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Work-for-hire photos

07/08/08 | by Adam | Categories: Copyright

Link: http://www.michaelgeist.ca/content/view/3072/125/

In his ongoing commentary about the effect of the Conservative Party's new copyright bill, Michael Geist raises the issue of copyright on work-for-hire photography:

For decades, Canadian copyright law has vested copyright in commissioned photographs – like school photographs – in the person who commissions the photo. Bill C-61 reverses that practice so that copyright now belongs to the photographer. (repeal of Section 13.2) Assuming the photograph came with an all rights reserved restriction, the act of distributing the digitized photo to Diane’s grandmother now violates the law. (Section 29.21 (1)(e))

I've always wondered about the copyright conundrum here. If I commission you to take photos for me, I expect to retain the right to use them royalty-free and in perpetuity. On the flip side, if I'm the photographer and I charge standard rates for a photograph which then becomes an essential part of your money making process, I'd certainly like to see a bit of the windfall.

It goes both ways. Above the example took the view that it's the person to person connection. Consider a case where that photographer works for a large chain like Blacks. In this case, the photographer is working as an employee for the chain and thus the copyright goes to that company. You, as the individual for whom the photograph is being taken, have no rights other than what is initially expressly granted; nor does the photographer. In this case neither party directly involved holds the copyright, only the entity in the middle. Does that seem fair?

In the case of personal photographs, this feels like less of an issue. With commissioned work between two individuals, there's a sense of equality. However, when one side is a corporation and the other is not, it feels as if there ought to be some sort of balance. Legally though there's no difference whatsoever.

I have no idea as to what the resolution to this issue ought to be. The new copyright bill isn't the answer though.


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