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03-04-2010, 09:12 AM   #1
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Copyright Questions

I have a number of questions regarding copyright issues. If they have been answered elsewhere please redirect to the appropriate area.

1)How does one copyright images?
2)What are the legal rights of the photographer?
3) What would constitute and infringement of those rights?

I would appreciate some direction in this area.

Thanks

Tom G


Last edited by 8540tomg; 03-04-2010 at 11:22 AM. Reason: typo
03-04-2010, 09:49 AM   #2
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I would invite you to read the Canadian copyright act (Copyright Act).
In a nutshell, the photographer is the first owner of copyright with the following exceptions:
In the absence of an agreement to the contrary, if he is on a work for hire, generally the person paying for the creation of the photos is first owner of copyright, or the person who commissioned the photos is first owner of copyright.

Providing the photographer is the first owner of copyright, he can ask for damages and for the transgressor to cease and desist using the images.
Canadian law only allows for actual damage, so you aren't looking at huge monetary settlements. For example, if you post a picture to the web and someone lifts it and uses it in a non commercial fashion, you will find that your right to collect damages is very limited.

Note, our copyright law is not the same as the American copyright law with regards to first ownership, so make sure that any answers you read here relate to our law not the US law before you accept it as factual.
And, as always, take any legal advice you get from internet forums with a grain of salt. I am not a lawyer.
03-04-2010, 11:07 AM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by 8540tomg Quote
I have a number of questions regarding copyright issues. If they have been amswered elsewhere please redirect to the appropriate area.

1)How does one copyright images?
2)What are the legal rights of the photographer?
3) What would constitute and infringement of those rights?

I would appreciate some direction in this area.

Thanks

Tom G

"Explain the universe and give three examples".

Copyright law, and all intellectual property rights, is a very, very complicated subject, and, as Wheatfield points out, varies to some extent from country to country. Many books have been written by legal scholars well versed in the subject. I wouldn't trust any opinions you read here.

While laws vary in different countries, there are international treaties, which I'm sure Canada is a party to, that attempt to standardize certain basic copyright principles.

I suggest you check out your local public library for one of those books. You've asked three questions, each of which could spawn endless discussion here.
03-05-2010, 11:33 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by noblepa Quote
"Explain the universe and give three examples".
The legalities of copyright, with "intellectual property" (IP) in general. are a morass. Even with treaties, laws vary considerably between nations. Some nations explicitly or implicitly ignore IP standards, maybe with the justification that such is a luxury limited to 1st-world powers. And in some places, anything goes, with or without worrying about which side of a border you're on. Caveat emptor, caveat lector.

In the US, the notion of copyright and patent as established in the Constitution, a LIMITED PERIOD for a creator to enjoy exclusive benefits, has been distorted almost beyond recognition, and has infected much of the western world. [F**k you, Disney.] Some organizations try to protect their documents by labeling them TRADE SECRETS. [F**k you, Scientology.] Some embed malware in their digital IP products. [F**k you, Sony.] Some try to maximize IP protection by patenting natural laws. [F**k you, Apple.] Some employ draconian and/or illegal methods to track down and persecute alleged IP violators. [F**k you, RIAA.] If a corporate-economic-political superpower leans on you, you'll be squashed

Besides the legal copyright protections provided in Canada (which IIRC are in turbulent flux right now), you might also consider Creative Commons licensing, where you retain ownership of your IP but also grant others limited usage. Maybe you'll be happy if those using your work don't profit from it, and spell your name right. Or as a Desert Rat writer/artist proclaimed, "Publisher's Note: This book is not copyrighted in the United States or foreign countries, including Scandinavia. If you steal any of this stuff, just give me credit for one out of three. Harry Oliver, Thousand Palms, California"

Canadian copyright law - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Copyright infringement - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Creative Commons licenses - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Desert Rat Scrap Book - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

03-05-2010, 01:08 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by 8540tomg Quote
I have a number of questions regarding copyright issues. If they have been answered elsewhere please redirect to the appropriate area.

1)How does one copyright images?
2)What are the legal rights of the photographer?
3) What would constitute and infringement of those rights?

I would appreciate some direction in this area.

Thanks

Tom G
Tom,
I will comment on your first point only. The notion of intellectual property and copyright is closely linked with what you have in mind. Is it to gain royalties ? or is it to secure the intellectual ownership? These are fairly different and it could be helpful to give us a hint of your intentions.

If you want to gain royalties or to issue infringement notices, the applicable laws are basically the copyright act (or equivalent) of the country where you reside in the first instance and of the country where the infringement took place. Wheatfield gave you a good example for Canada.

If you are simply interested in intellectual ownership (IO) (e.g. as in a scientific document), the printing of the photo in a publication constitutes in itself a form of intellectual copyright: e.g., John Smith publishes an article in an scientific publication in which he presents the photograph. The intellectual ownership is automaticaly attributed to John Smith. If the photo is reprinted/re-used in a scientific publication, credits must be acknowledged : e.g., Courtesy of John Smith. The duration of the IO may be illimited in most cases, although the publication might become public domain after 100 years in some places. Note that the basic rule is that the person who took the photograph has the intellectual ownership. (Not the camera owner.)

Hope that the comment might help...
03-06-2010, 10:11 AM   #6
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The short answer to your first question is, generally, you don't need to do anything to copyright an image. As soon as you release the shutter and create an image, you own the copyright (unless it is a work for hire) of that image. Registering it with a government agency is not necessary, but it may make things easier if you ever need to bring an infringement lawsuit. Nor is it necessary to print a copyright notice on the image.

One of the most abused and misunderstood concepts in copyright law is the "fair use" doctrine. This allows for someone to use small parts of a copyrighted work under certain circumstances, without the permission of the author or the payment of royalties. One, fairly clear example of fair use, is when someone is reviewing an author's work. A book reviewer, for example, can use short passages from the work to support opinions expressed in the review. There is no clear-cut bright line of, say 10 percent of a work, that automatically constitutes infringement. The use must be "reasonable" for the intended purpose, whatever a court decides that means.

In the case of photographs, fair use might be invoked if someone is writing a piece reviewing or critiquing your images. He/she could reproduce, with proper attribution, of course, a few of your images to serve as examples.

At the other end of the legal spectrum, any commercial use must have the copyright owner's permission and may require payment.

As a non-lawyer, I would say that almost any use, without attribution, constitutes at least plagiarism, if not legal copyright infringement. Without attribution, there can be no claim of fair use.
03-06-2010, 01:14 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by noblepa Quote
As a non-lawyer, I would say that almost any use, without attribution, constitutes at least plagiarism, if not legal copyright infringement. Without attribution, there can be no claim of fair use.
"Plagiarize!
Let no one else's work EVADE your eyes!
Remember why the good lord MADE your eyes
And plagiarize, plagiarize, plagiarize!
(But be certain always to call it, RESEARCH.)"
--Tom Lehrer

Fair use. Copying. Emulation. Re-imaging. How close must the copy be, to be theft? We have Sherrie Levine, who photographs existing photos (at magazine-level IQ) and presents her copies as her own work, but with no pretense of originality. (Her goal: images that look like newsmagazine reproductions.) The original photos may be of human forms in poses copied from classical sculpture. Theft?

We have photographers who stage and shoot scenes based on prior images. We have living actors who portray famous paintings or photos or statues, or Garfield cartoons, or other actors. We have statuary portraying famous photos (remember the Iwo Jima flag-raising image?) We have snapshooters in Yosemite trying to copy scenes shot by Ansel Adams. We have zillions of generations of art students at easels in galleries, painting copies of famous works. We have Andy Warhol turning newspaper photos into photos. We have software that converts photos into Warhol-style posters. We have endless ironic variations of the famous cubic LOVE image, or la Virgen de Guadeloupe in a bikini or Zapatista mask-and-AK47 or strange sunglasses or robotic body. We have zillions of silkscreened t-shirts bearing (in)famous images. We have endless mash-ups. Et cetera.

Suppose I acquire many of 8540tomg's photos. With one, I make color separation transparencies, and use a gum bichromate process to create a false-color 3-D relief 'print'. It is obviously not the original. With another, I flip and crudely posterize it, maybe adding text, and print it in dayglo ink on fuzzy velvet. It is obviously not the original. I take a batch of his photos and use photo-mosaic software to construct a Chuck-Close-type assemblage, maybe pornographic. The originals are there, but reduced and reimaged and quite overwhelmed by the new context. I take another, and run it through a kaleidoscope filter, or a wavy-distortion filter, or a toy-camera filter, or a pencil-sketch filter. I take another, showing a number of people, and replace all the visages with Smiley Faces or swastikas or animal heads. Et cetera.

Many images, many transformations, obviously not the originals. Are these illegal copies, or fair use (with or without attribution), or imaginative homages? Suppose I used famous classical paintings instead of 8540tomg's photos, so famous that there is no implication that I created the originals. Must I supply attribution? Can I lie about the attribution with famous originals but not unknown ones? (Sorry, 8540tomg, you're not famous yet.) Can standards be codified?

Like I said, IP is a morass. All the rules will keep lawyers employed for a long time.
03-06-2010, 05:11 PM   #8
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As others have pointed out, this is a really wide question and there is a lot of law in this area. Do you have anything more specific in mind?

While the photographer (or employer) has copyright, the greyer area is the use of those images. You can't, for example, use an image with identifiable subjects in an advertisement without some form of model release granting you permission. There are very different rules which govern use of images depending on how they're used, e.g. commercially, editorially, artistically.

Is there a professional photographers association or similar over there? That's usually a good first point of call regarding legalities and copyright questions. They usually have a lot of FAQ info about your country's laws or judgements in that area.

03-07-2010, 12:09 PM   #9
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The answer to 1. is simple, you (or your employer) own the copyright when you snap the shutter. Under U.S. law, you can reap bigger damages, if you register.

The answers to 2 & 3 are much more complex. Here's are two good primers on copyright for photographers:

Frequently Asked Copyright Q&As by Andrew D. Epstein

The Law For Photographers -- Copyright
03-07-2010, 01:51 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by bnorikane Quote
The answer to 1. is simple, you (or your employer) own the copyright when you snap the shutter. Under U.S. law, you can reap bigger damages, if you register.
OP is in Ontario, Canada. The USA hasn't fully annexed the Great North yet, and Parliament hasn't yet ceded total authority, have they? Despite all efforts by Disney and RIAA?
03-07-2010, 07:05 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by RioRico Quote
OP is in Ontario, Canada. The USA hasn't fully annexed the Great North yet, and Parliament hasn't yet ceded total authority, have they? Despite all efforts by Disney and RIAA?
We are hoping it doesn't come to that.
Under the OP's law, the first owner of copyright is either the person who commissioned it or the person who paid for it (an employee/employer situation), unless there is an agreement to the contrary.

This makes it interesting for photographers who shoot models on a time for print or TFCD basis, since if a model initiates a photo session, and the photographer shoots it without getting a copyright release signed, the model is the copyright owner, not the photographer.

A wedding photographer who does not have a copyright ownership clause in his contract does not own copyright of the photos he takes.

That's how it is in Canada.
US law is not germane to the question at hand.
03-08-2010, 02:44 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Wheatfield Quote
That's how it is in Canada.
US law is not germane to the question at hand.
Well yes and no. If you publish a picture on the Internet, you're most likely publishing it in every country that has Internet access. In that regard, your picture is now subject to the copyright laws of a country when used within that country.

So it's probably good to know how your rights differ in the US (or Australia, or England, etc) compared to Canada. If you find out that someone in the US is mis-using your picture, you have to use US law to fight it.

On the other hand, there are many countries out there... like dozens or something! It's impossible (and impractical) to learn all of their copyright laws.
03-08-2010, 02:48 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by noblepa Quote
One of the most abused and misunderstood concepts in copyright law is the "fair use" doctrine. This allows for someone to use small parts of a copyrighted work under certain circumstances, without the permission of the author or the payment of royalties.
We have a long and dry thread regarding this here. I started it after someone accused me of being a thief just because I resented his site's right-click prevention, and it turned into a very interesting discussion.
03-08-2010, 04:43 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by GoremanX Quote
Well yes and no. If you publish a picture on the Internet, you're most likely publishing it in every country that has Internet access. In that regard, your picture is now subject to the copyright laws of a country when used within that country.

So it's probably good to know how your rights differ in the US (or Australia, or England, etc) compared to Canada. If you find out that someone in the US is mis-using your picture, you have to use US law to fight it.

On the other hand, there are many countries out there... like dozens or something! It's impossible (and impractical) to learn all of their copyright laws.
True enough, but for all practical purposes, if you post it to the net, you are pretty much giving it to anyone who wants it.
It's not only impractical to learn the copyright laws of the 195 or so countries in the world, but it is well nigh impossible to police ones work across the net as well.
03-08-2010, 05:00 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by Wheatfield Quote
True enough, but for all practical purposes, if you post it to the net, you are pretty much giving it to anyone who wants it.
It's not only impractical to learn the copyright laws of the 195 or so countries in the world, but it is well nigh impossible to police ones work across the net as well.
Bingo.

In addition, the most the "damaged" party can hope to obtain are actually monetary damages.

In other words, if I steal your image for a Budweiser print ad, you can expect to reap millions in your settlement or actual court case. If I use it for my kid's Boy Scout Troop's web site, you won't see a dime. You have to suffer actual "damage" from the unauthorized usage, especially when non-commercial use is involved.

As far as the creative concept of your shot goes, you have zero protection. You can't do a shot on a beach of nerd with 10 hot girls around him, and then claim copyright to the idea.

For images as well as written work, you can't copyright an idea--only an expression of that idea. So I can do the exact same shoot, but it's considered a different expression of it.

The great photogs only worry about direct stealing of their images for commercial, money-making purposes. Photogs who make hi-res downloads available on the web without serious watermarks should expect the worst in this day and age.
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