The Ultimate Guide to Photography User Agreement

There are many user agreements available on the web and they can vary significantly, ranging from very basic to very complex. Here, we have taken a look at some of the more common ones and explained what each clause covers.

Photography User Agreement

For the purpose of this article, we shall use the following definition:

Photography user agreement is a document that specifies your rights and responsibilities as a photographer and includes things such as the terms under which you will use a client’s images or the client will use your photographs for his or her purposes.

User agreements are not always an easy topic to write. However, there are several considerations to keep in mind when writing one that will ensure that photographers will find it useful and comply with their obligation.

Tips to Draft a Photography User Agreement

The following are some practical tips on how to create a user agreement that will satisfy both photographers and their clients.

There is no magic formula for writing a great user agreement. However, a good user agreement is usually clear, complete and straightforward to read.

We hope you find the following advice useful.

Step 1. Make a plan

First, make sure that you have a clearly defined audience in mind when you are writing your user agreement.

  • Who are you trying to reach?
  • In a nutshell, who are you writing your agreement for? This is a crucial question.
  • Are you writing it for professional photographers? For hobbyists? For commercial users?
  • Are you writing it for a specific company or brand? Are you creating a unique product or service?

Consider what you are going to say.

  • Do you want to educate?
  • Do you want to offer advice?
  • Do you want to sell a product?
  • Do you want to offer technical support?
  • Do you want to protect your copyright?

If you want to protect your copyright, think about whether you want to limit the use of your image, or whether you just want to prevent the illegal duplication of your work.

Remember, you cannot be too detailed, but you also need to be specific.

Step 2. Get a lawyer

Once you have thought about what you want to say and who you are writing it for, get a lawyer.

Although this is something that many photographers will do for themselves, it is really important to get expert advice.

A good lawyer should understand how the various forms of intellectual property work, including copyright law.

They will also be able to advise you on the best ways of protecting your intellectual property and will be able to assist you in drafting a simple yet legally sound user agreement.

Step 3. Draft a basic agreement

It can be useful to have a template of some kind to start from.

For instance, you might like to use the terms used in the ‘Intellectual Property Rights’ section of the standard user agreement provided by the British Photographic Library.

There are other examples of user agreements online, and many of these will have been written for a specific client or market.

Whatever template you use, it should have a few important points in common with the rest of your user agreement:

  1. The first is a notice to the reader that you are the owner of the copyright in the material you are offering.
  2. Second, you are offering the work to be used according to the conditions of use specified below.
  3. Third, you are granting your clients certain rights.
  4. Fourth, you are requesting the same rights from them in return.

It is also a good idea to include a statement about how to contact you if your clients have any queries.

Finally, you can add a few sentences about how your clients can contact you and how you will resolve any disputes arising from your use of the material.

Step 4. Include a licence

It is now time to consider what you want to offer to your clients.

  • Firstly, what do you intend to charge them for the use of your work?
  • Is it going to be a free service?
  • Will you charge a fee?
  • If you do, how much?
  • How are you going to prevent people copying your work and passing it off as their own?
  • Can you prevent them uploading your work to the internet and sharing it with others?

You can discuss these issues with your lawyer.

However, it can be a good idea to explain what you intend to do to your clients before they sign the agreement.

You could ask them to check that you are offering them a licence to use your material and that they will be able to make copies of it.

You might also tell them that they are not allowed to pass the work off as their own and must not upload it to the internet.

Of course, there may be situations where you want to allow certain uses that do not infringe copyright.

For example, you might want to allow the use of your image in a press release.

But you must be very careful about what you say. If you provide a license that permits one or more of the things you don’t want, you may be infringing copyright.

It is therefore important that you read the licence carefully.

Finally, it is a good idea to include a statement to the effect that you will not be responsible for anything that happens to your clients once they have signed the agreement.

Step 5. Write a contract

Once you have drawn up the relevant pages, it is time to write up a contract.

You also need to reread it and edit it multiple times to make sure that you don’t miss important points.

You also need to consult with your lawyer to make sure that the contract satisfies both parties.