I've just spent a lovely afternoon doing what photographers most love to do: typing.
On to the truth - the typing I was doing is, in fact, not at all what photographers love to do. But it is what we must do if we care about our work.
The typing I refer to was a long list of file names. The bottom line is that if you care about your photographic work, you protect it by registering it with the US Copyright office. It costs $35 to register a virtually unlimited number of images, through a fairly simple process. Fill out a form, pay the money, and upload the images. The only catch is that each image must be individually named. Therefore, there is a bit of typing involved. But if you want to talk about value, this is it.
Schwarz did a great job of making a few things very clear. First, it is true that when you click the shutter on your camera, under US law you officially hold the copyright of that photo. Unfortunately, when it comes to the practical matter of protecting your work, that means very little.
The same is true of posting a copyright notice on your images. While that serves as an alert, it provides you with very little protection. Should someone use your images without your protection, your only recourse would be to show how much they have profited from that use.
Other myths on copyright abound. I once attended a class in which the instructor informed us that photographers can protect themselves by mailing a DVD of images to themselves, and keeping it sealed. There are also services which claim if you mail them your images, they will keep them sealed and provide copyright protection.
Schwarz made it clear that none of this is true. The one true method of assuring copyright protection, and of having the opportunity to successfully seek some level of compensation for copyright violation, is to actually register your images with the US Copyright office.
The truth is, it isn't difficult to do, it's just tedious. Today, I spent a bit more than two hours, and $35, registering about 400 images.
Do I copyright every image I create? No. But I rank the ones I think may have the potential for future use or value, and once a quarter I make a submission. To date I have copyrighted about 1,000 images, and my intention is to make this a regular element of my photographic routine.
Last month, while in Italy, I had a lot of fun shooting photographs of streetcars gliding by in the rain. An example is below. You might like it, or you might not. But however one feels about it, be aware that it is mine, registered and protected. In an era when it is all too easy to scoop images up from a variety of online sources . . . that makes me feel just a little bit better about sharing the images I love.