Jewelry Photograph Pricing – Copyright Pricing

Continuing with” how much for a photo?” another pricing method that has never been well received by jewelers is licensing.

Grain_RingThe next type of pricing method is far less straightforward. It is based on the idea that a photograph is an original creative work and as such is covered by U.S. and international copyright law (intellectual property). So the photographer just took a photograph of you or your product (jewelry) and may have even charged a fee (sitting fee) for it. You do not own or cannot use the photograph without the photographer’s permission. The photographer has ownership of this original creative work. This is where usage fee or licensing comes in. A photographer can assign to you the rights to use that photograph for a given limited purpose for a given length of time. The photograph cannot be used for another purpose or past the agreed upon time without paying additional fee. So for a given fee a photographer might give permission for you to use the photograph in ads in your local or regional newspaper for two years. If you then decide you want to use it in a Christmas mail piece you would have to pay an additional usage fee. Failure to do so would violate the copyright held by the photographer and you could end up in federal court. To give a jewelry example if you are a wholesale designer jeweler and you have an originally designed copyrighted ring you are selling, you are sell the right for someone to own and enjoy that ring forever (limited personal use), you are not selling the right for someone to mold that design, make a ring and then sell it as their own. They may say I just bought this ring from you I can do what I want with it. No. Under copyright law you are selling a limited use of your copyrighted design not all rights to that design. Of course if they live in China this means nothing where they really don’t recognize intellectual property rights.

This type of photograph pricing most often comes into practice for editorial photography; photography for magazines and newspaper. A magazine my buy first time North America usage. After that usage a photographer is free to resale the usage for other purposes. It also comes into play for larger corporate situations. In this case pricing is based not on time and material but what is the value of the photograph to the organizations communication effort and their expect return on that effort. So as you might guess this gets very subjective and complex to figure a price. Many years ago there used to be a blue book that was produced that gave some idea of standard pricing for this type of situation.

Because of copyright law, it is always important to know when you purchase a photograph or photography services what rights of usage come with the photograph. Often if you submit a photo for a magazine or book to use they will want a release to publish statement from the photographer before they will use the photograph. It has been my experience book publishers can be pretty strict on this and magazines far less so.

So do all photographer charge usage fees? I am sure all photographers would like to but for jewelry projects that are small in scope many do not. One of the big reason is the photograph is a derivative work. This means you need two copyright releases for the photograph to be used. One is from the photographer for the original copyrighted photograph and the other from the jewelry designer or assigned for the original copyrighted jewelry design shown in the picture. So the photographer cannot license the photograph to be used by anyone other then the original jewelry designer or assigned. I have had inquiries in the past from businesses who saw a photo on my website of a client’s original ring and wanted to buy usage of the photo for their advertising use. I could not sell usage because I did not have a release from the design of the ring. So other then retaining personal promotion rights the photo has no value to me. The other part of this is trying to sell usage to a jeweler I just got paid for taking the picture. When you do this they feel like it is extortion and head off to find someone else to do their photographic work. This plays into the last pricing method, what the market will bare.

Next post market forces.


(This post touches on legal issues so for the usual disclaimer. I am not a lawyer. If you have issues in this area please find a good copyright attorney and get so competent legal advice.)