Many people have asked me for my take on the recent changes to the Copyright Act with regards to ownership of wedding photos. With this new change, the default ownership of the photos will now belong to the photographer, and not to the wedding couple.
What’s my take on this? Well, no difference to me actually. The rights to the photos I’ve taken have always belong to me for as long as I can remember.
Black & White
I’ve always had a Contract, and for those who have seen it before, it’s 7 pages long. It was one of the earliest thing I got sorted out when I started thegaleria. There is a reason why it’s 7 pages long. The Contract doesn’t merely protects my intellectual property rights as a photographer but also one that safe guards what’s most important to my wedding couples – the right to privacy, the right to say how their photos can be used and shouldn’t be used. These are fundamentally important issues which a Contract will attempt to address.
Ownership isn’t the ONLY thing
A Contract covers more than just your intellectual property rights as a photographer and ownership of the photos. In fact, that is the least of my concerns. A Contract is meant to be comprehensive and covers things like your payable service hours, what constitutes service hours, payment terms, scope of work, deliverables, artistic freedom, the right for a fair treatment working environment, what happens in the event of a cancellation, what happens in the event of a force majeure and more recently, Covid-19. What happens when there is a Covid-19 lockdown? Do you forfeit the deposit? Do you allow postponement? If postponements are allowed, how far ahead can your postpone and how many postponements? To me, these are more pressing issues than ownership of your own work. In my experience, these are the things that my wedding couples are most concerned about. Ownership of the wedding photos is rarely a point of contention and even if they do, it usually revolves around the subject of privacy.
The right to say NO
Think about it. A wedding couple commissions you for your service but the right of their wedding photos belong to you. If terms are not explicitly spelled out, technically, you can do anything with the photos because you own them. Do you think such a deal make sense to your wedding couple? Not to me despite what the amendment to the Copyright Act says. Provisions need to be made such that the deal that was made is equitable and fair to all stake holders. It holds all parties accountable and above all, it gives everyone peace of mind. As much as intellectual property rights is important to the photographer, so are things like right to privacy and the right to say how and where the photos can be used. We need the right to be able to say no!
At the end of the day, photographers who value their rights and treasure their work of art would do everything to safeguard them. A desperate photographer or one who merely sees photography as an act of service would willingly waive off his/her rights even if the law clearly protects them.