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The Professional Photographer's Legal Handbook Paperback – May 29, 2007
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About the Author
Nancy E. Wolff, a practicing lawyer for more than twenty years, is a member of the entertainment law firm Cowan, DeBaets, Abrahams, and Shepherd, where she specializes in intellectual property and new media law. A former trustee of the Copyright Society of USA, she lives in New York City.
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I agree with the other reviewers here that this book is not an all encompassing legal guide for professional photographers as the title might lead one to think and that another book like the one mentioned in another review here (Best Business Practices for Photographers by John Harrington or maybe the ASMP Professional Business Practices in Photography) would be necessary to more fully cover all the legal areas that a professional photographer may face.
While Ms. Wolff's book may not cover every legal area that a professional photographer may face, it does cover some important ones and does so very well. My only suggestion is that I would have preferred if there were a glossary of the legal terms used in the book. While most are defined somewhere in the text, I did need to look back a few times to remind myself of what they meant. In any case, I highly recommend this book.
1. When in doubt - get a model release.
2. Register images with the Copyright office.
3. If/When you are infringed - talk to a lawyer - don't ask your "buddies" on the internet.
Wolff's book is divided into three sections. More than half of the book is devoted to copyright law, with an explanation of the statutes and cases affecting copyright in the United States. It includes a section on registering one's photographs for protection under these statutes. The second section is on basic trademark law, and here the author almost dismisses such law as it relates to photographers' work. The final section deals with the law of privacy and publicity. Wolff examines two states at the extremes in this area, but acknowledges that the law varies in each state and doesn't try to provide any across-the-board rules.
One inescapable conclusion that photographers who read this book will reach is that although it is not necessary to register one's works to preserve one's copyright, it may not be worth pursuing one's remedies for non-registered works. That's a good lesson to learn, and well worth the price of this book
What is misleading is to suggest that this book is a general legal handbook for professional photographers. Most photographers will want to know about other legal subjects not covered in the book, like contracts and leases and of these there is no mention. Indeed, this book seems more like the texts for lawyers that I read when starting my research when I was a lawyer involved in intellectual properties. It will also be of interest to stock agencies and photo buyers more than photographers. I suspect that photographers' eyes will glaze over as they start to read about particular cases and the courts' logic in deciding them. Most photographers will be looking for something more practical, like a discussion of what rights to give to someone purchasing or leasing a photograph or what to include in a model release. For photographers looking for this kind of information, John Harrington's " Best Business Practices for Photographers" would be a better choice. Then, if the photographer felt he or she wanted to learn still more about the limited areas covered by the book, this would be an excellent choice.
On the other hand, for those in the image industry like photo buyers and archivists, who are most likely to go astray, this is probably an excellent resource. Wolff's interpretations of the law and the cases seems accurate, to the best of my knowledge, without doing independent due diligence (darn that legal background!) and she reports on current cases. One should be careful however, since many of the most recent cases are still wending their way through the appeals process. And to my delight, she does mention one of my favorite concepts, changing the nature of the photographer's rights by contracts and licenses. Although she doesn't dwell on the topic, she is the only writer on the subject that I've read who mentions this aspect.
Nancy Wolff is one of the leading copyright lawyers in the country and what she doesn't know (and generously share with her readers) is probably not worth knowing.
The most significant issue facing anyone who makes their living in the creative world today is how to protect their copyright. It's getting harder and harder as digital manipulation and copyright infringements increase, together with general ignorance on the subject.
In fact this book could save your livelihood if you are a photographer hoping to continue to make a living by your camera! Shooting the greatest pictures in the world is not going to help if you don't understand the basics of your rights and how to protect them.
I manage an international picture library and have read this book from cover to cover and found it completely invaluable.