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Friday 17 May 2013

Canadian Copyright: What's Yours, and What's Theirs?

As I've mentioned, I've been photographing one of our local provincial party candidates for the past couple of weeks. It's been a wonderful experience, and I've enjoyed helping out in whatever way I can.

However, earlier this week it was suggested that once the photos I took for the party went public I would no longer own the rights to them. This didn't sound right to me, and I dove into research regarding the new copyright laws in Canada – and I found both very helpful, interesting information and a whole lot of misinformation.

Let me start by saying every photographer, both amateur and professional, should spend a little time looking into this subject for themselves. I'm going to explain Canadian laws as I understand them, and feel free to comment below if you have more information or supporting sources. Most people in Canada are aware that laws surrounding downloading copyrighted material changed significantly on November 7 of last year, but most people are not aware of is this included the works of a photographers as well.

Before these changes, if a photographer was commissioned to do a shoot and wanted to use the photos for anything (advertising, selling the prints, etc.), they would have to receive a release from the client. Once a contract was entered into, they no longer had any rights to that work except with the client's permission. Many photographers worked around this by providing a release right up front and would not agree to the contract if there was no release provided.

After these changes, if a photographer is commissioned to do a shoot, they have to provide a release to the client to allow them to use that work for a profit basis. The client can use the photos I give them for any personal use, as long as it isn't for profit or gain. This is the law that's in effect right now.

This means that I retain copyright on any and every photo I shoot for 50 years after my death, unless I expressly sign that away. Wow – what a switch, right? In fact, Canada is just playing catch-up to most of the world. Other kinds of artists—painters, sculptors, and artists in general—in Canada have enjoyed this protection for years except photographers.

You still need a release form signed by a model or subject, human or otherwise, if you are using that photograph in an advertisement. However, if you are using it for art, editorial, or or personal use you do not require a model release in Canada.

I hope that makes things a little more clear, but if not, here is a link to an article that is far more in depth:

Take the time to read it over. Be informed, and inform others who may not have this information. If nothing else, it will  help the public understand the rights of artists everywhere in Canada.

Oh – and by the way, the political party did not fire me for pointing out the error, and I continued to shoot right up till their loss.

But that's another blog. 

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