Oops: Have you given away your copyrights?

When you sell a disk of high res images and include a letter of release, do you give your clients copyright or printing rights? There’s a huge difference!

If you give anyone copyrights to your photos, you are handing over every last right you have to your hard work and resulting art. Copyright means that you literally own the work and when you hand that over, you are giving your client the right to produce, publish, sell your images or even say that they took them. And if you ever want to use your own images after that? Well, you need to get permission from the one who holds the copyrights.

So now that I’ve thoroughly scared you into counting how many copyright release letters you’ve written this year, what’s the alternative?

When you sell your images, you are selling the rights to either print, share online or both so just put that in your letter! Write a release of printing rights and you can even consider downsizing your images so your clients can only print to a certain size.

Let’s face it, most of our clients will be printing from the local supermarket lab or online quickie printer. If you want to control the outcome of a 40 inch print, you’ll want to handle those prints through your professional print company.

To control the size, remember this equation: inches x 200 = pixels. If you want the files to be a max of 8×10, that’s 1600 x 2000 pixels. Or just read this about DPI and image resolution.

further reading //

This post from MCP Actions will literally tell you everything you want to know about your rights, written by a legal professional

Copyright vs Print Release also written by a legal professional

  • Good article thanks!

  • I normally print at 300dpi (or PPI if you prefer), but I guess setting the images to 200dpi means they will find it harder to resize larger and retain quality.

  • So, does this mean that you sell digital files to clients? I know there is a lot of discussion and disagreement over this issue. I’m seeing some outrageous prices of digital DVDs (thousands) and am trying to wrap my mind around it. I totally get what you’re saying. I guess I’m wondering about the debate of selling files or not.

  • elizabethhalford

    @Beth: Yes, I do but I give them printing rights, not copyrights. And my disk is £600 for 20 images. Which, compared to the price of a large canvas is reasonable, especially if they see the money saving potential if they’re going to be making gifts of the images. Price all depends on the clientele you’re going for. My prices would be out of my own reach if I were the consumer, but then, it’s not necessarily my peers that I’m shooting for (pun intended!)

  • Lori

    Just stumbled upon this article- interesting might I say.Anyhow, would you by any chance happen to know where there would be a free form of printing rights? 

  • C. Weed

    copyright vs print release link isn’t working. Thanks!

  • elizabethhalford

    Thank you so much for letting me know. It’s fixed now!