When I was photographing some cycling events there was a rider that would say to me “you can’t take my photo, I haven’t given you permission”. In response I would say, “I don’t need your permission”. He thought I needed his permission because I was photographing him. Then many riders, mainly juniors, would think they owned the images because the images had them in them. This is a common problem and one that was brought up last week as well. I thought today we might have a look at Copyright ownership, or who owns the copyright on the photos.
Again, most of what I am going to say will refer to is Australian Law. While much is similar from country to country, state to state, it is something that I recommend you all find out about in your own country.
So, according to our laws, the first owner of copyright is the photographer, the person who took the image, and not necessarily the person who owns the camera. So if you lend your camera to someone, and they take a photo, then that image will belong to them, not you. However, for most of us here, it means if you take a photo, then the copyright belongs to you and you can do what you wish with that image. Of course there are always going to be exceptions.
The rules are different again for photos that are commissioned for newspapers and magazines. I am not going to go into them here, as I don’t think it is of major concern to us here, but if you are taking photos for magazines and newspapers then you should be aware of what your rights are and what you are allowed to use the photos for.
But what happens when someone commissions you or pays you to take photos?
In Australia the laws vary according to the date that they were taken. For the purpose of this blog we will look at the law as it stands now and has done since 1998.
If you are paid to take photos for private purposes, such as wedding photos, family portraits, child portraits etc, then the ownership and therefore copyright will belong to the client, or the person who has paid you to take the photos.
The image above, as most of you know, is of my daughter. It is a portrait and would be considered an image taken for private use. If this was not my daughter, and her family had paid me to take this image then I wouldn’t be able to put this image here without the parents permission and for my own protection I would get a model release form signed as well.
I know some photographers have it as part of the agreement or contract with clients that they can use some images for publicity. Though, I am sure if you said you didn’t want that they would still take your photo.
If, however, you are paid to take photos for commercial purposes then the images still belong to you unless you come to an understanding with your client.
It is quite interesting to read.
In November, you may recall, that I went to the BMX State Championships at Knox. I was being paid to be there and my job was to photograph the women and girls at the racing. As the images are to be used for commercial purposes, I would suppose that the images still belong to me. However, I would assume that they aren’t mine to sell. The image on the right was of the men racing, I took some while waiting for the women/girls, so I am pretty sure I own the copyright on them.
Another area that can be confusing is when you are taking photos in a building that you think is public but isn’t. Many sports stadiums are thought to be public, but they aren’t. Usually the people who own the building, the government organisation or private owners have the say on who can take photos in their buildings. Generally if you have the owners permission to take photos in that building then you don’t need the permission of the individuals.
At the beginning I talked about the kid who said I couldn’t photograph him. As it was a cycling event, in a velodrome, he may have been able to make a case, but since I had the permission of Cycling Victoria to take photos for myself and them, I didn’t need the kids permission. Of course, you have to be reasonable and if someone really doesn’t want you to use their images, then why would you? It will be better in the long run not to use that image and use another one.
I have only ever had one person say I couldn’t photograph their child or put photos of their child up on my website, I obeyed, even though the images were taken on public roads, it was easier to exclude them and not put them up. In the end, the parents gave their permission after it was obvious that their child was the one being blurred out of images.
For links to various countries copyright organisations then please go back to last weeks post, The Public in the Copyright Issue.