Posts from: October 2015

Want to Get a Photography Business Started in Illinois?

Levin Ginsburg attorney, Dean Tatooles, is an avid photographer and spends the majority of his free time with others that share his passion for photography. Many photographers, like Dean, are also professionals from a wide range of disciplines. Some of those professionals are interested in marketing and possibly selling their images. To that end, Dean is frequently asked how to get a photography business started up in Illinois. Although not all encompassing, below are a few tips for getting a photography business legally up and running.

First, you should determine what type of business entity you will use. In Illinois, the two most common types of business entities used by photographers are limited liability companies (“LLCs”) and corporations. An LLC provides a business structure that can combine “pass-through taxation” like a partnership, with the limited liability protection of a corporation. A corporation also provides for limited liability and can provide other tax benefits that an LLC cannot provide.

Then you should choose a name in which you desire to conduct your business. You could use your own name (“Jonathan Dough Photography”) or you may prefer to use a different name (“Sunshine Photography”). If you are incorporating or organizing an LLC, then you need to determine whether a particular business name is available. You can visit the Illinois Secretary of State’s name search website at A desired business name must be recognizably different from others, which are already on-file. If you are operating as a general partnership or a sole proprietorship, then you need to check the county records where the business is located.

Once you have created a name for your business and have determined the type of business entity (we will presume you have elected to be either an LLC or a corporation), it is time to make the photography business official with the state of Illinois.

An LLC’s name in Illinois must end with the words “Limited Liability Company”, “L.L.C.”, or “LLC.” Similarly, any domestic corporation’s name in Illinois must include either “Corporation”, “Company”, “Incorporated”, “Limited”, or an abbreviation of any of these words. An LLC may be the easiest route to go as it does not have the extensive corporate formalities and requirements of a corporation but offers, among other things, the limited liability protection of a corporation.

Often times, photography businesses operate under a “trade name” after they are formed. If an entity conducts with a name other than the name officially registered with the Illinois Secretary of State, an “Assumed Business Name Registration” must also be filed with the Illinois Secretary of State.

There is no requirement to register a photography business with the Federal government; however, it must be registered with the Illinois Department of Revenue if business is conducted in Illinois, or with Illinois customers. Once registration is complete, a certificate of registration and State Tax ID Number will be issued. These documents also serve as the business’s sales tax permit, retailer permit, and/or wholesaler permit. You may also need to register with the city and county in which you do business.

Likewise, a Federal Tax ID Number or “FEIN” is required by the Federal government to identify a business entity and is necessary to open a bank account. A business seeking to obtain a FEIN can apply for one online here at

As a final point, a photography business requires a significant investment of both time and money. Business insurance should be secured to help minimize the risks associated with running a business and against unexpected events that may occur. If a photography business has employees, business insurance, such as worker’s compensation insurance and unemployment insurance are required.

If you have specific questions about starting up your photography business, please do not hesitate to contact us:

Dean Tatooles at: or 312-368-0100

Which Images Can you Use in Your Business and Which Ones You Can’t!

Have you ever received a cease and desist letter from a company that claims (allegedly) that the image you thought was free and in the public domain is actually owned by them? What if they were right? Your company may be unintentionally engaging in copyright infringement. And, if you re-post an image that someone else posted, you could be liable for contributory infringement. The problem with the “we didn’t mean to” defense to copyright infringement is that it is not a defense.

By understanding a few of the basics covered in this article, you may be able to avoid legal exposure and costly litigation.

Even more important than where you obtain images, is what you plan to do with them; that is, how you plan to use them. Non-commercial use is the use of an image if you do not sell a product or service and do not generate revenue. Examples of non-commercial use include educational uses, news reporting, blog writing, etc. Commercial use is if businesses use images that promote the ideas they want to convey about their products or services, and they use the images to sell more products, and therefore, increase company revenues.

Different types of stock images and licenses are available:

I-stock (, Getty images ( and others offer different types of licenses, each with different types of permitted uses, and restrictions.

Typically the more extensive the license, the more expensive the license. Some standard licenses restrict use to non-commercial uses. Some other standard licenses permit some commercial use, but only for certain images.

If you want to re-sell the images themselves, or even re-sell them as part of a collective work you create (like a calendar with various images), you will need a more extensive license than the standard one.

Below is a list of the Creative Commons license types, with basic descriptions adapted from the Creative Commons website descriptions:

Attribution: This license allows you to use, distribute copy, create derivative works from the work, and even use it commercially, as long as you credit the maker of the original creation. This is the broadest type of creative commons license.

Attribution-ShareAlike: This license lets you use, copy, distribute, create derivative works from the Creative Commons work, use it for commercial purposes, as long as you credit the original maker and you license any new creations under identical terms. A derivative work is a work that you create from another person’s work such as, making a calendar from a group of photos taken by other people.  All new works based on your own derivative work will, of course, carry this same license, so any derivatives will also allow commercial use.

Attribution-NoDerivs: This license allows for commercial and non-commercial use, and copying and re-distributing as long as it is distributed unchanged and as a whole, with credit to the original maker.  This option prohibits derivative works.

Attribution-NonCommercial: This license lets you remix, tweak, and build upon a Creative Commons work non-commercially, and although any new works must also acknowledge the original maker and be non-commercial, you don’t have to license the derivative works on the same terms.

Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike: This license lets you remix, tweak, and build upon a Creative Commons work non-commercially, as long as you credit the original maker and license any new creations under the identical terms.

Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs: This license is the most restrictive of the six main licenses, only allowing you to download the work and share it with others provided that you give proper credit, but you can’t change the work in any way or use it commercially.

All of the Creative Commons licenses fall into one of the six categories discussed herein. They range from the broadest, attribution, to the most restrictive, Attribution – NonCommercial-NoDerivs.  Since they are arranged from the most freedom to the most restrictions, if a license is silent on an issue, it means that the action is not restricted.   In other words, the restrictions will be listed, if they exist.

For example, an Attribution-only license is the least restrictive, because its only requirement is that the licensee give proper credit to the original author of the work; otherwise, you’re free to use the work however you see fit. The last license on the list, the Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivs, is the most restrictive.

Once you determine what sort of use you will need, the fun part is finding the Creative Commons image.  Years ago, you would have needed to find the photographer and negotiate a license arrangement.  That is, if you could find him or her.  Today, fortunately, much easier ways to license photographs exist.  You may wish to go directly to the Creative Commons website, at  Another alternative is to visit other sites that license photographs like Flickr ( ) , IStock (  or Getty ( . Each site has its advantages and disadvantages but are for the most part, easy to use and understand.  The most important thing is that you select an image that permits use for the way you will use it, and then following the rules of use.

By following these steps, you can more easily avoid legal problems and spend more time promoting your business.  If you have specific questions about a particular image or other copyright issue, please do not hesitate to contact us:

Natalie A. Remien at: or 312-368-0100


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