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Copyright Ownership

What you need to know about copyright ownership

Today we are talking about what you need to know about copyright ownership before you ask your photographer for it.

A few weeks ago, we discussed the basics of photography copyright. I outlined that copyright ownership belongs to the photographer. I also explained why you probably don’t really need to own the copyright. You can read all about that here.

If after reading the previous post you decide you still want to own the copyright of your photos, read on.

Discussing copyright with your photographer

The photographer owns the copyright of the images. This is their legal right as the creator of the work (in this case, photography). Understanding this is a great start to any copyright conversation you have with your photographer.

When you want to discuss owning the copyright of your images, start by asking. Demanding copyright ownership can quickly put your photographer on the defensive. Do not assume that your photographer will hand over copyright to you for free. Also, be prepared to explain why you want/need copyright ownership. Your concerns/needs may be addressed without having to sell the copyright to you.

If owning the image copyright is something that is important to you, discuss this with your photographer prior to signing a contract. Not all photographers are willing to sell their copyright ownership. Those that are willing, would still prefer to know about this expectation prior to providing a service.

Copyright is not cheap

If you want copyright from your photographer, you can ask for it. It is up to your photographer whether he/she is willing to sign copyright over to you. If he/she does agree to sign it over, they will probably offer to sell it. The cost of the copyright is often not cheap. Your photographer may price the copyright per image or for the entire session.

So why is buying copyright so expensive? The copyright owner can control when, where, and how images are distributed. If you own the copyright, the photographer no longer has this control. Meaning, if you were to sell your image or use it for any kind of distribution or profit, the photographer will no longer have the right to receive photo credit or be compensated for the profit you made from the images.

When you own the copyright of images, you are also allowed to make changes to the images. This may not match with your photographer’s style or properly represent his/her work. This is another reason that photographers often don’t sell their copyright for a low price.

Copyright has to be signed over

In order to own the copyright of your images, your photographer needs to sign over that copyright to you. If you are purchasing the copyright from your photographer, make sure that you receive a signed document that expressly states that you are now the copyright owner and that the photographer is releasing his/her rights to the images. Without that document, you will not have any legal proof of copyright ownership.


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