Who owns the copyright for your photography? What you should know

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Eunice Driver is a self-declared photo artist who has been infatuated with visual storytelling from an early age.

“I received my first camera the ripe old age of seven.  And so began my love affair with photography,” says Eunice.

Eunice’s greatest passions in life are – people, fashion and the arts.  “Photography is a means to express my journey on our planet.   It’s all about exploring the fragments of life and the interactions with different people and cultures.  My style and approach is simple, exploratory, emotional, joyful and genuine.   I love challenges and strive to master new techniques for fresh inspiration and self expression.”

Her work is inspired by the genius of artistic greats such as Andreas Bitesnich, Frank Doorhof, Annie Leibovitz, Jacques Weyers and Justin Polkey.

“I see my camera as being much like Alice in Wonderland’s mysterious rabbit hole.  My camera releases a place of curious self-expression but also a world of new relationships, and new beginnings and adventures.”

A fresh new talent like Eunice Driver should be very aware of her intellectual property rights, says Mariette du Plessis, a partner in the trade marks department at .

“Many young photographers do not know when they do and do not own the copyright in their photographs and may allow third parties to make copies of their photographs without their permission and, more importantly, without receiving the required financial compensation,” she says.

According to du Plessis the Copyright Act makes provision for the protection of specific creative and intellectual expressions.  One category is called “artistic works” and photographs fall into this group.  For a photograph to enjoy copyright protection, it must be original and the result of the photographer’s own skills and efforts.  Generally speaking, the person who creates the artistic work, i.e. the photographer, will be the owner of the copyright.  However, there are specific exceptions to this rule.

“If a photographer is employed by a magazine or newspaper and takes a photograph during the course of the scope of his/her employment to be published in the magazine or newspaper, the employer will be the owner, but only in so far it relates to the copyright in the photograph as published in the magazine or newspaper.  The photographer will be the owner of the copyright of the balance of the copyright.

“Another exception is when a client commissions a photographer to take a photo and pays him money, then the client will be the owner.  Lastly, if a photographer is employed under a contract of service or apprenticeship and takes a photo during the course of his employment, the employer will be the owner of the copyright.”

It is very important to know that any of these exceptions can be changed by an agreement between the photographer and the magazine/newspaper, or the client, or the employer.  What is very important, is that the photographer must make it clear upfront that he wants to retain the copyright in the photographs.  Ideally, it should be incorporated in the photographer’s agreement with any employers or clients (where possible).

It is always important to mark your photographs to the effect that you own the copyright in them e.g. ©2012 Eunice Driver, to alert customers and the public that you own the copyright and that they cannot be copied or used, without your permission.

Photographers should also be careful about how they display their portfolio on their websites.  Ensure that you use watermarks, again to prevent unauthorised “copying and pasting” by the public.  Refer to your copyright prominently on your website.  Indicate clearly that the public can contact you for licenses, or authorised copies, but that you will not tolerate unauthorised reproductions.

“Young creatives like Eunice Driver are in effect promoting and selling their creativity.  In today’s digital world extra precautions should be taken to protect their intellectual property.  Adams & Adams supports young creatives and is again the proud sponsor of the Young Creatives Award for the 2012 Loeries.  Eunice Driver will be at the 2012 Loerie Awards to capture all the action,” concludes du Plessis.

Don't forget to click on the Find-a-Creative tab and advertise your creative services for FREE. If you'd like to showcase your work or would like to write an article please email info[at]sacreativenetwork.co.za @thesacreatives

1 Comment

  • Reply February 7, 2013

    Geof Kirby

    It’s also important for photographers to know that the SA copyright Law, by definition, only applies in South Africa. Hence the use of pictures outside South Africa is governed by the Berne Convention which mandates that the laws of the country of publication are to be used in identifying who owns copyright. So it’s quite possible for a photographer to have no control over use in SA but to own copyright in most countries outside SA. Subject, of course, to him/her not having signed away any rights voluntarily in SA.

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