1. Welcome to NikonCafe.com—a friendly Nikon camera & photography discussion forum!

    If you are thinking of buying a camera or need help with your photos, you will find our forum members full of advice! Click here to join for free!

What makes a photograph yours?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Gr8Tr1x, Apr 5, 2007.

  1. Gr8Tr1x

    Gr8Tr1x Guest

    Here’s an interesting point to ponder. I don’t know that I have run across anything similar here or elsewhere.

    What makes a photograph yours? Is it yours if you use your own camera to compose and take a shot? How about if you’re on vacation and you hand your camera to someone else to take a photo of you? Who does that photo belong to? Who owns the copyright to it? How about if you’re on vacation and another tourist hands you their camera to take a shot? Is it theirs or yours?

    I happened to be pondering this as I came across a photo that a friend took of myself and my future-wife at a wedding. The friend in question was her ex-boyfriend and a semi-pro shooter. I handed my Olympus C-3040 to him and he took a quick snap of my future-wife and me. I used that photo on a wedding website that I made after we got engaged, and when I encountered the photo-friend again, he jokingly mentioned that I he was going to bill me for its use. He was clearly joking, and at that time, I wasn’t as immersed in photography as I am now, so the question never really held much importance to me. The photo could have easily been taken by a non-photographer…but the questions still stands.

    I came across that shot again, and I started to think about the question I posed in the beginning. When you hand your camera to someone else, and they take a shot, are they the legal copyright holder? A lot of times, my large professional looking equipment makes me standout as someone who knows how to use a camera, so at touristy locations, I’m handed a strangers camera.

    I just thought I’d pose the question. I’d like to see what sort of responses you have.
  2. JamesMor


    Jun 28, 2005
    New York
    "Who owns the copyright to it? How about if you’re on vacation and another tourist hands you their camera to take a shot? Is it theirs or yours?"

    Technically, the person who took the photograph is the person who owns copyright to the image...even if it is your equipment.

  3. Gr8Tr1x

    Gr8Tr1x Guest

    So does that also apply if you set up a shot, frame it, put the equipment on a tripod, then ask a passerby to press the shutter release?

    The action of making the shutter actuate and the exposure being made gives the button presser the copyright?

    Just posing the question.
  4. Well I would guess that possession is 9/10 of the law. On my camera all images are stamped copyright.
  5. I am sure that some how this would be interpereted under contract law. He is taking the photo at your request. That it would be your photo and you would have the copyright. He may want to bill your for his services, The act of taking the picture, but not the ownership of it. I doubt he would have any sucess that way because he willingly did it. It really is not much different than say a photo-journalist working for a publication, yes the photog took the picture but the publication owns the image and copyright to it.
  6. Gr8Tr1x

    Gr8Tr1x Guest

    Thanks, Phyer Phyter. I was just using my experience as an example...its not any sort of matter that needs to be settled. But I get your point. Thank you.
  7. I just found this....link to canadian copyright information on the Professional Photographers of Canada website. Check it out. I am sure that US laws are pretty much similar. CliffB may be able to shed some input on this topic if he sees this thread.
  8. Gr8Tr1x

    Gr8Tr1x Guest

    Thanks again. I will look forward to a response from him.
  9. Who owns the copyright for photo's taken by employee's from a studio?

    Years ago, it used to be fashionable for well known studio professionals to direct the shot, but have their assistant actually release the shutter.

  10. fks


    Apr 30, 2005
    sf bay area
    hi joshua-

    interesting question. i remember reading in dpreview about one member who handed his camera to annie leibowitz and asked her to take his photo. so who owns that photo, leibowitz or the camera owner?

    in my opinion, it's your photo if you shot it or if you asked someone to shoot you, unless you have a contract that says otherwise.

    then again, i'm not a lawyer, so i could be wrong :wink:

  11. I'll just give the simple answer...the pictures I take, nobody alse would want. LOL
  12. To me pushing a button does not make the photograph belong to someone else. Who set the shot up, who insured that the setting were right on the camera, who processed the image and who does the camera belong to? If the answer is you then it is your picture and anyone else would have a difficult time claiming it as theirs. In effect the person pushing the shutter release is nothing more than an automatic cable release.
  13. JamesMor


    Jun 28, 2005
    New York
    "I am sure that some how this would be interpereted under contract law. He is taking the photo at your request. That it would be your photo and you would have the copyright. He may want to bill your for his services, The act of taking the picture, but not the ownership of it."

    Check out the following link on copyright. In my opinion, it is pretty clear - at least for residents of the US. The person who takes the photograph is the owner...however, I think that taking the photograph also includes the composition. The trick that could be fought in court, I suppose, is who actually set up the shot? Was it on a tripod and composed by someone else and the shutter was tripped, or did the passerby actually lift the camera and take the shot?


  14. Sorry but I disagree, this has been covered already by copyright law. If you just hand a camera to someone and ask them to take your picture, YOU own the copyright as it was always intended to be YOUR picture, and not theirs. This is the exception to the rule. I'll see if I can find the actual sub-section. If you HIRED them to take the picture, we're barking up a different tree.
  15. JamesMor


    Jun 28, 2005
    New York
    "YOU own the copyright as it was always intended to be YOUR picture, and not theirs. "

    Hey Sandi,

    I would appreciate it if you point me to a reference that says this. The reason why I say this is that it has been a problem in the wedding photography industry...particularly with retainers working for a primary. For example, unless I require that my assistant sign over the copyright to me as part of their retainership, any photos they take - even though they are set up by me - are technically theirs. Now, there are things that may prevent them from publishing their photographs (such as model releases, etc), but that is entirely 2ndary to their ownership of the image.

    By the definition you site, I could pretty much state that any photographs my assistant takes - or those of onlookers around me - are mine because I was the one who arranged the pose, location, where to take the photo from, etc.


    PS Again, please check out the link that I put up. It is very helpful.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 6, 2007
  16. If the secondary photog is working for you and you pay his wages (as an employee of your company) then those pics he takes belongs to you (your company) Just the same as if he was working for a newspaper. Any pics he takes becomes property of the newspaper. If he was subcontracting in other words you hire his company to assist you then those may be his property.

    As to the quote about on lookers, No. You are being paid for your services and using your equipment. If I was a guest at the wedding and took picutres they are my pictures. I am not selling them to the wedding party and with out a model release I cannot do anything commercially with them.
  17. This is direct quote from Canadian Intelectual Property Office. I would expect that US law in this regard would be very similar.

    "Another exception applies where a photograph is created during the course of someone’s employment. The Copyright Act provides that where the author of a work is employed by someone and the work is created in the course of that employment, then the employer is the first owner of the copyright in the work. The employer and the photographer can change this by contractual agreement"
  18. A contract stating the the copyright belongs to you is always a good start.:wink:
  19. This is from a US Lawyer by the name of Andrew D. Epstien, Esquire
    This I think definatively answers your question James.
    Here is the . Link

    "Q: Can two or more people own the copyright to a single work?

    A: Yes. Copyrights can be owned jointly. If two or more people create a work with the intent that their individual contributions merge into the final product, they will be joint owners of the copyright. The determination of joint ownership is a question of the intent of the participants. Joint copyright ownership can sometimes create difficult situations because joint owners become equal partners of each other with respect to their joint works.

    Each joint owner can deal with a joint work as if he or she owns the property independently of the other. Unless otherwise agreed, the only responsibility one joint owner has to the other is to share any money that is earned from exploiting the joint work. Unless otherwise agreed, neither joint owner has a right to control to whom a work is licensed or for how much. Furthermore, one joint-owner can sell or assign his or her rights to a third-party without notice to the other joint-owner.
  20. JamesMor


    Jun 28, 2005
    New York
    Hi Phyer,

    Thank you very much for the links. They are very useful. However, I am not sure that they are 100% congruent with US copyright law. For example, I understand that the issue of work for hire and copyright is definitely different here in the US. The reason I believe this is that there is usually a stip about it in most 'for hire' agreements out there.

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.