Pro­tect­ing your pho­tos

Some­times things aren’t as clear-cut as they may seem. We tackle some of the most com­mon ques­tions…

Digital Photo (UK) - - NEXT STEPS -

Who owns an im­age’s copy­right if it’s an as­sis­tant who pressed the shut­ter?

Usu­ally in this sit­u­a­tion, un­less a con­tract stated oth­er­wise, the copy­right would be at­trib­uted to the per­son that made the cre­ative de­ci­sions when set­ting up the shot and se­lect­ing the cho­sen cam­era set­tings. This is be­cause the out­come of the im­age was pre­con­ceived and planned be­fore the shut­ter was pressed on the cam­era it­self. That said, de­pend­ing on the ar­range­ments of a shoot, it’s pos­si­ble for mul­ti­ple peo­ple to own the copy­right of an im­age.

Can ideas be copy­righted?

No. The only thing cov­ered by copy­right is the ex­pres­sion of an idea. Just be­cause you thought about tak­ing a sim­i­lar shot to some­one else, even if it has the same com­po­si­tion, pro­cess­ing and so on, doesn’t mean that they’ve in­fringed your rights.

Do I need to get a model to sign a re­lease?

If you in­tend to sell an im­age com­mer­cially, or think that per­haps one day you might, it’s almost al­ways es­sen­tial to have signed a model re­lease form for any­one that’s clearly iden­ti­fi­able in the shot. This con­tract pro­tects you from fu­ture law­suits in which the per­son fea­tured may claim things such as defama­tion of char­ac­ter. It will state the terms un­der which you may choose to ex­ploit the im­age, and any ex­cep­tions that they ob­ject to. This agree­ment is usu­ally made in re­turn for ei­ther prints or a pay­ment to the sub­ject for their time.

What is meant by ‘or­phan work’?

Im­ages that are classed as ‘or­phan works’ are copy­right pro­tected, but whose rights hold­ers can’t be traced or con­tacted. Through the govern­ment’s In­tel­lec­tual Prop­erty Of­fice a li­cence to use these pho­tos com­mer­cially or non-com­mer­cially can be ap­plied for in re­turn for a fee, fol­low­ing a dili­gent search for their owner. If you are a rights’ holder and be­lieve your im­age has been li­censed as an or­phan work you can stop fur­ther li­cences be­ing granted and claim any fees that have al­ready been paid.

Why does a lo­cal lab want me to prove that the im­ages I’m print­ing are mine?

Photo labs have a le­gal obli­ga­tion to en­sure that they don’t in­fringe copy­right laws by mak­ing prints of pro­tected im­ages. For that rea­son, many labs will have a dis­claimer or waiver for their cus­tomers to sign if they sus­pect that an im­age may be pro­tected, and these forms must be com­pleted be­fore labs agree to make a copy for you.

With a team cre­at­ing im­ages to­gether, con­fu­sion can arise about who owns an im­age’s copy­right.

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