Photography and the Law: Who Owns the Copyright?

GKola

Standard 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_rin...a_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

Banned
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

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

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.
 

shotokan101

Banned

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!
 

GKola

Standard 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

Standard 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

Standard 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.
 

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