Copyright Issues Explained
Many people ask me about copyright issues, especially when asking information before booking
People are confused about copyright laws... and sometimes wedding photographers are too.
There is great need for copyright law education among both the general public and
photographers. Please make full use of this free copyright information that I wrote for you.
Very often brides with copyright issues tell me that they want “full rights” or an estimate
including the copyright of the images or copyright ownership... and I ask myself: what in the
world are they ever going to do with the copyright?
When you buy a book at the local bookshop, you pay a sum of money and you take the book at home.
It will be yours forever and you can do whatever you want with it. You did not buy the copyright, the
copyright belongs (and will always belong) to the author.
Same with wedding photography... you buy a copy of the prints, not the copyright. It is
outrageous to ask a photographer to sell all the rights... it just doesn’t happen. There is no such thing as
photographs copyright free in this world.
Very few people know what actually means to buy/sell the copyright. A professional photographer
will NEVER sell the copyright of his images and if he/she ever did, I would assume it would be for a very large sum
This is actually a very good alarm bell that nobody thinks about.
If a wedding photographer is willing to pass you the copyright of your wedding images for
little or no compensation (just to get the job), chances are he is NOT a professional wedding photographer; let
alone an artist. No doubt you will have copyright issues with such a photographer in the future.
Selling the copyright of an image means that the client can actually commercialize that image
and collect retribution as if he/she was the artist and without the need of contacting the artist.
A real artist is proud of his work and will care for it a great deal, long after its sale.
Releasing the copyright for a photographer, means to never have anything to do with that particular image and it
also means he/she will never be able to print a copy for him/herself without having to pay a fee to the "copyright
I personally will never sell the copyright of any of my images... they are my creatures, my
babies, no matter how much I’m offered I'll never part from them. Some photographer are willing to sell the
copyright of a wedding’s images for a sum of money that goes from a minimum of 2000 Pounds (or Dollars) upwards on
top of the fees for the job. It is very serious business and you will have a hard time finding a professional
photographer willing to give up the copyright. Copyright free images are very hard to obtain from a
As you can see copyright issues are not common knowledge at all. Copyright issues are discussed
in great details HERE. This page will provide a definition of copyright for different countries,
including history of copyright law. Click HERE for information on the Canadian Copyright Act.
(The image on the left represents the very first copyright law, the English Copyright Act 1709,
also known as "Statute of Anne", after Queen Anne).
Wedding photographers will usually give you a copy of the prints for your own use. Some
photographers will include a CD with the right to print the images for family use. This is plenty for you and in my
opinion you will never need any more than this, unless you are planning to commercialize the images.
Should you be in need of publishing one of your wedding images on a book or magazine, just
contact the photographer and he or she will be more than happy to give you the needed authorization in exchange of
a reasonable fee.
What is “family use?” It means you can put them in your family album, frame them and hang them
in your home, show them to your family and friends etc. Important: when you get a CD with printable files for
family use only, you may NOT print copies for your friends! Your friends are not family and they should
contact the photographer and purchase images through him/her.
Be very careful, because that is a clear copyright infringement and the penalties can be very
severe. It’s not worth it. If friends want copies, direct them to the photographer, who will be more than happy to
provide them; it’s part of his/her job and most importantly, it is part of the photographer’s income.
The photographer (just like a painter or a writer) created that image using his/her talent,
creativity and equipment and it is just fair that he/she gets paid when people want to use it.
How long does copyright last? Different countries have different rules, but generally the
copyright lasts for the lifetime of the creator/artist, plus 50 to 100 years. The copyright symbol or copyright logo doesn't necessarely need to appear next to the
image, as an image is automatically copyrighted the very moment it is created. An image with an expired
copyright becomes of public domain, unless someone has inherited the right.
Make no mistake: any professional photographer or artist will go after a copyright infringement
with body and soul.
Life is long and you never know when or how an artist will recognize his/her art... in 30 years
time one of your friends for whom you illegally printed a photograph, might become the friend of a friend of the
photographer... it has been known to happen and there are similar stories in which a particular photographer became
rich with copyright infringement compensation. It’s just not worth it! Remember that a proper wedding
photographer will always ask you to sign a contract, partly to avoid copyright issues in the future.
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