Canadian Photogs Now Officially Own the Copyright to All of Their Photos

A big win for photographers in Canada: as of today, you now officially own the copyright to all your photographs regardless of whether they were commissioned. The development comes as a result of Canada major copyright reform bill (Bill C-11) taking effect this morning. One of the stated goals of the new copyright law is to, “give photographers the same rights as other creators.”

In an email just sent out to member photographers, Canadian Association of Professional Image Creators (CAPIC) copyright head André Cornellier writes,

The principle of protecting photographers’ ownership rights started 65 years ago by Henri Cartier-Bresson, who founded Magnum with Robert Capa and David Seymour. Magnum assured that a photographer’s image belonged to the photographer and not to the commissioner of the work.

In Canada, all other artists have already owned the copyrights to their work and thanks to this new law, Canadian photographers, albeit the last in the industrialized world, now have all legal rights to their images.

Previously, photographers were not automatically the first owners of their photographs when shooting commissioned work, but instead it was the individuals or businesses that commissioned the images who owned the copyrights. Section 13(2) of the Canadian Copyright Act specifically singled out photography as being different than other creative works.

Photographers who wanted to own the full copyrights of their work were required to have the transfer explicitly agreed upon in a written and signed contract.

That once-murky environment is no more. Starting today, photographers will automatically become the first owners of photos created for someone else.

Cornellier notes that his organization and a number of others have been working to see this law passed for more than 20 years, and that many photographers have contributed countless donations and volunteer hours toward the lobbying process.

Thanks for sending in the tip, Ben!

Image credits: Canada wins Hockey Gold by Chris Bizzy, Canada 125 (Ottawa) 06 by zemistor

  • ofCanada

    That’s rather good news. As it should be, the work of an artist belongs to them regardless of the cash of others.

  • ofCanada

    So, nobody should associate the Sistine Chapel ceiling with Michelangelo. He was just an employee, after all.

  • camille_h

    I would never hire a photographer for product photography work or for an event, such as a wedding without insisting on a transfer of the rights for ALL images captured in the paid session(s). Look at the terms & conditions very carefully.

  • MarkKalan

    Perhaps you need to learn to use the html sarcasm code: and

  • MarkKalan

    Irony and sarcasm are in the tone of voice…lost on the internet….and its probably all your fault! ;-)

  • Ian Payton

    while it sounds great from an ownership view, but it could be creating work for a photographer that they may do not want. Under the old law, if i was commissioned by ABCD Corporation to take some photos and those photos were infringed on, it was the job of ABCD Corporation to protect their copyright. So under this law ABCD Corp could not go after someone for infringement, they would have to get the photographer who owns the copyright to do so? Personally with some commissioned product photography work I have done, once I give them what want, I want to be done with the the images. I do not want a call or an email telling me that I have to protect my copyright on their behalf for something I did a few years ago.

  • Bruce Charles Currie

    It’s good news and about freakin’ time.

  • David Portass

    It was pretty clear and they took the bait :)

    We really need the sarcastic reverse italic font to be implemented to help those that just can’t tell

  • David Portass

    In most employment contracts it’s usually written that anything created while in the employ of that company during office hours and/or on company property and/or using company equipment then that company owns all intellectual property and copyright. If you are commissioned to do “job”, unless it states in the contract for that job is work for hire (aka you are effectively an employee for the duration of that “job”) then you own the copyright.

    Some examples:
    1. I work for X so they own the copyright of any pictures I take for work.
    2. I am hired by a couple to shoot a wedding so I own the copyright to those photos.
    3. I am hired by a wedding photographer as a second shooter with a contract that is work for hire, the wedding photographer owns the copyright to my photos

    That is not to say however you can’t use photos shot for an employer for your portfolio or maybe even to sell, it just depends on what is agreed with your employer when your contract is written or if it can be updated or have exception for certain projects with written permission. NDA, product embargoes, classification, corporate sensitivity and many other factors could prevent something you’ve shot for an employer being allowed to see the light of day.

    At least that’s my understanding of it all :)

  • David Portass

    Any photographer that shoots for a client should ALWAYS have a contract for every job, even repetative or regular work.

    Most photograhers will work with you to create favourable licencing agreements. If I’m shooting for a client we discuss things like exclusivity, they may be happy to have non-exclusive use allowing me to make money from their sale such as a large event, others may not want me to sell them so I would make that an exclusive agreement that the photos taken I would not use or sell on.

    I’ll give you an idea of what I mean, a year ago I did a photo job for a new tea room that a friend started. I agreed with her in the contract two parts. The first was any photos which showed the exterior or interior that identified the tea room with her branding, those photos would be exclusive for her licencing usage and I could only use for my portfolio. The second part was photos of things like her tea blends, coffee machine, cups and setups with these items together with the brewed tea, coffee or cakes taken almost as stock photos would be non-exclusive because they didn’t reveal her business specifically and that I could use them for any other purpose as it wouldn’t affect her.

    The last thing a photographer wants to do is piss a customer off in such a way that they lose out on repeat business, it’s all about working with the customer to agree a contract with licences that benefit both parties