A basic understanding of copyright and digital photographs

Under the Copyright Design and Patents Act 1988, section 4(1) consists of photographs as artistic work protected under the Act. A digital photograph could be inferred as digital photos taken on mobile phones or digital cameras.

Primarily, the creator of an image will be the first owner of the copyright. However, various factors affect this assumption. This could consist of when the photograph was taken as there are laws governing photographs taken prior to 1989. Another factor to be considered would be whether the photograph was produced during the creator’s employment, rather than a freelance photograph. If the image is created during the course of employment, then the employer would own the photograph. On the other hand, the creator of the photograph may allow an organisation to license their work or license the copyright themselves or transfer the copyright to a third party.

The legislation concerning copyright in images lasts during the creator’s lifetime, plus 70 years from the year of death of the creator, subject to when the image was produced. In contrast, the situation is a little more complicated for older works, created prior to 1 August 1989.

In cases where the copyright of an image has expired, it is unnecessary to obtain permission from the copyright holder. This also applies to when an image is used for specified acts permitted by law. If permission is obligatory to use a photograph, then it must be obtained from all the copyright owners. In some scenarios one organisation can provide permission to the rights of the photograph where there are numerous copyright owners. In some circumstances separate permission may be required from the various copyright owners.

When obtaining an image from the internet, it is recommended to view the terms and conditions to gain an understanding of whether you are permitted to use the image for your particular use. Furthermore, to acquire some images online you may require a licence.

The consequences of copyright infringement could lead to legal action taken against the infringer. The copyright infringer may be required to purchase a licence and no further action may be required. However, court proceedings could be held against the infringer. The consequences are dependent upon the copyright owner and what course of action they would prefer. In some severe scenarios where the infringer is aware of their actions, then may have criminal prosecutions against them.

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