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podcast | Skillz Middle East
podcast | Skillz Middle East
Who has the Photo Copyright and Ownership [Infographic]

Earlier the year a battle between Wikimedia and UK photographer David Slater hit the newswires over a macaque monkey selfie. It showed that having images on your social media pages is a bit more complicated than it may seem. Let’s see if we find an answer, “Who owns a Photo Copyright”?

Working 7 years with Adobe I was always inspired by my creative co-workers and the endless possibilities of Adobe Creative products.

Dieter Hovorka

CTO, Co-founder, Skillz Middle East

Ever thought about the copyright and ownership of photos? Yes, it can be complicated, but thanks to an infographic by Clifton Cameras who provide us with a guide through the jungle. In 2011 a macaque monkey snatched photographer David Slater’s camera and snapped an incredible picture of itself. The photo went viral and was uploaded to Wikimedia Commons – the free media repository. Because the picture was not taken by a human, Slater and Wikimedia got into a legal battle over who owns a photo. So, if a monkey takes a picture, who owns the photo copyright? Is it the monkey? Who stolen the camera, positioned it just right, and hit the shutter Is it the public domain? Animals can’t own a copyright and the photographer didn’t directly create the photo. Or is it the photographer? The one who provided the equipment traveled around the world, and created the perfect conditions for the photo.

There’s a case to be made for each party, but as of August 2014, the US copyright office ruled that the photographer DOES NOT own the copyright and it belongs to the public.

Who or What can not own a copyright to an Image

As a result of this controversial and bizarre case, the US Copyright Office updated its compendium of practices. It clarified more clearly ownership copyright to an image:
  • Any piece of original work CAN be copyrighted, provided that it was created by a human being.
  • Works produced by nature, animals or plants CANNOT be copyrighted. For example, a photo taken by a monkey or a mural painting by an elephant.
  • If work is created automatically or randomly by a machine without input from the user, it CANNOT be copyrighted.
  • The work allegedly formed by the divine or supernatural CANNOT be copyrighted either.
In the graphics, we can furthermore read about the social media ownership and more over the statistics of how many photos daily get uploaded. The question stays valid, do I lose my copyright when I upload my photos to Facebook? NO, you retain the copyright to your photographs. However, when you upload your images to Facebook, you automatically grant them a license to use and display that content however they like. You DON’T like the sound of this? Well, the only way out here is by deleting the photo or your entire account to end an IP license on Facebook. Just make sure the photo hasn’t been shared with others. If it still exists on the website in some format, it can still be used. In the infographic, we can learn how to protect our photos and images when we use them on our own website, how to register them.

What if you have the thought that your photo was infringed?

Only if you actively search for a photo you might find out. In the infographic gives us a hint about how we can utilize TinEye and Google to find our photo. So what comes next after we found a copy of our photo, what action can we take? Answers to this questions can be found in the infographic. I hope we could clarify some of the open questions. Special social media and digital usage of photos might not be easy. One topic we did not touch here is the commercial usage of photos especially when it comes to landmarks, eho owns the photo copyright of a landmark? We might take a look into this topic in a separate article.  
Who has the Photo Copyright and Ownership [Infographic]

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