Britain?s future photographers have been warned they must protect their copyright because it will serve as their ?lifeblood?, allowing freelancers to build up their businesses.

?The only reason one can sell images to so many markets at the same time is because you own your copyright. It is a very precious commodity. Nobody should be allowed to take it away from you,? said Pete Jenkins, vice-chair of the National Union of Journalists? Photographers Sub-Committee.

Addressing University of Westminster students this week Jenkins stressed the importance of retaining copyright in today?s market of ?fee erosion? and ?increasingly detrimental? contracts.

?I can?t make enough money from a single commission, or a single sale to a newspaper but thanks to my copyright I can sell the right to use my images to multiple clients, again and again and again,? he said.

Jenkins pointed out that under copyright legislation no-one is allowed to copy, use or otherwise make money from an original work ?without reference to the creator and appropriate payment?.

He told the students: ?When I was younger we didn?t have copyright in the same way that we do today. I could go and do a half-day shift for a newspaper such as the Daily Telegraph and earn £60. This would be the same as a forklift truck driver would earn in a week. In 1978 these were 60 very good reasons to stop being a forklift truck driver and become a full-time professional sports photographer.?

Jenkins asserted: ?Thirty years later a similar warehouseman will be earning £300 but that same sports shift for a national newspaper will earn the photographer between £135 and £175 depending on the publication ? the same as in 1994. As photographers? overheads have more than doubled since then it is clear that the overall value of photography has gone down and this seriously affects photographers? ability to earn a living.?

For details of copyright legislation visit