If you are new to being a stock photographer and just starting out in your newfound career, or a company that is just recently discovering the huge savings in using stock photos in your print or online publications, there are quite possibly many things that you are yet to learn about, and some of them concerns legal issues. One of the unknown issues that you can get involved in when taking pictures for a stock photo collection is about architecture. You may have taken a picture of a building or landmark and not know that it is being protected by copyright or trademark, and this could get you in a lawsuit that will cost you a great deal of money.
There are many structures that are under copyrights that may catch you unaware. Technically, it’s the architectural designs of the buildings that are protected and not the buildings themselves. If you took a picture of such a building and sell it as a stock photograph, the holder of the trademark has every right to sue you so you should always double check if taking a picture of a certain building can get you into trouble or not, and the internet could be a great advisor.
Not only are the photographers the ones on the line, because the same applies to businesses that unknowingly uses images that violate copyrights in their own projects like for advertising and marketing. It doesn’t matter if you paid highly for the material, or where you got it; if the stock photographer who took the picture did not get a property release, then the photos that you have are illegal and a complaint may be filed against you. Buildings are not the only ones that can be copyrighted too, because in many cities around the world, there are a great many statues, monuments and other public artwork displays that are under trademark. Since they are mostly government commissioned displays, they can be considered public domain but in some other cases, the copyrights are still held by the original artist regardless of who was the one to commission it.
Fortunately for everyone, stock photo agencies do their best to filter the photos that are being submitted to them and reject the ones that are in violation of copyrights, but probably due to the sheer volume of files that they are getting, some still manage to slip through. There are many websites in the internet that are kind enough to put up lists of copyrighted buildings for everyone, so the people who are involved in stock photography does not have to deal with so much hassle with settling cases in court.
A few examples of copyrighted buildings are: the night time light display of the Eiffel Tower, although daytime photos of the landmark are still allowed to be sold. The Hollywood sign is also under copyright protection. The Flatiron Building and the Chrysler Building in New York City are also trademarked locations.
Be sure to check out a building or landmark online before taking a picture to avoid troubles later!