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

  • Bartek Nowakowski

    Ugh, when will Canada finally realize that the commissioner is the Job Creator?

  • Christopher King

    Thank you.

  • Get real…

    and the photographer is the content creator….nuff said.

  • vinterchaos

    So all this time, the photographer took the shot, edited and never owned the photo in all that time? Brutal! Good for them.

  • Jan N

    “Job creators” brought this on themselves. Canada did this because “job creators” were documented in image theft. Move somewhere like the Soviet Union then you won’t have to worry about paying the “photograph creator”.

  • [email protected]

    What about Canadian Military Photographers?

  • Peter Reynolds

    How does this law affect videographers? Do we own the copyright to the moving images we create? It has never been clear how we’re treated by the law. Thoughts?

  • Ron Werner

    So, I hire someone to take some photos of my busn. HE now owns those pictures. IF he SELLS the pictures he should give up the rights to that photo, unless he sells prints. It’ll be better for busn people to take their own photos if they will never own them

  • corey

    Many Commercial photographers give full rights or draft a contract with license terms.

  • Dale Robinson

    Job creator, not piece creator.

  • Franklyn G.

    That seems so unfair

  • Mike Taylor

    Not necessarily. You might be the owner of a shoe store or burger joint. It might be better to leave the photo making to the photo makers, and we’ll leave the burger making to the burger makers.

  • ASphotography

    Good to see we finally are at the same level as the rest of the world. Thank you for your hard work CAPIC

  • avendon

    anyone can shoot a photo

  • Dave Harley

    But not just anyone can shoot a GREAT one!

  • Dave Harley

    In which way?

  • Andrew

    Thank you Canada! Great work CAPIC.

  • LTD.Edition

    Now what about videographers?

  • LTD.Edition

    it’s called licencing.

  • LTD.Edition

    exactly, it’s just buying photos, not the rights to them. Unless otherwise stated. Which this recognizes. It’s be like buying a product and saying now you own the copyright to that product.

  • LTD.Edition

    it’s just buying photos, not the rights to them. Unless otherwise stated. Which this recognizes. It’s be like buying a product and saying now you own the copyright to that product. which is reduculous

  • Burnin Biomass

    I believe they would be considered under contract.

  • Gary Livingston


  • Gary Livingston

    This is what licensing contracts are for. It saves you money as a business because you are only paying for the specific usage you NEED and not for the ability to use the images in ways you never ever would.

    What about all the small business owners it helps? Namely, all those in business as photographers.

    Don’t be so narrow sighted, greedy, and silly.

    Also, this has been working great in the U.S.A. for decades to the benefit of all.

  • Kâté Braydon

    what does this mean for staff photographers at newspapers? does the photog own the image or the paper?

  • Sark

    Uhhhh I can see how every person with a DSLR that thinks they’re a photographer jumping for joy. . . but you’re clearly unaware of the other effects of this law being put in to place because it does more harm than help. Can’t believe what I am reading.

  • James

    Hello? The soviet union? What year do you live in? Ever heard of China or North Korea?

  • Virginia Simpson Geffros

    yeah, like buying a dvd and saying you now own all rights to the movie

  • Tim Knowles

    This is good news!

  • Corbin Smith

    That’s actually a great question. I wonder if you could apply the “I’m technically taking many photographs every second, over a period of time” argument.

  • Corbin Smith

    While this new legislation does put the inherent copyright ownership rightly into the hands of the photographer, any contractual agreements between photographer and client still apply. If you are a staff photographer, you have likely signed (at least some of) your copyright away to your employer. In this circumstance I would re-visit the contractual agreement between client and photographer. If there is no mention of copyright ownership/licensing rights, then I would suggest that this legislation places to copyright ownership in the hands of the creator.

    (My interpretation, not legal advice!)

  • Remi

    Soviet Union? Buddy, grab a map.

  • Mark Moran

    More harm than help? How? Can you expand on that thought?

  • Anon

    I understand the sentiment but it is not the right analogy. The more accurate analogy would be you paying Paramount Picture to create a particular movie, and receiving a DVD in the mail. In that case, the copyright question is at the very least, not trivial.

  • K

    Yes, how dare us photographers demand the same rights as any other artist. I don’t think anyone who “thinks they’re a photographer” is actually jumping for joy. Chances are most of them weren’t even aware of these laws. It was more of a concern for working photographers losing the rights to use a photo if they shot it for a client.

  • Duhmeatree

    British photographer George Rodger was also a founding member of the Magnum Agency

  • Burnin Biomass

    I think that many people are not seeing this right. Just because now the photographer has the copyright at the time of creation of the image, it doesn’t mean that he intends on keeping the copyright. The copyright release just has to be added to the contracts, and photographers will be more than happy to sell them (most likely for the same prices you are paying now). This legislation is just so everyone is clear that the photographer owns the copyright first, and its up to him to decide what to do with it, and who gets to use it.

  • Stefan

    As a professional Photog specializing in Real Estate, this is great news!!
    I now have recourse against people using my images without payment or consent.
    Picture this (pardon the pun), I take photos commissioned by a real estate agent, for the purpose of listing a newly built house. House sells, and now the Builder is using my photos to promote himself as a business. These two purposes carry two very different fees.

  • Lucid Times

    Your first mistake was posting to Facebook. In the opening Terms which you and millions of others haven’t read, they clearly state you are signing over the right for them to use and abuse, rent resell or whatever they see fit, with no compensation to you. Furthermore, if your posted image is added to a group, the Terms state that even if you pull your image down from your page, they still have the right to pillage via the group for eternity. No photographer in their right mind would post to Facebook an image they held dear. In fact, you’re extremely lucky they removed it because legally they didn’t have to. And that you agreed to when you opened your Facebook account.

  • Lucid Times

    You don’t actually need to fly across the globe to run into photographic roadblocks and madness. Although Canada may have lagged in regards to the copyright issue, we are far more open than the US in regards to what can be photographed. As an absurd example, it is legal in parts of the US to marry and have a child at 14 years of age however, if you photograph the mother to be in Demi Moore style, you are committing a felony… child pornography in fact. That just doesn’t happen here in slovenly ol’ Canada!

  • Lucid Times

    You likely also believe that any secretary with a PC and a Microsoft Word template is also a graphic designer!

  • Lucid Times

    You know, the status quo for newspaper images usually involves a terrific lack of artful or conceptual thinking, or the time to pan it out, a pathetic attempt at in-house editing and absolutely shocking lo resolution printing on crap paper, all headed for the recycling bin in under 24 hours. I’d think you have far more pressing concerns than who actually owns the image!

  • KZorel

    but what about the stylists and art directors who contribute to the overall quality of the photograph? what rights do they have to the photo?

  • Brad Trent

    This was why I left my beloved Canada 30 years ago….at last, I can now return home……….

  • John Goldsmith

    It’s a great change. However, as a working professional photographer, I never had anyone contend my ownership even for a paid, commissioned shoot. That’s what contracts were/are for.

  • A_RedHerring

    How does this affect the models or makeup artists, who are now open to a whole lot of abuse-of-privilege by photographers? I’ve had a lot of issue with photogs who were either paid to shoot, or working on written agreement, who now allegedly own work I’m half of.

  • Guest

    The Crown owns the copyright. The photographer is entitled to photo credit and, as long as the image is not classified, can include it in their portfolio. Since the Canadian Government provides the equipment and pays the photographer a salary, whether they photograph anything or not, the photographer is not allowed to profit from the image. That includes anything they shoot with their issued equipment in their spare time, regardless of the subject or content.

  • Roland

    Photos cost nothing to reproduce. Therefore, they are not scarce and hence not property. Authorizing the government to prevent others from using images merely stifles creativity and productivity and burdens the government with more law enforcement costs.

    If you want to profit from your images, develop a technology to prevent them from being copied at zero cost.

  • questioning

    So when hiring a photographer for your wedding/event, you need to remember to draw up contract (and get it signed) so you get copyright to the photos you ordered. Otherwise the photographer is free to use/sell photos of you if they wish to do so?

  • Newspic

    Lucid Times description of a newspaper photog shows ignorance and contempt and misinformation about the profession. You sound like some editors that I have worked for. What you forget is that THAT THEY ARE GOING TO SELL YOUR WORK!
    And you are going to get ziltch!