Copyright is important for any artist to protect their work from being shared, copied, or sold without consent. In the UK, copyright is automatic without the need for formal registration the moment a work is created. Usually, it lasts for the the entire life of the creator, plus 70 years before it becomes public domain.
Having copyright doesn’t stop your work from being stolen but there are steps you can take to take action. One way is to make sure your image has metadata, which is information embedded into a digital image. It contains thing like the details of the original creator, and the timestamp of the image. Using metadata is a recommended measure for any photographer but isn’t 100% effective. If someone takes a screenshot of an image, it won’t include the metadata. If you have your work on a website, most of the time you can disable right clicks which prevents people from saving the image. But this won’t disable screenshots being taken.
As a photographer, the best thing to do is to keep all the RAW files (or negatives if you’re an analogue photographer). A RAW file is the highest quality version of the image, and contains all the metadata. If your image is taken without consent, having the RAW files in your possession proves that you are the original author and makes things easier if you need to take action.
Authorship and copyright are heavily linked. If copyright is automatically assigned to a piece of work upon creation, if I photograph someone else’s photograph, does it become my image?
In a project I am working on, I am creating a series of images using a ‘photo mode’ feature built into most modern video games. It is a feature that allows us to be creative, taking photographs of the virtual worlds and people within the confines of the game. The feature usually includes real world camera settings like the aperture or focal distance.
The images created this way still belong to the game developers. Although the games are a tool for me to use, and the compositions are my own and the settings are chosen by me, I do not own the images I create.