10 Misconceptions About Photography Law

Because most people learn about photography laws and photographer's rights by word of mouth — and often from other photographers — there is a lot of room for misunderstanding. Carolyn Wright, a lawyer specialising in photography law, clears up 10 common misconceptions.

Photo by Rocco Lucia.

Photography blog Better Digital Photography interviews Carolyn Wright, an avid photographer and attorney specialising in photography law. She debunks 10 commonly held misconceptions of photography and the law. Among the most widespread of misconceptions is that anything in view of the public is fair game:

You don't need permission to photograph a work of art that is in a public area.

This rule is based on copyright law. United States Copyright Law grants exclusive rights to the copyright owner of a creative work, including the rights to: reproduce the copyrighted work; prepare derivative works based on the copyrighted work; distribute copies of the copyrighted work to the public; and/or display the image. (See 17 USC §106.)

When those rights are infringed the copyright owner is entitled to recover damages suffered as a result of the infringement. (See 17 USC §504). So even when a creative work is in a public area you may photograph it only if the work is in the public domain or your photograph makes a fair use of the work.

For more common misconceptions — and a better idea of what constitutes the sometimes nebulous "fair work" clause in copyright law — check out the full list a the link below. For more articles on photography and the law, check out the 10 legal commandments of photography.

Top Ten Misconceptions about Photography and the Law [Better Digital Photography]


    Could we get an Australian version?

    Why is this in the Australian version? This isn't relevant at all to Australian law.

      A surprising number of Aussies have misconceptions based on US law (and there is some harmonsation due to the FTA). We will look at the topic from an Aussie-centric perspective in the near future though!

        http://4020.net/words/photorights.php is an excellent resource for NSW.

        There is no harmonisation between US and Australian laws relating to photography due to the FTA - a very very long bow Mr editor.

    Not much use for us in Australia. An Australian version would be useful this is not.

    For an Australian (or at least NSW) analysis of a photographer's rights, see http://www.4020.net/words/photorights.php

    is there a site with aussie photo law , ive researched photo law based on the american photo law is it the same here in australia are there any real differences aussie photographers need to know

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