Short Copyright guidance for a photographer.

Short Copyright guidance for a photographer.

   First of all why is it me who is writing this guidance?

   I am a multiple award winning and published photographer with 16 years of experience. I have a University degree in marketing and commerce. I have experience of work in advertising, printing, publishing and movie business. I also have an experience of marketing work in several multinational companies. So I just have some useful knowledge to share.

   It won’t be long and complete but I hope you might find it easy to use.

- Where can you read about Copyright Law:

1. Copyright Law of the United Statesand Related Laws Contained in Title 17 of the United States Code

Last release: May 2021

2. Easy way to understand photographers rights:

Copyright Law: Understanding Your Rights as a Photographer

- What is a photography copyright?

   In simple words it means that all rights for a created image (pictorial) work belong to a photographer.

Copyright Law of the United States . Chapter 1, §101

“A work is “created” when it is fixed in a copy or phonorecord for the first time;

”Copyright Law of the United States . Chapter 1, §102

“Works of authorship include the following categories:…

5. (5) pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works;"

- What does pictorial work mean?

   Copyright Law of the United States . Chapter 1, §101

   “Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works” include two-dimensional and three-dimensional works of fine, graphic, and applied art, photographs, prints and art reproductions, maps, globes, charts, diagrams, models, and technical drawings, including architectural plans. Such works shall include works of artistic craftsmanship insofar as their form but not their mechanical or utilitarian aspects are concerned; the design of a useful article, as defined in this section, shall be considered a pictorial, graphic, or sculptural work only if, and only to the extent that, such design incorporates pictorial, graphic, or sculptural features that can be identified separately from, and are capable of existing independently of, the utilitarian aspects of the article.”

   So copyright, that belongs to a photographer and to him only, appears the same moment as the photograph has been created.

- What does copyright mean?

   It means that all rights to an image belong to the photographer. He can, post this image in social media, he can sell this image, he can give it for free, he can print, publish this image etc.

   Does it mean that anyone can use a photograph if it has been uploaded to the internet?

   NO. it is protected by Copyright law.

   Does it mean that if the client has paid for a digital copy of a photo he owns the same rights as a photographer and can resell, print, publish etc. this image?

   NO. Unless he received a proper rights for it.

   Does it mean that anyone can make a copy of a photograph from the internet or from any media source and reprint, paint, cut or whatever for further commercial purposes?

   NO. That is consider to be a derivative work.

   Copyright Law of the United States . Chapter 1, §101

   A “derivative work” is a work based upon one or more preexisting works, such as a translation, musical arrangement, dramatization, fictionalization, motion picture version, sound recording, art reproduction, abridgment, condensation, or any other form in which a work may be recast, transformed, or adapted. A work consisting of editorial revisions, annotations, elaborations, or other modifications, which, as a whole, represent an original work of authorship, is a “derivative work”.

   Copyright Law: Understanding Your Rights as a Photographer

   “By comparing and evaluating a derivative work to the original, a court of law can determine if any copyright laws have been violated.”

   Does it mean that if the photograph has been created while a photographer has been hired to take this photo the rights belong to a photographer?


   Copyright Law of the United States . Chapter 2, §201

   “In the case of a work made for hire, the employer or other person for whom the work was prepared is considered the author for purposes of this title, and, unless the parties have expressly agreed otherwise in a written instrument signed by them, owns all of the rights comprised in the copyright.”

  So make sure you have discussed all the copyright details with your employer and sighed the agreement before you have started to work.

- Who owns the rights if it was a joint work or a team work?

   Copyright Law of the United States . Chapter 2, §201

   “The authors of a joint work are co-owners of copyright in the work.”

- Can a photographer transfer the ownership of copyrights?


   There are many ways to transfer the rights. It can be transfer of exclusive rights, exclusive license for a concrete period of time, non exclusive license, print release etc.

   Contact the lawyer for more details to be sure you will sign the right agreement.

   Working with a model. Does the model have the same rights as a photographer?


   All rights still belong to a photographer. But the photographer and model should sign a model release to avoid further problems with image distribution.

   The importance of model release:


- Working on public events such as sports, concerts et. Do contestants own the same rights as photographers?


  Some public events are open or have accreditation system when a photographer should get a permission to be able to take photos. Photographers can do the whole event or just a few first songs at some concerts, they can have full access or can be allowed to be in a certain zone. It all depends on the event. But still they own the copyrights for the taken images.

  This part is the most complicated. For example, in some places it is prohibited to take photos of kids even at public events. So you need to be sure you know the law of the place you are working at. You can take a photo of a person at the public event, you have all rights, you have rights to sell or publish the image, but you may face with the further difficulties so it is better to ask a written permission for further commercial or advertising mage use if the person on the image is separated from other participants of the event and may not want to associate himself as an individual with certain media, advertising company, brand or event. Better to ask but that does’t mean you must.

  The person may ask to remove the image but sometimes it causes a Streisand effect when an attempt to remove the image attracts more unwilling attention to it.

  The person who took part at the event can not use a photographer’s image as a copyright co-owner just based on the fact that he was on the photo.

- Fair use

  This is interesting part that stands a little bit out of Copyright low.

  Copyright Law of the United States . Chapter 1, §107

   “Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include—

(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;

(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.”

  Social media isn’t considered to be the Fair USE

  Even having this Fair Use chapter it is still fair to give the credential.

- Does the copyright mark on the photo means it is copyrighted?


  It doesn’t matter whether it is with a signature or not it is still copyrighted.A signature or watermark helps you to identify and refer to the author.

   At the end I want to say.

   This is just a few main question you may face during your photography work. Read law, contact lawyers, get profeccional advice, find useful articles, sign agreements, know your rights and protect yourself.