[by Shawn Henry]
Back in 2005 I completely gutted my house, stripping the interior down to the bare studs, expanding the kitchen and master bedroom and adding a new sunroom to overlook the backyard. I spent over a year rebuilding it, doing almost all of the work myself, from shingling the roof to laying the tile and hardwood floors. My wife liked to call it the House That Shawn Built, but the truth, from a financial perspective anyway, is that it’s really the House That Licensing Paid For.
I say that because there’s no way that I could have afforded the remodel — and certainly no way I could’ve taken most of the year off from shooting assignments — if I didn’t have the protections of Copyright that enable me to license and relicense my work. As an editorial photographer, my initial assignment fees are far lower than those in the commercial and corporate markets. There are a few magazines that pay more, but the typical editorial assignment fee has averaged about $500 for decades.
Copyright not only provides me ownership of the work I shoot, but, far more importantly, it allows me the ability to relicense my photographs; potentially turning a $500 editorial assignment to photograph a CEO into a $4500 license to that executive’s company after the magazine client has published its story. Similarly, Copyright allows me to continue licensing — to multiple textbook publishers, year after year and edition after edition — a photograph I shot in Ethiopia almost 20 years ago, increasing my earnings from that original assignment about 10 fold over the years.
While the markets — and the contracts — have changed greatly in the past decade, Copyright remains at our industry’s core. Without it’s protections and the additional income that relicensing provides, I likely would’ve switched to carpentry years ago.
Shawn G. Henry has earned his living as an editorial and corporate photographer for 25 years: throughout, he’s spent far more time wearing a tool belt than a photo vest. Recently returned from a two and a half year stint in San Diego, he currently resides in The House That Licensing Built in Gloucester, MA, where he spends his days analyzing the mistakes he made so he does a better job with the next house. www.shawnhenry.com
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