Let’s Talk About Copyrights to Photographs

Copyrights to Photographs | Contracts for Creatives

One of the issues that comes up most often in creative entrepreneur contracts, especially photographer contracts and blogger/brand contracts, is copyrights. Today I’m discussing the basics of copyrights to photographs with hopes that you’ll have a better basic understanding of copyrights.

Copyrights to Photographs

In short, there’s no need to officially register a photograph with the U.S. Copyright Office for it to be a copyrighted work. The moment the photographer takes the photo, the photographer owns the copyrights. This ownership is not transferred unless the transfer of copyrights is outline in writing, in a signed agreement.

For example, if a blogger hires a photographer to shoot photos for a brand collaboration, and the photographer takes the photos, the photographer owns the copyrights to the photos. The only way the blogger will ever own the copyrights to the photos is if the photographer signs a written agreement specifically stating that he/she is transferring the rights.

The U.S. Copyright Office has said, “In the case of photographs … Ownership of a “copy” of a photograph – the tangible embodiment of the “work” – is distinct from the “work” itself – the intangible intellectual property. The owner of the “work” is generally the photographer or, in certain situations, the employer of the photographer. Even if a person hires a photographer to take pictures of a wedding, for example, the photographer will own the copyright in the photographs unless the copyright in the photographs is transferred, in writing and signed by the copyright owner, to another person. The subject of the photograph generally has nothing to do with the ownership of the copyright in the photograph.” – HERE

Registering photographs with the U.S. Copyright Office isn’t necessary to obtain copyrights to the photographs. Registering photographs with the U.S. Copyright Office has its perks. It makes things a bit easier when and if the owner should ever have to enter into litigation either to defend the copyright or to claim infringement on the copyright.

In Short

Photographers always own the copyrights to photographs they take. Any person that hires a photographer, whether that be a blogger, influencer, bride and groom etc., does not own the copyrights to any photographs. The copyrights will only be transferred from the photographer if he/she signs a written agreement transferring the rights. Check out this helpful article from the U.S. Copyright Office for more information and FAQs.

I hope this was helpful! Questions? Feel free to contact me!

Please note, this article should not be considered legal advice. Each individual situation is unique and may need to be reviewed by an attorney.

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