I'm sure you've heard the terms "copyright release" and "print release" before when working with or researching photographers. You may or may not know what these terms actually mean, though. For those of you that do, great! For those that don't, that's what this blog is for. 

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As the photography industry moves into the digital age with the rest of the world, confusion follows. Particularly over the use of Copyright vs. Print Release forms to accompany digital files that you receive with your session.

What is a copyright release?

It is exactly what it says. It releases the copyright from the photographer to the client. Basically, when a photographer creates an image, at that very moment that image is copyrighted and this gives the photographer or creator of the image the exclusive right to copy, edit, distribute, post on Facebook, blog, etc. by sale or transfer. These rights, given to the photographer or creator of the image, by The Copyright Act, therefore make it illegal for anyone else (even if you are in the image but as long as you have signed a model release) to copy, scan, edit, print, distribute digital or printed versions of the image without the photographer’s permission. This is a Federal Law and can be prosecuted as such. This copyright law even stays in effect for 70 years after the photographer/creator of the image has passed away.

Most photographers that I know do not give copyright releases to clients. If they do, it's usually for a commercial shoot and comes with a hefty price tag. Which is far enough, considering that when a photographer gives away the copyright to their images, they no longer own them.

What is a print release?

Again, a print release is exactly what it sounds like. Permission from the photographer/creator/copyright owner to print images provided to the client. It does not include rights to edit or alter the image, sell them, etc. That right remains with the copyright owner/photographer under copyright law.

In a nutshell...

If you purchase or are given digital images from a photographer, more than likely you will receive a print release. Just remember that this is NOT a copyright release and remember that even with a print release from your photographer, they still own the copyrights to the images they've given you.

How does a print release benefit you? 

  • You're able to print unlimited copies of the files you've been given 
  • You can post the files all over your social media pages
  • You can keep the files forever!




Annika RoserComment