PetaPixel

If a Kid Grabs Your Camera and Snaps a Photo, Who Owns the Copyright?

If a stranger suddenly grabs your camera and takes a photograph, who owns the copyright to that photograph? Photographer Mirjam Letsch writes,

Walking in an Indian bazaar, my Nikon dangling on my shoulder, this boy quickly clicked five times. I really liked the creative result when I later saw these images! Don’t know who owns the copyright though!

This might seem like a pretty farfetched example, but what about a case where you carefully set up and compose a fine art photograph, then for some reason ask a stranger to press the shutter for you?

In just five clicks! (via Techdirt)


 
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  • Anonymous

    As a friend of mine who is a lawyer once told me whenever someone asks him for a clear cut answer to what seems to be a simple legal question, his answer almost always starts off with “It depends…”  Therefore, it depends on what the contract agreed upon, regardless of whether it was written, verbal or implied. 
     
    In this case, the contract was nonexistent so the camera owner can not claim credit for taking the photo.  Yet, the photos were made at the camera owners’ expense, albeit small, so the camera owner should retain copyright as compensation.  The child/parents had essentially no expense, especially compared to the camera owner, and are therefore not entitled to compensation.
     
    This is not to say it can not get ugly if the parents get demanding especially if it becomes a widely published photo with plenty of royalties.

  • http://blog.wingtangwong.com/ Wing Wong

    Not really enough information to make a determination.

    Example 1: Child took the camera and made photos with it without the consent of the owner of the camera. 

    Question: Does the child own any rights to the images created with equipment that was not legally his to use?

    Example 2: Say the child was given the camera by the photographer and asked to take some pictures for him.

    Question: Does that then imply that the photographs fall under work for hire because the photographer directed the child?

    Example 3: Say the photographer talked to the parents, came to an understanding that the child would get to play with the camera, but they would have no rights to the images.

    Question: Does a verbal agreement hold in such a case?

    Reading the original posting, I really don’t see there being enough information to make a judgement. In all likelihood, the child just saw a cool camera hanging from his shoulder in the crowd, took hold of it and played with it to make images. The mother probably very quickly told him to give it back and all parties involved consider the issue settled.

    Because the child is a minor, the question isn’t whether the child owns the photographs, but whether the parents have any right to claim ownership of the photograph. If they just brushed off the encounter, could that be construed as them relinquishing any claim on the photographs their child took?

    Presuming for the time being that the photographs were amazing and were selling for hundreds of dollars, would the parents or child have any right to those earnings?

    Personally, I think it is a huge grey area. Legally untested. And until it does get tested, all is just conjecture.

  • http://blog.wingtangwong.com/ Wing Wong

    Not really enough information to make a determination.

    Example 1: Child took the camera and made photos with it without the consent of the owner of the camera. 

    Question: Does the child own any rights to the images created with equipment that was not legally his to use?

    Example 2: Say the child was given the camera by the photographer and asked to take some pictures for him.

    Question: Does that then imply that the photographs fall under work for hire because the photographer directed the child?

    Example 3: Say the photographer talked to the parents, came to an understanding that the child would get to play with the camera, but they would have no rights to the images.

    Question: Does a verbal agreement hold in such a case?

    Reading the original posting, I really don’t see there being enough information to make a judgement. In all likelihood, the child just saw a cool camera hanging from his shoulder in the crowd, took hold of it and played with it to make images. The mother probably very quickly told him to give it back and all parties involved consider the issue settled.

    Because the child is a minor, the question isn’t whether the child owns the photographs, but whether the parents have any right to claim ownership of the photograph. If they just brushed off the encounter, could that be construed as them relinquishing any claim on the photographs their child took?

    Presuming for the time being that the photographs were amazing and were selling for hundreds of dollars, would the parents or child have any right to those earnings?

    Personally, I think it is a huge grey area. Legally untested. And until it does get tested, all is just conjecture.

  • Rosa

    The photographer has no right to even publish the photo unless the child’s parents signed a release. The boy’s face is completely recognizable. Why would you be worried about copyright if you cannot use it? I am not a lawyer but…..

  • Guest

    i’d delete the whole thing.. problem solved.

    what? i cannot just delete the photos because the kid owns the copyright? oh god, this is a crazy predicament!

  • Guest

    i’d delete the whole thing.. problem solved.

    what? i cannot just delete the photos because the kid owns the copyright? oh god, this is a crazy predicament!

  • sheying

    the image is owned by the person who takes the image.  As soon as the shutter is released the person taking the photo owns the image.  You can not loan someone a camera, and say:   All the 1000s of pictures you take with my camera I own them, even though I was not there.   One this will not hold in court and two you have lost a friend.  This is serious violation of copyright.  You have to prove in court beyond any doubt that the image is yours.  If you can not describe in detail the situation that the image was taken you have no rights to the images.  Now if you are work for hire, like news agencies, then they own your work, depending on how your contract reads.  So Scorgie, your comment that whoever owns the camera owns all the images taken with is bunk.  So you rent a camera does the rental house own all your images?  Really?  If this is the law in Cananda, I know where I am not going.

  • sheying

    The movie studio who paid for the movie owns the copyright.

  • http://twitter.com/hynee @hynee

    It’s pretty clear to me, the kid owns the photo, but you now own the kid, so you keep the rights. 

  • Mirjam Letsch

    Thank you all for the good discussions (it was my camera!). If you are interested: I posted a new photo-video today: http://mirjamletsch.photoshelter.com/page2

  • Anonymous
  • @Sherb

    Can the kid prove he pressed the button …? :-) 

  • @Sherb

    Can the kid prove he pressed the button …? :-) 

  • Anonymous

    This page is a great method to connect to others.
    Congratulations on a job well achieved. I am anticipating your next entry.
    .

  • C Scorgie

    I was merely commenting in response to Dean’s comment on the Copyright situation in “Cananda” in pertinence to photography, since Canadian copyright law is what he was addressing. I was just clarifying what the situation is currently in Canada (found under Section 13[2] of the Canadian Copyright Act). I know for a fact that the law is different in other countries, and that Canada has a very unique situation. I have only studied Canadian copyright law, and therefore cannot comment on other nationalities as I am completely unaware of their copyright laws. In Canada, if a commissioned photographer wants to own the rights to the photos he/she is hired to take, then it must stipulate so in their contract with the Corporation/Individual who is the owner of the camera (in film photography, I believe it sits with whomever owns the film/plates). If this is not stipulated in the contract, then ownership of photos (whether 1 or 1000+) automatically goes to the owner. There’s really no grey areas about it, the law states it very clearly. I’m not saying I agree with this, just stating the law verbatim.

  • kitts

    Sorry, but that section says nothing about the owner of the camera.  That section talks about work for hire.  In the wedding example, unless otherwise stated in an agreement, the people hiring the photographer own the copyright, not the camera owner.  It matters not from where the camera came.  It matters who is paying and who is shooting.  

  • BullsEye

    And maybe the setting was green square…

  • Guest

    Just bust a cap on that freakin kid’s head

  • Webmail

    In film days, the copyright would belong to the person who owned the film, so presumably the copyright in these images is owned by the owner of the memory card.