Did you know that every creator owns the rights to their work? In many cases this seems self-evident. You can take a picture of a mountain, and it's your picture--no one else has the right to download it or print it or make a calendar out of it without your permission. But here's the kicker for you: even if you get paid to create that picture of the mountain, you still keep the copyright to your work unless you sign it away.
So what does that means for your wedding? It means your photographer owns the copyright to your wedding images.
But your face is in these images! You need them! That's YOU! It was YOUR day! And you want to be able to:
- create your own wedding album
- share the images you like on the internet
- make prints from digital negatives for your friends and family
...and other amazing things you haven't even thought of yet!
I'm here to tell you the wonderful truth: you can do all of these things without the copyright to your images. All you need is permission in the form of a license.
"What on earth are you talking about? " you may ask.
First let's clarify what we mean by "all the rights" to your images. It may sound like there's a horde of greedy imagemakers just waiting to deny you access to the pictures of your own beautiful faces. But that's not the case.
Photographers don't want to hand over all their rights, because without those rights, they wouldn't be able to show their awesome work to new clients. Signing over "the rights to the images" means that those images can no longer be used for marketing, advertising, in sample albums, on blogs, or anywhere else. Without the rights to the images, a photographer can't show proof of their skills. No rights, no portfolio.
So what do we photographers do instead? We give you permission.
You'll sometimes see photographers refer to this as a "print release" or "personal license." They're not transferring their creator's rights to you--they're giving you permission for you to use your wedding images in a personal capacity. It allows you to do make prints, share them on the internet, and do all your personal stuff without infringing on the photographer's copyright.
But what about privacy? Most photography contracts include a standard model release so that the photographer is free to use your likeness in their portfolio and marketing. Maybe you feel very strongly that you don't want anyone else to see your images. Perhaps you have some real concerns because of sensitive personal or legal issues.
If you have serious privacy concerns, then what you really need is what's called a non-disclosure agreement, or NDA. A non-disclosure agreement can be of two types -- one-way or mutual -- but either one binds the photographer so they can't share your images in any way, shape, or form. It's like the anti-model release. This is a pretty heavy legal agreement, and is often used in patent law. It's the big guns, and it's likely to cost you extra, because the photographer loses out if they can't share your images.
But in truth, there are really very few situations in which you need the full rights to your images or a big ol' NDA. The best thing you can do is open the conversation with your photographer about what permissions come with the purchase of digital negatives. It shows you know the territory. It shows you've thought about how you want to use your images, and that you're aware of their rights as a creator.
And just remember this: no matter what happens with image rights, you'll have a fabulous wedding day.