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Stolen Photos & Photography Law: Tips from an Attorney

You take a beautiful photo that you proudly post on your social media. One day, you discover that your photo has been shared on someone else’s account. It’s getting hundreds—no, thousands—of likes! Your photo is going viral! You could be the next Grumpy Cat! But…the owners of that account didn’t credit you for your image. You’re crushed. You worked hard to develop your talent only to have the fruit of your labor stolen from you.

Copyright, infringement, violations, intellectual property, model release, commercial use—this word soup of legalese can be confusing or downright terrifying for uninitiated photographers. However, in the age of rapid digital photo sharing, legal violations of photographers’ rights are rampant. As a content creator, it’s important to be aware of your rights under the law as well as best practices to protect your property.

The purpose of this article is to introduce you to some of the key legal terms and ideas that can affect you and to provide reputable resources where you can find more information. This article deals broadly with US federal law and is not meant to be comprehensive; it’s a starting point. So bookmark this page and use it as a handy research tool the next time you have a question about your rights as a photographer. As always, if you have questions about your specific situation and you need legal advice, speak with an attorney in your area.

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