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You own your Work!

Image rights in the age of the internet is a complicated subject but don’t let it overwhelm you. Your work belongs to you and you have the right to decide how and when it gets used and for how long. By default if you create an original artwork it’s automatically copyrighted under your name. Even when you’re a freelance photographer hired by a company or a business to shoot for them the work still automatically belongs to you unless you sign a contract stating the phrase “works made for hire.” Under a “works made for hire” contract ownership of the work and anything that you create belongs to the company. This is historically a contract meant to govern staff employees and is not typically appropriate for a company to send a “works made for hire” contract to a freelance employee. But it does happen more and more these days. Tech companies in particular will send out “works made for hire” contracts without really understanding what it is that they’re doing. Never just assume that a company that you’re working for, particularly a tech startup has a lawyer that has actually read through and understands the contract.
Pasta getting it's closeup
When working as a freelancer you are effectively running your own business and it wouldn’t be appropriate for another business to claim ownership over everything that another business creates. But increasingly companies in the digital age are trying to get employees to sign “works made for hire” contracts. I’ve always tried to do everything that I can to negotiate this phrase out of any contracts that I sign. I’ve had issues with clients who have wanted to sell my work to third parties. The problem with this situation is that if a company that hires me is selling my work for profit that effectively makes them my competition. I’ve also had problems with companies who try to distribute my work for free as part of a “quid pro quo” in order to obtain certain favors. Specifically so that they don’t have to pay for any of the food used in the photoshoot. In this situation the company is indirectly profiting off of my work and again effectively becoming my competition for providing photography services. The business world is a dog eat dog world and never assume that rules are being followed, that companies or individuals are abiding by their own contracts or behaving in an ethical way.
Best damn food photography in NYC
In ye olden days of film in order for a photograph to be reproduced you needed to have access to the negatives. When a company bought out the rights to an image that meant that they were buying the negatives. In the digital age photographs can be reproduced infinitely at the click of a button. This has caused countless headaches for not only photographers but musicians as well. The Napster age of the music industry was a free for all where individuals now could download as much music as they wanted without having to purchase a CD. At the time it was considered a harmless crime where the only victims of pirated music were huge multi-million dollar record companies and Artists making millions of dollars a year. But this also effected small independent musicians as well who could no longer profit directly from the sales of their music. Creative professionals whether they’re musicians, graphic designers, photographers, etc. deserve to be compensated fairly for their work and from the profit made from it.
Grilled swordfish at a fine dining restaurant
Do I have a great answer for this problem? Honestly no… As much as possible I try to approach people who behave unethically and steal my work for their own profit with a conciliatory tone of voice. I understand that a lot of people are so accustomed to Napster culture that they don’t even realize that they’re exploiting me for their own profit. My hope would be that sometime in the near future that Copyright law would catch up with the digital era. And that we would have clear concise rules that everybody has to abide by and clear recourse in the event that it isn’t. Fingers crossed.
Italian Food Photography NYC
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You own your Work You own your Work. Copyrights.

This is an ongoing project with more coming soon.

Have a question? Feel free to ask and I would be happy to help.
a portrait of Will Engelmann
Will Engelmann is a Food Photographer in NYC. He has no other talents and has never done anything else in his life. If for some reason people stop needing high qaulity food photography he's so screwed. But at least for now he thinks he's safe.

Check out his Food Photography Website
Thirsty? Cocktail Photography Website