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Photography and the Law: Who Owns the Copyright?

GKola

Novice Member
Sharing this as a point of general interest.

So I saw the newsflash notifying the planet of Usain Bolt’s hamstring injury, one that forced the six-time gold medallist to withdraw from his country’s Olympic qualifying trials. Specifically, he has a grade 1 tear in his left hamstring. Further browsing led me to this forgotten but relevant story:

Usain Bolt Took a Bunch of Photos with a Swedish Guy's Camera. Who Owns the Rights to the Sprinter's Snapshots?

After becoming the first man to nab back-to-back gold medals in the 100-meter and 200-meter sprints, Usain Bolt took a new job: press photographer. In addition to striking his trademark bolt pose and taking a victory lap, Bolt also grabbed a photographer’s DSLR camera and snapped photos of fellow Jamaican and 200-meter silver medalist Yohan Blake goofing off, the exhilarated crowd, and the swarm of media members jockeying for images of the world’s best sprinter.

The camera belonged to Jimmy Wixtröm, a photographer for the Swedish newspaperAftonbladet. After Bolt handed the camera back, the paper published the sprinter’s photos on its website. Considering that Bolt took the shots, did the Swedes have the right to publish them?

Under most countries' intellectual property laws, including the United Kingdom’s, the person who actually pushed the button owns the photograph, unless the work was made for hire. That means Wixtröm technically does not own the copyright to Bolt’s photos, unless he and the sprinter negotiated a rights transfer in writing. This legal technicality also means that tourists in London who ask a passerby to take a photo of them would not own the copyright to the resulting photograph, though it is doubtful their use of the work would ever be contested. (According to Carolyn E. Wright’s Photo Attorney blog, in that case you would “likely have an implied license to use the photograph for personal uses. … But you probably wouldn’t have the right to enter the photo into a contest or license it for commercial purposes.”)
[http://www.slate.com/blogs/five_ring_circus/2012/08/10/usain_bolt_jimmy_wixtrom_the_sprinter_took_a_bunch_of_photos_with_a_swedish_guy_s_camera_who_owns_the_rights_to_the_snapshots_.html]

This case reminded me of another similar but perplexing case of a primate and copyright issues:

Monkey selfie case: judge rules animal cannot own his photo copyright

A federal judge in San Francisco has ruled that a macaque monkey who took now-famous selfie photographs cannot be declared the copyright owner of the photos.

US district judge William Orrick said in a tentative opinion Wednesday that while Congress and the president can extend the protection of law to animals as well as humans, there is no indication that they did so in the Copyright Act.

The lawsuit filed last year by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sought a court order allowing Peta to administer all proceeds from the photos for the benefit of the monkey, which it identified as six-year-old Naruto.

The photos were taken during a 2011 trip to Sulawesi, Indonesia, by British nature photographer David Slater, who asked the court to dismiss the case. He says the British copyright obtained for the photos by his company, Wildlife Personalities Ltd, should be honored worldwide.

However, the photos have been widely distributed elsewhere by outlets, including Wikipedia, which contend that no one owns the copyright to the images because they were taken by an animal, not a person.

Last year the US Copyright Office issued an updated compendium of its policies, including a section stipulating that it would register copyrights only for works produced by human beings. It specified that works produced by animals, whether a photo taken by a monkey or a mural painted by an elephant, would not qualify.
[https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jan/06/monkey-selfie-case-animal-photo-copyright]

Google monkey picture copyright for more links [monkey picture - Google Search

Increasing common and a subject of potential grief to a photographer is the next scenario:

Q. If I hand my camera to another person to shoot a few frames, who owns the copyright for the images?
A. Copyright protection subsists from the time the work is created in fixed form. The copyright in the work of authorship immediately becomes the property of the author who created the work. Unless the photo is a work made for hire, then the other person – not you – owns the copyright. However, depending on the circumstances, you likely have an implied license to use the photograph for personal uses. For example, if you ask someone to take a shot of your family on vacation, you could do things such as print the photo for display in your home, post the photo on your personal Facebook page, or share the photo via email with friends or family. But you probably wouldn’t have the right to enter the photo into a contest or license it for commercial purposes.
Q&A – Who Owns the Copyright? – Updated |

Further reading reveals even more headaches:

Q. I put my camera on a tripod, set the focus and exposure manually, hand the remote control to another person who fires the shutter only when I tell him to. Who owns the copyright?
A. 17 USC 201 provides that the source of copyright ownership is the author of the work and that, in the case of a “joint work,” the coauthors of the work are likewise coowners of the copyright. Under 17 USC 101, a work is “joint” if the authors collaborated with each other or when each of the authors prepared his or her contribution with the knowledge and intention that it would be merged with the contributions of other authors as “inseparable or interdependent parts of a unitary whole.”

In general, when the shutter on a camera is tripped to make a photo, the photographer who pressed the button owns the copyright. In the situation here, did you and the person who fired the shutter have the knowledge and intention that each of your contributions would be merged as an inseparable or interdependent parts of a unitary whole (i.e., the photo)? Did you collaborate with the other to make the shot? Did the person who tripped the shutter contribute copyrightable expression? Maybe not here. But do you want to have to litigate this? Read more about this in my June 17, 2005 blog.

Courts have held that, in the absence of a written agreement to the contrary, joint authors will be deemed as tenants in common. This means that each owns an undivided interest in the entire work and each has an independent right to use or license the entire work. So to avoid any possible conflict, be sure that you have an agreement as to who owns the copyright to the photo.

Now you can consider yourself forewarned and be ready to have a long chat with your lawyer.

I guess the moral or salient point of the above is this: if you are a photographer, observe the Photographers' Rule:

My camera and equipment in my hands and control = my copyright - indisputably.
 

shotokan101

Distinguished Member
Well unless you've accepted an agreement to transfer the copyright (e.g. Terms and Conditions on a Concert Ticket perhaps or an entrance ticket to a National Trust venue for example) then the Copyright belongs to the person who took the shots....

BTW - what happened to the rest of the original post ? :confused:

Jim
 

GKola

Novice Member
Yes. I agree with thee.
The law is an ass sometimes.
And lawyers are rich because of their ability to manipulate logic.
 

Trollslayer

Distinguished Member
You could have used a smaller font BTW.
 

273K

Well-known Member
There's a weekly column in the guardian called "my best shot". iirc there was one a while back where the photographer had posed in the shot herself. Interestingly a lot of comments btl questioned whether she deserved credit as she didn't physically press the shutter herself. This despite having presumably framed the shot, adjusted camera settings exposure etc. and got someone to press the shutter, with the camera on a tripod. I can imagine there are plenty of situations like this where self-timer of remote triggers can't be used, but the copyright should be for the set up or "idea" behind the shot.
 

snerkler

Distinguished Member
If I use a self timer does the shot belong to Nikon? :confused: :p
 

shotokan101

Distinguished Member

Zone

Moderator
I will moderate this forum as I see fit and if would like to get a ban then please reverse my decision again.

Remember you are a guest here!
 

Trollslayer

Distinguished Member
Thank you Zone.
 

GKola

Novice Member
Not having a go, why don't you just adjust the zoom on your browser window? Pressing "Ctrl" and "+" together works on most browsers ("Ctrl" and "-" to zoom out and, top tip: "Ctrl" and "0" will reset to 100%).
Thanks. I already solved the problem. I removed the offending post.
 

GKola

Novice Member
Well this has become a bit weird? You could have left the link
My sincere regrets. An unintended consequence.
I believe the topics under discussion were Usain Bolt and copyrights to pictures he took
and a monkey selfie copyrights - easily Googled.
 

AMc

Distinguished Member

GKola

Novice Member
Or I could just read the Google cache of this thread before it went weird...

Usain Bolt from 2012
Usain Bolt Took a Bunch of Photos with a Swedish Guy's Camera. Who Owns the Rights to the Sprinter's Snapshots?
Ironically quoting almost the entire article in another post might be a copyright infringement.

The Monkey from 2016
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jan/06/monkey-selfie-case-animal-photo-copyright]
Great! Problem solved.

Ironically quoting almost the entire article in another post might be a copyright infringement.

The links to the articles were provided and authorship expressly identifiable.
 

shotokan101

Distinguished Member
I presumed it was to do with your comment about linking to the articles possibly breaching copyright ?
 

GKola

Novice Member
I presumed it was to do with your comment about linking to the articles possibly breaching copyright ?
Interesting! Let us ruminate over this one:
You are granting us with a non-exclusive, permanent, irrevocable, unlimited license to use, publish, or re-publish your Content in connection with the Service. You retain copyright over the Content.
Rules & Terms
Apparently, I retain copyright of the contents of my post. So gracious of the forum.
But the forum can do anything on the planet with it? Anything? Fair use does not apply? No permission or my consent needed?
 

AMc

Distinguished Member
In your first post (which you have since deleted but Google cached) you quoted 3 out of 4 paragraphs of the Slate article (261 of the 371 words or 70% of the content of the article).

Then you quoted the entire content of the article from The Guardian - all 246 words.

You didn't quote as much of the Photo Attorney pages but it could still be beyond Fair Use.
Of course you may have contacted all the rights owners and obtained their permisson and I'm not a qualified copyright lawyer which is why I said "might be a copyright infringement"

As your thread is about copyright it seems ironic to me that you were using other people's work in one case in its entirety to illustrate your point.
 

AMc

Distinguished Member
Interesting! Let us ruminate over this one:
You are granting us with a non-exclusive, permanent, irrevocable, unlimited license to use, publish, or re-publish your Content in connection with the Service. You retain copyright over the Content.
Rules & Terms
Apparently, I retain copyright of the contents of my post. So gracious of the forum.
But the forum can do anything on the planet with it? Anything? Fair use does not apply? No permission or my consent needed?
Are you seriously suggesting that by posting a comment which is mostly copy/pasting from 3 other sources you have obtained copyright for that content and should have some control over it's use?
I suggest you google "derivative works" Derivative work - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

We both agreed to the rules of this forum by signing up, I'm happy for AVF to use my words according to those rules. If you're not then it seems obvious to me what course of action there is open to you.

As this thread has now become even weirder than it was when I posted my earlier comment I think I'll bow out at this point rather than keep addressing the weirdness :thumbsup:
 

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