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Who Owns the Rights to Photos Taken at Public Businesses? – AMD LAW GROUP

Who Owns the Rights to Photos Taken at Public Businesses?

Originally posted 2018-11-19 11:19:52


By Emerald Anderson | Editor: Kristen Daly |

When people take pictures, the focus has always been on their looks and the quality of the picture. To a large extent, one may assume that people do not even question the ownership rights to those pictures unless an issue arises that begins to turn into a lawsuit.

Issues of ownership and property rights are gradually becoming a popular topic among business owners as risks of lawsuits and legal action are on the rise.

In the United States, images and photos fall under Intellectual Property; thus, the photographer is automatically regarded as the owner of the images even if he or she is not present in the pictures. The only condition in which this would be different is when the person taking the pictures is an employee, is using the equipment of the employer and is being paid by the employer. The employer may choose to give unlimited license of the pictures to whomever requested they be taken but, the photographer remains the legal owner of the resulting pictures.

With this in mind, below are a few tips and advice to follow if you are interested in the ownership/rights of pictures you have taken.

  1. If the pictures are taken at an establishment such as a photo studio, always ask the photographer about the in’s and out’s of the legal ownership before continuing with the transaction.
  2. Although it is rare for individuals to sign contracts with photographers, it is highly recommended. This will clearly lay out the ownership rights to the future pictures and will provide any additional information.
  3. When making a payment for your pictures, always keep your copy of the receipt(s). It serves as evidence of the contract (in case no contract was signed) and will come to protect you if any issues should arise.

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