Can Photographs be protected by Copyright:

All photographs are subject to copyright. The moment a photo is taken and saved onto film or memory disk, copyright comes into existence. The general rule is that the person responsible for the composition of the photograph is the owner of the copyright in the photo, but this is not always the case. Keep in mind that if another person commissioned the photographer to take a photo and paid him / her for the taking of the photo, that person will be the owner of the copyright in the relevant photo. This effect can always be avoided by prior agreement between the parties. Examples of a photographic Copyright: A photo that was taken and is still on the film, A photo that was taken and printed, A photo that was taken and saved digitally on a memory disk, computer, CD and so forth.

Protecting your photographic Copyright:

No official form of copyright registration is necessary in South Africa and the UK. All photographs are protected by copyright from the time it is taken and saved. All you need to do is prove that you either took the photo or commissioned and paid somebody to take the photo for you in order to own the copyright. To prove this we suggest the following:

  1. Set your digital camera to date photographs accordingly.
  2. Keep the negatives hidden in a safe place.
  3. Store copies of your photos in a safe place.
  4.  Keep record of any agreements/e-mails/invoices when hiring a photographer.

Copyright registrations in the U.S can be filed through the United States Copyright Office by a copyright attorney. If you own the copyright to a photograph, you possess the sole authority to: copy the photo, sell the photo, issue, lend or rent copies to the public, show the photo in public, communicate the photo to the public (TV, Internet, magazines).

Copyright Duration

Copyright in photographs lasts for 50 years from the end of the year in which the work is made available to the public with the consent of the owner of the copyright; or is first published, (whichever term is the longer) but if the photo is not published within 50 years after it was taken, it will last 50 years from the end of the year in which the photo was taken..

Copyright & Licensing Agreements

Owners of copyright have the right to compensation or royalties when their photographs are copied or used. Copyright owners can license or permanently transfer or assign their exclusive rights to others. Contact the attorneys at Smit & Van Wyk, Inc. regarding your copyright & licensing agreements requirements. Smit & Van Wyk, Inc. copyright services include advice on copyright licensing and assignment and drafting license and assignment agreements. Contact our copyright attorneys at Smit & Van Wyk, Inc. regarding your copyright at Feel free to contact us should you have any questions or require assistance with any copyright matter.