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Copyright How important is it to a Photographer ??? - part 2 of 1 2

by Lee Broders Published 01/12/2016

There is also a difference between owning an actual physical work and owning the copyright. An example is if a client buys a canvas from you, they do not own the copyright and therefore do not have the permission to copy the canvas. Another point is that for any photographs that are taken in the course of employment (working for another), the copyright is owned by the employer.

It has been established that in general the copyright is owned by the photographer. This copyright lasts for the life of the photographer, plus an additional 70 years, as defined in CDPA 1988 and The Duration of Copyright and Rights in Performances Regulations 1995. As previously mentioned, the copyright owner has exclusive rights over the image, with the photographer protecting their work with restrictive acts. The restricted acts for photographs are copying, communicating the work to the public, renting or lending the work to the public and issuing copies to the public. The first two are usually the most common for photographers.

It is important for photographers to protect their images, which can be done in several ways, but subsequently it should be possible to identify the copyright owner of the image. This can be done by visibly, watermarking the photograph and having copyright notices in the metadata. Additionally, if advertising the images on websites, be sure that the website carries proper information about the copyright ownership of the images.

Copyright infringement deals with the restricted acts mentioned above, both as primary and secondary infringements. Where the liability of the restricted acts, ie copying is not dependent on the knowledge of the infringement, this is a primary infringement. Whereas, knowledge of the infringement is required for a secondary infringement ie selling unlicensed copies on a market stall.


There are several ways in which photographic copyright can be infringed.

These are typically, if the images are used but the customer fails to pay or comply with some contractual terms, if the client uses the photographs outside the original terms of the licence, or others copy the photograph without clearing the rights with the photographer.

If there is an infringement it is firstly best to discus with the client and negotiate, as it could just be a misunderstanding. If this is not the case, you will need to notify the person who is infringing the copyright; this can be done with a “letter before claim”, which can be sent by you or it may be best to seek advice from a copyright specialist.

Enforcement of copyright infringements can be actioned by the copyright owners, their heirs (70 years after death) or an exclusive licensee, and are usually dealt with in civil courts, though in some circumstances criminal proceedings can be brought.

It can be seen that, if a photographer has a basic understanding of their rights under copyright law, then they will be able to identify ownership of not just their own, but others' copyright. They will be able to identify infringement of the restricted acts that are defined in UK law, and be able to protect and enforce the copyright and ownership of their images should a copyright infringement occur.


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1st Published 01/12/2016
last update 06/11/2019 11:05:12

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