Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Business of Writing: Using Photos in Your Book (or anywhere for that matter)

George Sand by Nadar, 1864,
Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
You've been crawling through dozens of Pinterest boards for the perfect photo to use for your book's cover and are about to give up when—hey, presto! You find just the thing.

Now to copy it into Photoshop and crank out that award-winning cover, right?

Sorry; not without obtaining the photographer's permission, or licensing it first.

A common misconception is that a photograph is owned by the person who has purchased it, or the celebrity who has autographed his or her photo and sold it to you. Unless the photo can be proven to exist in the public domain as with the example I use in today's post, however, the copyright resides with the photographer. And the burden of public-domain proof lies upon whoever wishes to use the photo.

Using the photo without permission or a license, including sharing it on any online social media platform, violates US copyright law and can expose you to hefty licensing fees if the photographer chooses to pursue the case.

Don't take my word for it. The best article I've seen that sums up copyright issues revolving around the use of photographs is this one by Stacy J. Grossman of the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA).

The subject of copyright infringement isn't without its lighter side, though. A ridiculous court case involving selfies taken by monkeys can be chuckled at here.

In short, unless you have permission from the PHOTOGRAPHER to reprint a photo in your book (or an artist's art, or musician's lyrics or sheet music, for that matter), don't do it. Period.

Happy surfing!


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