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Hi everyone,

I was looking at the Professional Photographers of Canada website and reading up on Canadian Copyright Law here  At first, this paragraph really concerned me:

--- Quote ---Who is the author of a photograph determines who owns the copyright in the photograph. Generally, the author is the first owner of the copyright in a work. This is true for photographs with some exceptions. The Copyright Act provides that where a photograph is commissioned the copyright belongs to the person who orders the photograph.(emphasis added)
--- End quote ---

I intrepreted that as when a client commissions photography, that the photographer is NOT the copyright owner and therefore can NOT license the photographs to the client for personal, non-commercial uses and that the photographer essentially no longer "owns" the image.

That seemed to be completely opposite of how many professional photographers operate.  So, I then looked up the Canadian Intellectural Property Office (CIPO) guide which states: "The author is typically the person who owned the negative or original photograph at the time it was made."  Which is what I had thought to begin with.

However, the CIPO also provides this in a FAQ section (

--- Quote ---Q.  Who owns the copyright?

A.  Generally, the owner of the copyright is:

* the creator of the work;
* the employer, if the work was created in the course of employment unless there is an agreement to the contrary;
* the person who commissions a photograph, portrait, engraving or print for valuable
consideration (which has been paid) unless there is an agreement to the contrary; or
* some other party, if the original owner has transferred the rights. (emphasis added)
--- End quote ---

So, my final assumption is that Canadian professional photographers get around client copyright ownership by providing statements in their contracts to the contrary.  And that because of Canadian Contract Law, the agreement between a client and a photographer (that the photographer owns the copyright and may license the photographs for personal, non-commercial uses to the client) would satsify Canadian Copyright Law.

If I'm right or wrong, either way I would really value your opinions, experiences, intrepretations, and discussions. 

Thank you.

CR Backup Admin:
What it is saying, is that, if i hire you to take photographs of, for example, food used in advertising of my business, then i own the rights to the photographs.

That is what I would expect, the photographer would not own or be able to sell the photographs that i paid him to take for me.

Same for personal portraits, the photographer does not own the rights and cannot sell them to a advertising agency.  He might charge me for additional prints if I want them though.

In Canada, the copyright belongs to whoever commissioned the work by default.  I assume most Canadian photographers specify that they retain copyright in any work-for-hire contract.  I certainly do this whenever I am paid for photography work.

This isn't unique to Canada. I believe the same basic principle applies in the U.S.

That's why professional photographers always stipulate in their contracts that they retain the copyright to all images they produce - and why they also never work without a contract.  :)


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