Ed Brenmer came in to give us a talk about copyright and how this might affect us as photographers.

The copyright law is a law that gives the owner of a written document, musical composition, book, picture, or other creative work, the right to decide what other people can do with it. Copyright laws make it easier for authors to make money by selling their works. Because of copyright, a work can only be copied if the owner of the copyright gives permission.When someone copies or edits a work that is protected under copyright without permission, the owner may sue for the value of the violation. Most such cases are handled by civil law in more serious cases, a person who copies a work that is protected under copyright could be arrested, fined or even go to prison.

The laws of copyright permit photographers to make money from their images. If we didn’t have this law we wouldn’t be able to make money from our images, as they wouldn’t be protected. Allowing anyone to sell them and use them for whatever purpose they wanted.

Intellectual property is property that is the result of your creativity.

As a photographer as soon as you take an image it has copyright. This is automatic you don’t need to do anything to obtain the copyright. You don’t need to register your copyright or mark your work with the copyright symbol ©.

Unless something is indicated as other you should accept that it is copyrighted.

Copyright is very important but it needn’t be complicated, always remember to read the small print and never give your copyrights away. Often if you enter competitions they will require you to hand the copyright over.

When I have done studio images for clients I will often give them the images on a usb to print as they like, I will give them a letter to say that I give them permission to print the images or they are the owners of the copyright so that they can print them their selves.

5 reasons why you should never give away your copyright.

1. You Can’t Control What You Do Not Own.

2. Others can change your image but people may still think this is your work; this could ruin your reputation and standing as a photographer.

3. You expose yourself to liability.

4. You can’t (Legally) make money off what you do not own.

(If you sign over your copyright, you image can be resold and the new owner can resell your image to anyone they choose to, profiting monetarily from your work.)

5. Protecting your intellectual property makes it easier to take action against anyone who copies or steals it.

There are times when you might take a photograph but you do not own the copyright.

If you are an employee of a business and the photos are taken for them,

Or if your an employee of a business asked to take the photos, as the photographer you will be working on behalf of your employer, and the business that you work for will own the copyright.

A university lecturer would not be able to claim joint ownership on a student’s work unless they have made a substantial contribution to that work.

Helpful sites

Things covered on these sites.

There are things that copyright doesn’t cover these include

1. The names of a product

2. The name of a business or group

3. Aliases of people

4. Titles of work

5. Catchphrases slogans, short advertising expressions labels, Listings of ingredients in recipes, though the directions can be copyrighted.

What rights do I have as a photographer?

Public property

You do not need a permit to take photos in a public place, you can also take photos of private building as long as your stood on public land. There are a few exceptions you are not allowed to take photos of mines factories or dockyards owned by the crown. This is an offence.

Bylaws prevent commercial photography in some public places, Parliament Square Trafalgar Square, and some Royal Parks are amongst them it is best to check before you arrange a shoot in these places. Some places also prevent you from using a tripod without booking I know this is the case on the south bank. But you could always use a monopod. If you are questioned always be considerate and civil, but also be aware of your rights.

Taking a picture of an English bank note is illegal unless you have written permission from the Bank of England.

Sometimes it may be difficult to distinguish if you’re on public or private property, private property is not always clearly marked as so. If you are definitely sure that you’re on the public highway that is ok but it pays to be vigilant.

If you are on private land and the owner should asks you to leave you must do so. Other wise you will be classed as trespassing and could be prosecuted.

If you refused to leave they could use reasonable force to evict you from their land, but they are not allowed to grab you or damage your kit.

It is a criminal offence to trespass on railway property or military property, Crown property in the UK.

When out in the country on fields and farmland ask for permission from the farmer first this will avoid trespassing on land, Although if you are on a public footpath you can take photos from here.

If you wanted to take photos of some horses in a farmers field but you did this from a public road that is allowed even though the animals are on private land you are on public land.

Photography on Trains

You can take photographs at train stations for personal use. Any commercial photography requires prior permission from the train operator or Network Rail. Flash photography is banned, and you may be asked not to use a tripod, too.


Personal photography is permitted, but you are not allowed to use a flash or tripod on the platforms. If you want plan on selling the images or think you will be spending longer that 15 minutes shooting then you will first need to apply for a permit.


Photos for personal use can be taken in the terminal lounges but most airports are private property. So limitations apply.

Taking Pictures of People in Public.

There are currently no specific UK privacy laws, but the UK courts must take into account the European Convention on Human Rights, which gives everyone the right to respect for their private and family life.

Photographing children

Make sure you gain a parent or guardian’s consent before taking any images of children.

Take into account that schools, leisure centres and most places where children and adults gather usually have their own photographic limitations.

For commercial images, you’ll need to get a model release signed by the parents.

What is a model release?

A model release is authorization of consent given to a photographer by the person in the photograph.

Allowing the image to be used for various purposes.

There is no ‘industry standard’ model release form, Template forms can be easily found on the Internet.


Police in the UK have no powers to stop you taking photos in a public place,

The police can only search you if they suspect that you are concealing drugs or weapons, have stolen property or are carrying tools to commit a crime or cause criminal damage or carry out an act of terrorism. Searches under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 have been banned for individuals, but a police officer can still stop and search you if they have ‘reasonable suspicion’ that you’re a terrorist, under Section 43.

Security guards.

Security guards have no powers to stop and search anyone unlike the police. They are only members of the public, and because of this they can’t stop you from taking photos on public land.

They also have no right to make you delete any images you have taken. If they threaten you and shout at you they could be guilty of assault.

They are not allowed to forcibly take your camera or memory card, theft will be committing an offence of civil tort of trespass to goods and trespass to person.

If they take your camera or memory card then that is theft and that is a criminal offence. If this was to happen you should call the police.