Is it legal to photocopy professional photos?

I had my senior portait taken a few months ago. I paid for the sitting and ordered several prints, including some wallet-size copies. The photographer is charging a ridiculous amount of money for additional copies of pictures that I’ve already paid to have taken and again to have printed.

Is it legal for me to photocopy some more wallets? After all, it’s not like I’m copying the proofs; I’ve paid for these prints. Does that mean they’re mine to copy, or does the photographer own the image?

It is not legal to copy them. The photographer owns the rights. For all the same reasons you can’t make a copy of a music CD that you bought at WalMart.

I second CynicalGabe a creation is by default copywrited by it’s creator. If you bought the rights, you could legally copy it. Back in the day, the photo labs would imprint copywrite information on the backs of the proofs and then call the owner of the copywrite if you tried to have it reprinted. Nowadays, who knows?

Gabe is right, the photog will keep rights to the photograph. You need to go to him to get extra copies legally. Places like Kinko’s will usually not copy them for you either, since it’s a copyright violation.

Why does he keep copyright? To keep people from buying one photo and making 20 copies. That way, he can actually get to make a decent living without having to charge crazy money for one photo.

Cite that you can’t make a copy of a music CD for personal (backup) use? I doubt copyright law has anything to say about that, even in these benighted times.

Well, the question of backups for personal use seems still to be somewhat up in the air.

It is worth noting, however, that the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) makes it illegal to break any encryption on DVDs and, i think, CDs. So if the CD has any anti-piracy encryption, then you’re not allowed to break that encryption, even if you are allowed to make a back-up copy for personal use.

Of course, simply playing the CD and making an analog copy would not involve breaking the encryption, but i’m not sure what the law has to say about this.

The current copyright situation in the US is really in flux on many issues, and is a damned mess.

How about you citing where you are given this blanket right? You’re claiming a right to make copies, after all – which is what copyright is. If it’s legal, then is has to say so somewhere (and not just “everyone knows.”)

The law only allows archive copies to be made by libraries and does not grant the right for personal use or achive purposes. Indeed that section is the only mention of Note that your software CDs specifically grant you the right to copy the software onto your computer: that’s because you don’t have that right otherwise.

Someone might make an argument that such a thing is fair use, but nothing about it has been determined.

Note that you can make tapes and can copy CDs if it’s a CD specifically designed to copy music. That’s because the copyright holder is paid a fee to cover copying. But even this doesn’t actually give you the right to make the copy: it only means you cannot be sued for doing it. And a CD hard drive doesn’t count.

If you had a blanket right to make a backup copy, why does iTunes specifically grant you the right to make copies? Ans: Because you don’t have it.

RealityChuck: The RIAA certainly seemed to think making backup copies of music CDs was fair use:

A PDF transcript of the testimony.

I doubt that Zahava424 wants to make the photocopies for personal use, so I fail to see the relevance of copying a music CD for personal use.

Uh, he can make a decent living by charging for the work he does.
FWIW, when I was having my wedding photos/shoot quoted, one of the conditions that I exhorted was a signed copyright waiver (not a waiver, but really a transference of the copyright as a work for hire). Most of them were willing to comply for no added cost (a few had a minimum purchase that they wanted).
The studio I finally decided up also had a policy whereby they’d give the waiver upon request free-of-charge after two years from the shoot date, so even though they conceded immediately per my request, they got bonus points for being liberal about their policies.
The lesson here is be prepared when you commission a work. If they want the job and they know you’re savvy, then in all liklihood you’ll get your way.

I’m curious about the law surrounding works for hire. Do you have to explicitly have a contract that transfers the copyright as a work for hire, or is the fact that you contracted the work likely to be enough to win a copyright challenge.

In the wedding photo example, if I go out and hire a photographer to take pictures of my wedding, pay him for his time, and then buy some pictures, under the common-sense meaning of the words, that seems to be a work for hire. But is it legally?

How does this relate to REALLY old, professionally taken photographs?

Mrs. Butler has recently gotten into collecting “couple photographs” of our parents, grandparents (and great-GP, etc). She was unable to get one photo, which is likely near enough to 100years old to say it’s so, copied, and the techs (multiple locations) said they couldn’t copy it due to it being a “professional photograph.” The subjects are long since dead, I have to assume the photographer is as well, and since there is no information regarding who took the photograph anywhere on it, it’d be rather tough to track them down for permission.

In the end, we ended up scanning the photograph, and having it reproduced via an online photo printing company. There are always ways around everything, though I don’t always suggest that you do what I have done.

Nope. Just because you commission a work does not mean you own the photographs. It has to be explicitly stated in the contract. I’ve mentioned before, I do not work for hire. For weddings, I do offer a DVD of all the files and a release allowing the duplication of the works for personal use only. This is a consideration that has been included in my price. However, I also retain copyright to the photographs. What I’m selling them is limited usage rights. My business is not based on resales, so I don’t really care if people print up their own photos.

Sorry…I meant that you do not own the copyright to the photographs.

If it was taken before 1923, you’re in the clear. Under U.S. law, works published before 1923 are in the public domain. For 1923 and after, it gets a whole lot murkier.

How is this not a violation of copyright?

It definitely is.

If that’s the case, why won’t you do work for hire? Or do you just mean, you generally don’t but wouldn’t be averse to it if asked? As I said before, some of the wedding studios (studios – not independants) flat out wouldn’t, but most of them would if it came up beforehand.

As a rule, I do not give up the copyright to my photographs. The wedding industry is a little different, but in editorial and commercial, I would absolutely not be open to a buyout unless you’re paying me more money than you’ll find reasonable. I’ve sometimes made much more money reselling my photographs than what I was paid for on the original assignment. I also need to control the rights to my images. Pricing is based on what rights I confer to people. One-time editorial use does not pay the same as advertising use, which does not pay the same as in-house corporate use, etc. One of my colleagues did a gig for $50,000 and that did NOT include a buy out. That was far one brochure advertising rights. Any further use of his pictures require further payment.

Just curious, why was my post removed and the one above, which says basically the same exact thing, left alone? Was the inclusion of a link to snapfish what put it over the edge? Sounds like a silly distinction to me.