Martin Pawlett Photography | Photographers Copyright

Photographers Copyright

March 20, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

Copyright... there is confusion amongst photographers and people buying photography services on who has copyright. Here is a brief overview.

All photographs are given copyright protection under UK law, everything from a holiday snap to a professional wedding photograph. As the author of a photograph myself, any photographs I take or are taken by my company are the copyright of me, I own the copyright as I own my company. That isn't something made up by me, this is fact according to the Copyright, Design and Patents Act 1988. The photographer will own the copyright to their photographs for their life plus 70 years.

As a photographer, I have the following exclusive rights with regard to photographs I have created –

  • The right to reproduce the photograph
  • The right to distribute copies of the photograph to the public
  • The right to rent or lend the work to the public
  • The right to broadcast the work to the public
  • The right to make an adaption of your image

Copyright is automatically granted as soon as the photograph has been created. You do not need to register a photograph for it to have copyright. In the UK there is no public authority with which to register photographs.

However as a copyright owner, I have the right to assign your copyright to another person or body. This gives the other person that I have assigned the copyright to the same exclusive rights that I had as the first owner, but I have now lost because I have assigned them to someone else. That is why a photographer will never give away copyright.

If a photographer says they are granting you copyright free of charge - that is incorrect. They will never give them away. It would be like a chef giving you his secret recipe, or a major fast food chicken company giving you the Colonels secret recipe. It will never happen!


Photographs taken after 1st August 1989

Under UK law, only the copyright owner can licence the copying of a photograph. This means reproducing the work in any material form, which includes storing the work in any medium by electronic means. Only the copyright owner can licence the issuing of a photograph to the general public.

There are no usage situations where a client might wish to put a photograph which cannot be covered by an appropriate licence for an appropriate fee, and such licences should be agreed at the time of commissioning new work, or of seeking permission to reproduce existing photographs.


Be careful what is promised, and if in doubt check.



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