Fundamentally, the rule is this: if you make something that is a creative, original work then you are the copyright holder.
Now that the US has signed the Berne Convention (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berne_convention) it is no longer the case that you need do anything to establish your rights. Under US law, however, statutory damages and attorney's fees may only be awarded in the case of registered works. In the US, copyright is administered by the United States Copyright Office, a part of the Library of Congress. More information on US copyright law, and the registration process, can be retrieved from the Copyright Office's web site, (http://www.copyright.gov).
What this means to you is that every photograph you take and every slide show you produce is protected by copyright. All rights are yours until you transfer them to someone else, temporarily or permanently, completely or in specific. When you give or sell someone the photograph or slideshow, you may grant any rights you wish and withhold any rights you wish. And what are those rights?
There are five basic rights protected by copyright. The holder of copyright has the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to do the following:
- * reproduce the work (make copies in any form)
* prepare derivative works using the work
* distribute copies to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending
* publicly perform the work
* publicly display the work
Anyone who violates any of these exclusive rights of the copyright holder is said to have engaged in copyright infringement.
For anyone making slideshows for someone else (paid or not), there’s a vital point that needs to be made here but first we need the concept of transferring these rights. Three types of transfers exist:
- * Assignment
* Exclusive License
* Non-exclusive License
The important point is that when images (or video or music) are provided to you to make the slide show, you need (at least) the derivative work right to be transferred with them. Unless the copyright holder* transfers (by assignment) full rights to you, they retain all rights not explicitly transferred—they are not yours to do with as you wish. Conversely, the resulting slideshow is a new work, a derivative work, and the copyright for that is yours exclusively unless you transfer it to the other person--which you must do, in part, so they can perform (play) it. The exchange of property and rights should be spelled out clearly in a written contract (technically a verbal contract works but it’s harder to enforce).
*Warning: there’s an assumption here that the person providing you the material for the show is the copyright holder and, therefore, has the right let you make the slideshow (i.e., transfers the right to make a derivative work to you). That might not be the case. If they aren’t the person that made the images, the music and/or the video, then they do not have the right to make a derivative work and, therefore, they must obtain that right before giving the material to you—they can’t transfer that right to you if they didn’t have it! Failure to do so means that the resulting derivative work, your slideshow, will infringe the rights of the real copyright holders. Language in the contract specifying that the other person has the necessary rights for the material may (or may not) protect you but it won’t change the fact of infringement.
This topic is so dependent on the specifics of the infringement, that it’s hard to say too much useful. If you need more information, seek the advice of an attorney or at least read some of the online resources. Still here are a couple very basic notes:
What happens if you infringe someone’s copyright or someone infringes yours? Absolutely nothing—unless and until the rights holder takes action. No one will protect your rights except you.
Almost all copyright actions are civil cases and the result will fall into two categories: injunctions and damage recovery. An injunction is simply an order to stop the infringing activity and may include provisions for recovery or destruction of the infringing material. Monetary damages can either be recovery of their actual damages and any additional profits of the defendant or statutory damages.
Caveat: This information is the opinion of it's author and does not constitute legal advice of any kind. Risk associated with the use or misuse of this information is entirely the responsibility of the reader. If these issues are important to you, consult an intellectual property rights attorney.