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Copyright around the world

After having a sneaky magazine run a full page image of mine in a recent issue and claim they didn’t know the image had copyright, i’ve been looking at how various countries approach the copyright issue.

Over at Heather Morton’s “Ask an Art Buyer” blog, she posted this http://www.heathermorton.ca/blog/?p=761

The thing that struck me the most was this statement “So, in Canada, and only in Canada, the photographer has to have a contract that says he owns the copyright.”

Out of interest, what do you all do to push home the point about who owns the copyright for any image?

by Daniel Cuthbert at 2008-09-18 07:41:14 UTC (ed. Sep 19 2008 ) Umhlanga Rocks , South Africa | Bookmark | | Report spam→

If I am hired to produce an image or a set of images, I would accept that the people who hire me get to have ownership of the images. As a video cameraman, I am very often required to shoot something and simply hand over the tapes. The issue of copyright doesn’t even come up – you paid me to shoot it, it’s yours. Only if I generate stuff myself for my own purposes do I demand that my copyright be respected.

It works like this in most industries: a software engineer/programmer/scientist signs an agreement that all intellectual property he generates while on the job belongs to the company. The DOP/Cinematographer, or the camera operator, on the Steven Spielberg movie doesn’t get to claim it’s “his” movie – it’s a Steven Spielberg movie in terms of attribution, although even then the actualy ownership most commonly is in the studio which produced (paid for) it.


by BignoseTW | 18 Sep 2008 07:09 | Taipei, Taiwan | | Report spam→

What is written above is complete bollocks.

Unless you sign a contract relinquishing copyright(which is totally stupid, unless it’s big bucks financially beneficial to do so) you retain the copyright on everything you shoot regardless if it’s on a commission or not.

I have successfully sued on 2 occasions where my copyright has been infringed and won both.

I am in the process of suing a book publisher for infringing my copyright on an article I wrote in 2001! It only came to my attention recently.

Where is the magazine based who infringed your copyright? Is it realistic to sue?

If so write to them and say they have infringed your copyright and make a calculation on the level of compensation you require.

Make sure you mention that your offer is without prejudice save as to legal costs and furthermore say failure to reach an amicable agreement will result in legal proceedings against them.

Also check to see if you have the same protection as we have in the UK set out in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act which clearly states what constitutes copyright infringement. The defence of "we did not know the image had copyright is total bullshit.

mail me markseageruk if you prefer.


by [former member] | 18 Sep 2008 10:09 | London, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
Agreed, most of the article is FUD.

As for the magazine, I’m still working out SA’s laws pertaining to copyright, I’m not even sure this magazine will be around for much longer, so it’s a concern to spend cash on lawyers when the magazine might not even be here in 6 months.

by Daniel Cuthbert | 18 Sep 2008 11:09 | Umhlanga Rocks, South Africa | | Report spam→
I had to look up FUD as I am not familar with internet abbreviations, found it and agree.
Next time RTFM Sorce: http://forum.cabalonline.com/showthread.php?t=20511&highlight=abbreviation

Yeah possibly not worth getting a lawyer involved but maybe worth writing a letter anyway, you never know they might get worried and offer you something.

Are you still coming to London in October?

by [former member] | 18 Sep 2008 11:09 | London, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
hah, sorry forgot about that, this intaweb lark really ruins your ability to speak the queens english.

Land on the 1st October, so expect a call

by Daniel Cuthbert | 18 Sep 2008 11:09 | Umhlanga Rocks, South Africa | | Report spam→
Currently have nothing going on early October so hopefully See you then.


by [former member] | 18 Sep 2008 11:09 | London, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
I don’t want to highjack this discussion, but Mark, what Daniel states on the initial post about Canada is not completely incorrect.

In Canada when you sign a contract to provide photographic services you have to explicitly specify that you will retain the copyright on your photographs.

If not ¨”Under Section 13(2) of the Canadian Copyright Act, any person or corporation that hires a photographer (commissions a work) will automatically own the copyright in that work, once the work has been paid for UNLESS there is an agreement to the contrary.”

In Canada you don’t need to “sign a contract relinquishing copyright” of your work because you are not granted automatic copyright on it.

I would recommend all Canadian Photographers to visit the Canadian Association of Photographers and Illustrators in Communications website to understand Canadian Copyright Law.


by Ion Etxebarria | 18 Sep 2008 13:09 (ed. Sep 18 2008) | Montréal, Christmas Island | | Report spam→
Ion I was not referring to Daniels question about Canadian law but the copyright law in general. There is a response in this thread that is baseless because it does not refer to any particular country, it’s a generalization and so incorrect.

I suppose if you work for any of the major wire agencies as staff or shoot video for anyone as staff then I would imagine it’s in the contract that the media organization you are working for retains copyright.

However, the whole point of being a freelancer is that you retain copyright to be able to sell the work to as many magazines/media organizations as possible after any embargo has expired assuming it was shot on a commission and an embargo is in place prior to undertaking the commission.

I suppose it can become ambiguous to who owns copyright say in a situation where you are on assignment to shoot something specific and capture a worthy news event that would be lucrative to sell to a highest bidder. Who would own the copyright in that situation.

I wouldn’t know which is why media lawyers can make a lot of money in a dispute like that.

In any case Daniel is referring to a magazine that has used his image(s) without consent and that constitutes copyright infringement so Canadian law is irrelevant anyway.

I could be wrong in assuming Daniel has retained the copyright on the images that have been used but I personally would not shoot anything unless I retained copyright and would never relinquish my copyright except where it was financially viable to do so.


by [former member] | 18 Sep 2008 15:09 | London, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
Canada is a signatory country of the Berne Convention. Complete BS.

Ion, that’s similar to what we refer to in the US and other countries as “work for hire”. That’s different than not being automatically being granted copyrights to work you created without commission though, which is what is suggested in the quote in the original post.

If you guys want to read the specifics, google “Berne Concention”, that’s what much of copyright laws around the world are built on and “work for hire” – specific language has to be used in the contract (at least in the US) for it to be considered “work for hire”.

by Tommy Huynh | 18 Sep 2008 19:09 (ed. Sep 18 2008) | Vancouver, Canada | | Report spam→
i have been informed by an IP lawyer here that even if you sign something conveying copyright (or essentially exclusive usage rights in perpetuity) you still do not lose your copyright. It’s actually simple….if you pressed the shutter then the photo is yours and will be forever, whatever you sign or are co-erced to sign just in the effort to stay afloat in this ridiculous career.

by Chris Lusher | 19 Sep 2008 06:09 | Hong Kong, China | | Report spam→
Agree with Chris. correct me if I am wrong but the same goes in Oz and the UK…

If you press the shutter copyright is yours, its the license or rights/ usage that you actually negotiate on price for.

BTW I had the same thing happen (similar anyway) and sucessfully sued. While the actual pay out went ME -25% / SOLICITORS -75% I still reckon it was worth it just on principle.

People that run magazines and websites should know better and if not they need to learn they can’t just lift an image from where ever the hell they like. Thats theiving in any other language so why would they be exempt?

Go after them, the media industry makes a lot of money for the accountants its time we reclaimed our industry!!!!

by lisa hogben | 19 Sep 2008 07:09 | Sydney, Australia | | Report spam→
Hi Chris, Lisa.

Your right but a license to allow exclusive usage rights in perpetuity is effectively selling the copyright on the image because the saleable rights to the image have passed to a third party.

Chris IP is a minefield which is why we as photographers should at least get familiar with the basics of copyright law. For instance all these so called “competitions” are effectively a rights grabbing exercise.

You enter a competition and in the small print allow the organisers a license to use the entered image as they see fit so there’s a chance you could be driving along the highway 1 year after not winning even a mention in the competition and there slap bang staring down at you from a billboard is YOUR image advertising skimpy underwear or a new EXTA cold beer and you would have not received a penny!

Always read the small print.
My friend has a saying “There’s only one thing that counts in this life-Get them to sign on the line which is dotted” ideally without reading the small print!

Lisa good on you for going after the magazine that nicked your picture(s).

I totally agree-It’s the principle not always the money although you should of got the 75%.


by [former member] | 19 Sep 2008 10:09 (ed. Sep 19 2008) | London, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
Here in NZ you have to expressly retain the copyright if you are working on commission. If you do not, the client gets the copyright by default.

We get around this by having T&C’s that expressly retain the copyright and issuing licences to the client to use the images.

Fortunately for us, the government announced (finally) about 2 weeks ago that it will do away with the so-called “Commissioning Rule” ASAP.

by Marcus Adams | 04 Oct 2008 20:10 | wellington, New Zealand | | Report spam→
This is a complicated area and I am not going to give out advice (don’t do that any more).

In the US, when you are working for someone else other than as a full-time employee, the copyrightable work you create belongs to you unless you sign an agreement that gives it away to the person/entity that hires you.

I am not an expert in any other country’s copyright laws, but I believe that there are some countries where that is NOT the rule. It sounds like Canada may be one of those.

In general, you need to know how this rule works for the countries in which you work, because if the country does not follow the US rule, you may well need to preserve your right to the copyright by explicitly doing so in whatever engagement agreement you enter into (or if you don’t have a written one, you may need to have one which defines your right to the copyright).

by [former member] | 04 Oct 2008 23:10 | Washington, DC, United States | | Report spam→
Ignorance is no excuse, but many publishers presume themselves innocent and plea in mitigation.

During the last months Getty Images’ law office in germany has sent thousands of costly warnings to companies that used Getty photos on web sites. Each notice included a bill of around 1000 Euros per image. They must have made millions because most people paid to avoid a lawsuit. A nice harvest festival…

Why don’t you just send a nice, costly demand bill to that publisher, with some extra costs for unauthorized use of your image? Set a time limit of two weeks, announce that you will sue them without further ado. I am sure they will call you, then, via phone, I would tell them that you will bring this issue to the local association of photo agencies and photographers which might cause that they are blacklisted. It’s a kind of blackmailing, but often it works. Even if you end up in a compromise which might be your regular price for the image, it’s better than nothing.

by Clemens | 05 Oct 2008 09:10 | Mainz, Germany | | Report spam→
Hi Guys i’m writing from Italy, here by law the copyright of each photo you take is yours!!! When you make a specific job especially adv or something similar you normally give this to your client and he pays for this, otherwise if don’t, you will always remain the keeper of the copyright. In any case is always better to specify in your contract, just few words and few cents of your pen :) I’m a photojournalist here and we have so many problems in this beautiful sunny country!!!

Hugs for everybody!!!!


by Daniele Del Castillo | 08 Oct 2008 17:10 | Milan, Italy | | Report spam→

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Daniel Cuthbert, button clicker Daniel Cuthbert
button clicker
London , United Kingdom ( LHR )
BignoseTW, Videographer/Photographer BignoseTW
(Tobie Openshaw)
Taipei , Taiwan
Ion Etxebarria, Photographer Ion Etxebarria
Montréal , Christmas Island
Tommy Huynh, Travel & Corporate Photog Tommy Huynh
Travel & Corporate Photog
Houston , United States
Chris Lusher, Photographer Chris Lusher
Hong Kong , China
lisa hogben, Visualjournalist! lisa hogben
Sydney , Australia
Marcus Adams, Photographer & Guide Marcus Adams
Photographer & Guide
(Guide, Photographer & Fixer)
Singapore , Singapore
Clemens, NGP (Non Governmental Per Clemens
NGP (Non Governmental Per
Mainz , Germany
Daniele Del Castillo, Photojournalist Daniele Del Castillo
Milan , Italy


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