Copyright Explained (briefly)

May 2, 2019

Photographic copyright explained in it’s most basic sense is this, if you press the button you own the copyright.

If you pay a professional photographer to take pictures, the photographer still owns the copyright, unless expressly agreed in advance. As a photographer I can tell another person what settings to use, which direction to point the camera and even tell them when to press the shutter release (if I was so inclined) but regardless of the control and intention, the person pressing the button would still own the copyright, with a few caveats such as being an employee.

When you employ a professional photographer to take photographs on your behalf you are aren’t buying the copyright. If you want to own the copyright then you will need to agree that in advance and pay the relevant fees for this. However, you don’t need to own the copyright. If you are looking for a photographer to take images for you and you don’t want to pay to own the copyright, don’t worry – you’ll be granted the use to do whatever you want with the images.

You will be able to print, publish online, print billboards or t-shirts or whatever. The only restrictions will be that you can’t directly profit from the images by selling or loaning them. The other reason you shouldn’t worry is because your photographer should offer you exclusive use so you shouldn’t expect to see your images on somebody else’s marketing material.

The other side of the copyright coin is knowing when you can use an image that you haven’t paid for. If you haven’t found yourself a photographer or bought stock images then you run the risk or copyright infringement. In this scenario the rule of thumb is super easy. If you have permission to use the images then you’re fine. If you don’t have permission or you’re not sure if you have permission don’t use them. Simple.

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