workshop assignment 5 – copyright and licensing

Copyright and Licensing

In session five we looked at meta-data and some of the tools we can use to manage it. Before we get into the assignment for this session I want to expand on the issue of copyright and licensing, two of the major uses of meta-data.

Copyright is your right to determine how your creations are used.

In Canada, under the Canadian Copy Right Act non-commissioned creative works are automatically protected from the time they are created until 50 years after the creator’s death. Further, internationally, the International Berne Convention of 1886 stipulates similar terms; most members of the UN subscribe to this convention.

The issue isn't around copyrighting your creative works – that is as simple as claiming the copyright and marking the creative work in some fashion to indicate that it is protected (ie. © 2010 john bishop images). Rather the issue ends up being about protecting that copyright and the potential costs involved versus the potential value of the asset you want to protect.

Prior to 2012, this copyright only applied to non-commissioned works. As of November, 2012 photographers will automatically become the first owners of photos created for someone else. Prior to Bill C-11, The Copyright Modernisation Act, photographers had to have ownership explicitly assigned back to them in a signed contract.

For most of us, spending any money to protect our creations is not usually a viable option. If you do find your images being used without your permission, often a cease and desist letter will suffice.

But what if you want to allow you images to be used – you just want credit for them?

Creative Commons and Open Licensing

Enter the Creative Commons, a system of licensing terms and conditions that allow an artist to specify whether he wants credit for the work, how that credit is to be given, whether other works can be created using the original work, including commercial use or not.

An alternative to the Creative Commons is the Open Systems Open License, often referred to as "copyleft". In this licensing framework credit must be given to the creator of a work, and non-commercial derivatives are allowed. The Open Systems Open Licensing framework is not as flexible as the Creative Commons framework.

The Creative Commons and Open Licensing have been the topics of several of my blog posts – there is lots more information and links to the various Open Systems and Creative Commons websites here.

Picture Licensing Universal System - PLUS

At the other end of the spectrum is the PLUS system.

This system is designed primarily for commercial photographers and allows you to specify very precisely how an image may be used, how many times it may be used, where in the world it can be used, in what media (newsprint, online, ...) it can used in, and much much more.

It allows you to reassign licensees, end users, licensors and copyright status to someone else; it also supports embedding model and property releases. The PLUS system offers very fine control at many levels of detail – exceptionally thorough. Timothy Armes of the Photographers Toolbox offers a reasonably priced PLUS meta-data plugin for use in Adobe's Photoshop Lightroom.

The American Society of Media Photographers (a supporter of the PLUS system) has an interesting and quite thorough guide for many of these issues including commissioned or stock images, licensing based on intended use and a method of figuring out what to charge.

Like most topics in photography, copyright and licensing is a matter of making choices that are best suited for your needs. I hope this brief introduction gives you an appreciation of this messy business and can at least get you started.


In the discussion for session three's assignment I introduced composition styles and techniques – check that sessions assignment for a refresher; for more detail check out this PDF.

Briefly, the major styles are ...

• strong vertical• strong horizontal
• strong diagonal• perspective
• rule of thirds• golden spiral
• s-curves• point of view
• framing• cropping
• field composition

This assignment brings it all together. Take at least one or two photographs of each style.

Remember that this session's assignment will form the basis for the next two assignments so have some fun and get creative!

That's it for session five. In session six we take a look at Flash Photography.

3 responses to “workshop assignment 5 – copyright and licensing

  1. pingback //: workshop session 5 – meta-data and copyright | blog | john bishop images | fine-art photography | vancouver, bc

    […] … assignment 5 […]

  2. pingback //: workshop session 6 – flash photography | blog | john bishop images | photography | vancouver, bc

    […] the first part of the in-person version of session six of the Introduction to Digital Photography workshop was spent reviewing session five’s assignment – composition. […]

  3. Session five also included a look at photographers that I have found informative and inspiring. These include Weegee (Arthur Fellig), Ansel Adams, Marc Riboud, Rodney Smith, Chris Orwig and Paul Liebhardt. There are many amazing photographic artists out there, but these are ones that I am most familiar with.

    For inspiration and some amazing images, check them out!


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