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Copyright in relation to Photography

The copyright of a photograph belongs to the person who took it - Copyright Designs & Patents Act 1988 - the only exception being employed photographers or employees taking photographs as part of their work, where it is his or her employer who owns the copyright unless they have a contractual agreement to the contrary.

In practice, this means that clients may only use photographs taken by a professional photographer in ways that have been agreed at the time they were commissioned. If further uses are required at a later date, permission must be sought from the copyright holder and an additional fee agreed.

For this reason, it is essential that clients specify the uses to which images will be used - in writing - when briefing the photographer and requesting a quotation. This agreement then forms part of the contract. The contract should cover how the work will be used, where (geographically) it will be used and for how long it will be used.

Copyright can be assigned to another person or company, but only if the photographer agrees. Assignment of copyright should be in writing. With simple images that are unlikely to have no wider commercial value, such as events and some press photographs, some photographers will be happy to assign copyright to their client. However, where the picture is more creative, or has further economic potential, for example, seasonal photography in Westonbirt, the photographer may be reluctant to give up copyright unless a higher fee is paid.

Another solution would be for the client to be granted exclusive rights for an agreed period of time. Assigning only those rights required by the client may allow the photographer to offer a more competitive day rate or shot rate than if all imaginable usage rights were granted.

At the end of the day, it is in the interests of all parties to know what is being agreed, hence the importance of a written contract.

Find out more information on copyright in relation to photography on the UK Intellectual Property Office site

Last updated: 2nd June 2018