Instructing Library Of Practical Photography.
Copyrighting Photographs Of Public Characters. On the other hand, if the photographer invites some one to come to him and have their photograph taken, for which the photographer makes no charge, the photograph is the property of the photographer and he has the full protection of the copyright law if he desires to copyright such a photograph. No matter whether the photographer takes a photograph for nothing, or whether he is paid for it by regular customers, it is always best to secure the consent, in writing, of the subject, so as to avoid any future trouble regarding it.
1016. In other words, the photographer is the producer of a photograph; therefore, he can copyright it and is always protected with that copyright against the whole United States, excepting against the actual owner, if there be any.
Value Of Copyright. It may be stated, in general, that there is but little value in obtaining a copyright of the average photograph. Only in a case where the photographer has a photograph of something exceptionally valuable, or an extremely artistic photograph of a person, is there any need of securing a copyright.
1019. The main object of a copyright is to enable the photographer to control the output of prints from that particular negative, and also control the reproduction of any such prints. It must be borne in mind, however, that even after having secured a copyright another photographer may photograph the same object or view from almost identically the same view-point, and have a perfect right to the sale of prints from his negative, although the prints may appear to be practically identical to the ones on which the copyright has been secured. In case of action or suit being brought in such instances, however, it will be necessary for the photographer who did not secure the copyright of his photographs to prove that his negative is an original one made of the scene, and not a copy of the copyrighted photograph.
1019. Any attempt to overrule the written law of the United States is punishable by fine, and one should by all means come within the provisions laid down by law.
Permission For The Use Of Copyright Photographs. A permission granting the right to the use of a copyrighted photograph for reproduction or other purposes must be secured, in writing, from the owner of the copyright. The following form of license (Illustration No. 107) is the one adopted by the Professional Photographers' Association:
Illustration No. 107 Copyright License.
See Paragraph No. 1020
1021. It will be seen, after reading this blank, that the license grants reproduction in one place, for once only. The photographer can sell the sole copyright outright (with or without the negative, though usually the negative is included for such a purpose), or, he can split up the copyright in various ways and dispose of the parts - i. e., make limited assignments of the copyright - in every case in writing. As an example, in the case of an attractive portrait subject, a photographer might sell to other persons or firms:
Right to reproduce in daily papers.
Right to reproduce in weekly papers.
Right to reproduce in monthly magazines.
Right to reproduce in books.
Right to reproduce as photographic postcards.
Right to reproduce as colored (printed) postcards.
Right to reproduce as posters or window bills, which latter, again, might be further distributed amongst various distinct trades. In these cases, the person to whom permission was granted would have the right only for the specific purpose mentioned in the memorandum or license to him. The license should grant permission for a particular purpose, nothing more. For example, a form of permission such as, gives the purchaser (Henderson) the same rights as Johnson (the proprietor), and he is privileged to use the picture as he sees fit.
Received of Mr. John R. Henderson, the sum of $10.00, for the right to reproduce my portrait of General Grant. [Signed]
C. J. Johnson.