Copyright dates back to 1901 and was once intended to protect intellectual property only in Anglo-Saxon countries. Copyright is often mentioned in the same breath as German copyright law, but this is completely out of place. In the following article we will explain whether you as a photographer have to register your copyright.
Register copyright under the Copyright Act
In 1802, the first copyright laws were passed in the USA, then still mainly for authors. The Americans added the so-called Copyright Act in 1901. Accordingly, in the case of intellectual and creative works, the year of publication and the copyright owner are given in addition to the reference to copyright protection.
Initially, this was done using the abbreviation “Copyr.” or the entire word “Copyright”, later the alternative designation © prevailed. However, © has lost some of its importance since the United States joined the so-called Revised Berne Convention (RBC).
This stipulates that a photographer from Germany can also claim their exploitation rights in a country that has signed the RBÜ agreement. The Berne Convention came into force for the first time on December 5, 1887 and has been called the Revised Berne Convention since 1908 because of several revisions and adjustments.
As of January 2018, 172 countries have come together in this association. Due to the RBÜ, there is a uniform basis with regard to copyright and international protection of works such as your photos. In the course of this, the USA abolished the protection requirement of a copyright notice for published works on March 1, 1989.
As a photographer, do I still have to register my copyright today?
Actually, because of the RBÜ, the reference to copyright is no longer a must. As far as German copyright protection is concerned, this is irrelevant. After all, a work can only enjoy copyright protection if it meets the legal protection requirements. Therefore, a photographer does not have to © his image in order to claim copyright, nor does someone automatically gain copyright protection just for adding the © mark to a work.
Nevertheless, it can make sense to register your copyright. A so-called presumption of authorship is anchored in the German Copyright Act (UrhG). In this way, a photographer can reverse the burden of proof in his favor if he is named as the author on copies of his pictures. In the course of the assumption of authorship according to paragraph 10 paragraph 1 UrhG, he is regarded as the author of his photo until the opposite is proven.
For example, if someone reproduces a picture of a postcard with the indication “Photographer: Peter Schmitz” for commercial use, the photographer Schmitz does not have to prove in a later legal dispute that he is the author of the picture. Based on his information, his authorship is presumed according to UrhG.
The same applies if, for example, the photographer has granted a company the exclusive right to use his image, since 2008 the company can also benefit from the presumption of copyright protection as the owner of the rights (Section 10 Para. 3 UrhG: “Presumption of ownership of rights”).
Register proof of priority with copyright
Another important reason why you should register your copyright despite the lack of necessity is the so-called proof of priority. Finally, copyright priority has a key function. This means that one can prove without any gaps that one was the first to create a photograph as a pure photograph or as a photograph. The priority can be proven by providing evidence of a comprehensible date.
However, this proof only becomes incontestable when it has been officially certified or registered by a notary or official. You can register copyright at the district court or at the notary. After this copyright registration, you then have legally watertight proof of your copyright. The registration is then the official confirmation of the copyright that you have on your image.
A copyright registration then remains valid not only for life, but for another 70 years after the photographer’s death. The court is required by law to keep the registration document incontestable and complete. Also, if you change or update the work, you should register a new copyright for your photo. Only then is the new work really protected.
Register copyright at the notary
When registering the copyright, make a copy of your image and give the original or the original file to the notary. In return, you will receive a certificate proving your authorship. In a legal dispute, you can then use the notarized document to provide proof of priority in your favor without any doubt and in an uncomplicated manner.
Last but not least, registering the copyright is also worthwhile because the notification function acts as a deterrent and experience has shown that images marked with copyright are not copied that often. The costs for a copyright registration are based on the fee schedule of the notary or the district court.
Furthermore, there are now service providers who have specialized in registering copyrights. Here you can have individual photos protected for a certain price per image or even book a flat rate for a fixed monthly amount. If you want to register the copyright of one of your images, LAPIXA will be happy to take care of the entire process for you. Feel free to write to us via our website or send us an email.
Copyright is not the same as copyright
While copyright protects the author of a photograph or a photographic work, copyright gives its owner the right to use a work economically (“right to copy”). Therefore, the relationship between the creator and the copyright holder is not automatic.
For example, if the photographer has transferred the commercial exploitation rights to a company via a Creative Commons license, the company can then register a copyright for the photo in question. LAPIXA enforces all these rights for you. You concentrate entirely on your creative work and leave the tracking down of illegal copies of your works to LAPIXA with its international network of lawyers.
LAPIXA helps you to get your rights quickly and conveniently if your photos are modified or redistributed online without your consent. We enforce your image rights. Visit lapixa.de/fotografen for more information about our service for professional photographers.