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Book Bag: The Copyright Zone Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

21 July 2015

Ed Greenberg and Jack Reznicki are the Click and Clack of the copyright business, amusing and informative in the same harmonized breath. In the second edition of The Copyright Zone, the blue-faced duo brings as much clarity to the often misread copyright landscape as you can get without going to court. That makes it essential reading for staying out of court.

Greenberg has practiced law in New York City for over 30 years while Reznicki has been a professional photographer in the same city.

But this book isn't the only thing they've collaborated on. Reznicki, in fact, has relied on Greenberg to resolve his own copyright infringement cases (many of which they discuss in the book). And they have appeared together at B&H regularly to expound on copyright issues. In fact, we featured one such appearance as a Saturday Matinee.

They do have a lot to say about copyright. Which is why they portray themselves as blue in the face.

And they say it in the eight engaging chapters of this book. But page one starts out on the right foot with a simple definition of the subject:

So what is copyright? Simply put, it is a right that gives creators the control of their "original" work for a "limited" time. Copyright law states that the owner of copyright in a work has the exclusive right to make copies, to prepare derivative works, to sell or distribute copies and to display the work publicly.

The rest of the book takes it from there, keeping the creators separate from the predators.


In Chapter 1's Bundle of Rights, the authors expand on that simple definition. They explain copyright is the only right mentioned directly in the Constitution itself, that it was intended as a public benefit and that it has come under attack as more and more predators try to snare intellectual property from its creators.

That's just in two pages. These guys are hardly blue yet.

By page 4 you're learning what component rights are included in copyright. And by extension, the right of refusal. Which, they point out, isn't just for litigation but "gives you leverage in negotiating a settlement and can affect the licensing price."

They continue with a discussion of derivative works, what they are and what they are not. The discussion includes a look at what public domain is and isn't. And, most helpfully, it details the top 11 excuses infringers use and why they don't fly. There is also a top 10 list of copyright myths and a discussion of orphan works and fair use.

You're only 44 pages in and these guys are just starting to turn blue. You may be steamed, getting a little red by now after reading those excuses, but they never leave you hanging. They reel you back in with real life examples they resolved in favor of the creators, despite the predators.


Which brings us to Chapter 2 on Copyright Registration. "Copyright without registration is like a gun without bullets," they write. Registration provides legal protections and remedies beyond your basic rights. Like the ability to file a lawsuit (in federal court, no less), to win statutory damages, to be awarded lawyer's fees and to get an injunction.

They are, to put it bluntly, strong advocates of registration.

Such strong advocates, in fact, that in this chapter they walk you through the process. Screen by screen. Which will make both them and you blue-faced because there are 40 screens to get through. And that's doing it efficiently online rather than by mail.

We just shook our head. It shouldn't be that hard.


Chapter 3 Release Me covers model releases (with templates in the back of the book), privacy rights, tips for getting strangers on the street to sign releases and even revenge porn. Chapter 4 The Busyness of Business talks paperwork, including invoicing, pricing, bidding, negotiating points, terms (with a nice terms and conditions example explained paragraph by paragraph) and insurance.

Pricing and Negotiating gets its own chapter (5, if you're counting), highlighted by famous quotes to instill the principles in you. The authors advise against using the written word over oral discussions to negotiate because "even a Pulitzer Prize winner needs an editor and, by the way, so do we." There are 10 tips for negotiating plus Dos and Don'ts advice about handling an infringement.

Chapter 6 Reps, Agents and Lawyers explains the difference between them. Do you know which of them is not obliged to act in your best interests? The real life stories in this chapter will stick with you, too. It also includes the game plan for attorneys representing "media companies, newspapers, magazines and consumer companies. You know, the people who steal from you." In addition to advice about hiring a lawyer, it includes information about bankruptcy and the limits of arbitration.


In Chapter 7 The Wedding Bell Rules they point out:

While photojournalists and wedding photographers both depend on their wits and social interaction skills, at least a photojournalist can wear a helmet and flack jacket.

Good paperwork is all a wedding photographer can use for protection. So they provide a wedding contract template with, again, paragraph by paragraph explanations. And it includes a checklist Wedding Day Plan so everybody knows in advance what will and will not be photographed.

There's even one real-life story that tells you how to get a deadbeat to pay immediately.


In Chapter 8 The Online World and Their TOS, the duo claims, "There is absolutely no question at all -- we're 100 percent sure, we're positive -- that your images will get ripped off when you place them online." But only one or two percent of them, they calculate, so don't let the tail wag the dog. On the other hand, they provide some online tools for finding out which ones have been infringed.

The discussion about posting on social media sites is more valuable than the advice. They point out that social media sites grab more rights than they reasonably would need, profiting from the content they freely acquire. The Huffington Post's policies get thoroughly criticized on just that count by the pair.

Their advice is to first register anything you post, even on your own site, which is what Reznicki does. Small consolation in an online world that strips copyright data from Exif headers and has no respect for creators.

Forms and an Index close out the book. We wish the forms were downloadable but they're only starting points for discussion with your own attorney, after all.

Quibbles aside, this is a classic that you'll not only keep handy and but keep open for reference. It's the one indispensable tool for any photographer that won't have to be packed around in your camera bag.

The Copyright Zone by Ed Greenberg, J.D. and Jack Reznicki, published by Focal Press, 342 pages, $34.95 (or $32.20 at

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