Welcome to the Copyright4Clients pages, produced by the Association of Photographers (AOP).
The AOP was first formed in 1968 as the Association of Fashion and Advertising Photographers (AFAEP) and is one of the most prestigious professional photographers' associations in the world.
The Association's aims remain the same today as they were nearly 50 years ago: to promote and protect the worth and standing of its members, to vigorously defend, educate and lobby for the interests and rights of all photographers, especially in the professional commercial photographic industry.
The Copyright4Clients pages are designed to be a clear and simple set of FAQs that should answer any queries that a client or commissioner may have about the ownership and control of copyright in photography.
Broadly-speaking, like all other forms of creative endeavour, professional photographers make their living by licensing the use of their work not by selling it outright, in the same way that if you buy a piece of music, you buy the rights to play that music for yourself – you don’t own it outright. This is an important distinction and a source of confusion for some who may think that as they’ve paid the photographer, they own the photographs and can do with them as they like. This is not the case and the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988, as amended (and often abbreviated to ‘CDPA1988’), is the UK legislation that underpins this and allows creators to control and manage their own work.
When you commission a photographer, you will automatically be granted some rights to use the resulting photographs. This is included as part of the quoted fees and is known as ‘licensing’ or a ‘licence to use’. What those rights allow you to do with the photographs will vary from photographer to photographer and determining the scope is part of the negotiation and buying process. If you want greater rights than the photographer provides as standard, there will be additional fees to pay – that’s only fair and allows photographers to operate sustainably to generate a fair level of profit to reinvest into their own businesses - after all, developing long-term business relationships is good for everyone.
If you wished to secure full ownership of the photographs, you would need to purchase the copyright from the photographer. This is called an ‘assignation of copyright’ and transfers the title/ownership in the photographs to you in full. Obviously, this will come with a price as the photographer is giving up any potential to earn additional income from those photographs in future as well as any control over how those photographs might be used. It is important to remember that if photographs are used out of context, badly cropped, poorly retouched and so on, that can reflect adversely on the photographer and their reputation for producing good work, therefore impacting their ability to earn in the future.
In-depth information on the laws surrounding photography, ethics, standards of practice, different types of photography, etc., can be found in our publication, 'Beyond the Lens'.