Freelance photographers see value in copyright

Freelance photographers who retain their copyright earn on average about a third more than those who hand the intellectual property right over to clients, an industry body says.

In its survey of 1,700 photographers, the British Photographic Council found keeping copyright generated an average profit per freelancer of £19, 272, compared with £14,471 for those who routinely gave it up.

Freelancers seem to recognise the value of their IP rights, the survey suggests, as only one out of 10 of them overturn their IP right by default, though the majority have come under pressure to do so.

But even when they hang on to copyright, freelance or self-employed photographers take home an average of £18,821 a year, compared with £34,535 over the same period for staff photographers.

The 83 per cent pay gap for freelancers helps explain why more than half of them would oppose any 'orphan works' legislation, designed to let photos be published without the IP owner's permission if the owner is untraceable.

Yet not all freelancers are worse off than their permanently employed counterparts: the BPC findings show almost a fifth of freelancers made an annual profit of £30,000 or above.

Although nearly twice as many staff photographers earn that amount, the bigger concern for freelancers was the seemingly widespread trend of clients demanding a more extensive licence for no fee increase.

Sixty-two per cent of freelancers have faced such demands, and even a greater proportion (about three quarters) said clients had tried to claim that copyright belongs to whoever commissioned the photography.

British Photographic Council chair John Toner said: “Copyright is not only the cornerstone of the creative industries, it is the foundation stone of creativity. Without it, creators would find it impossible to survive.”

Evidencing his concern about the viability of independent photography, only about six out of ten of the survey respondents said photography was their sole source of income.


8th July 2010

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