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Understanding Copyright & Copyright Infringement within the Horse Show World

Copyright infringement, seems to be a vague and scary word and why are we discussing it in the horse world?

Because I see copyright infringement rampant with the horse industry; the improper use of photos from professional photographers, images downloaded from the internet, watermark proofs, and commercial music in videos.

First, let us start with understanding Copyright laws. The copyright law of the United States is intended to encourage the creation of art and culture by rewarding authors and artists with a set of exclusive rights. Copyright law grants authors and artists the exclusive right to make and sell copies of their works, the right to create derivative works, and the right to perform or display their works publicly. These exclusive rights are subject to a time limit and generally expire 70 years after the author's death. In the United States, any music composed before January 1, 1923, is generally considered public domain. -wikipedia

Copyright law includes the following types of works: Literary Musical Dramatic Pantomimes and choreographic works Pictorial, graphics, and sculptural works Audio-visual works Sound recordings Derivative works Compilations Architectural works

In the horse world, we use photographs, graphics, images, and music for the promotion of our equines, ranches, training facilities, etc. Those photographs, graphics, and music are all copyrighted material. Which means you must have the rights to use them.

When you buy a photograph from a professional photographer, you can get a web or full release. A web release is a compressed digital file that may only be shared on the internet. You may not use that file for any print purposes, and because it is a compressed file, it will print horribly. When you buy a full release photograph, you may use that file for print and internet distribution. Please read the fine print the photographers have in their releases and be sure to adhere to them. Ask the photographer questions if you don't understand their release criteria. It's better to be safe than sorry.

You don't want to find yourself being sued because "you did not know." That is not an excuse. As a designer, I cannot use any photograph for a print promotional Ad that is not your photograph you captured or if you do not have a full release from the professional photographer that states I can use the photo for print Advertising.

As a former horse show exhibitor and marketer, I highly recommend investing in at least ONE full-release photograph from a professional photographer per year you own a horse. It is always nice to have a professional photo to capture all the hard work you went through that show year with your horse. You never know when you may need that photograph for selling or promotional material for the horse.

Photography proofs, you know the proof with the watermark across it that photographers has for the client to order. It's copyright material, and when you take the photo with the watermark and share across the internet, you are partaking in copyright infringement. Some photographers are more lenient with this practice than others, but the bottom line is, don't do it. It's wrong and a slap in the face to the photographer. Photographers spend thousands of dollars in time and equipment to take that photo, and it is not free for you to use.

Images on the internet are NOT free to use, unless it's for educational purposes. They are all protected under copyright laws. You can do an advanced search in Google images by clicking settings, advanced search, then go to the bottom where is says usage rights and select the free to use option. Those images are free to use under the option use choose.

When it comes to music, copyright may get tricky very fast. In many cases, the copyright is split between the record label and the publisher. The label controls the recording, while the publisher controls the song itself (i.e., the words and melody that appear in the recording of the song). You must obtain permission from the copyright holder to use any copyrighted material, even for non-commercial projects. The publisher administers synchronization licenses. The publishers may vary from large companies to individual songwriters who publish their work. For the master license, you need to contact the recording label or, for independent artists, the artist directly.

Why should I care? If you are merely making a home video to enjoy with your family, you probably shouldn’t be much concerned.

If you want to put this video on YouTube or share it on social media, you should start considering the consequences that may range from YouTube removing the video to the Recording Industry Association of America can go after you for copyright infringement.

If you need background music for your promotional video or for a project you’re doing for a client, do not use unlicensed copyrighted music. There is plenty of copyright free music out there, and you can also buy rights to music for very reasonable prices.

In conclusion:

The internet has made "stealing" from artists convenient and easy. Just because every else is doing it doesn't make it okay. Artists and various organizations are trying their best to crack down on the "digital stealing."

Best practices are to play it safe and play it fair. How would like it if someone came in and stole from your hard earned work and talent?

It is my job as the Digital Marketing Specialist for ABRA to inform members and police copyright material within the ABRA. So if you don't have proper permissions for your print Ad for the World Show program or video for the Jumbotron, the media will not be accepted. I am happy to work with members and answer any questions about this subject at

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