IP Tech Knowledgy

Background hero atmospheric image for You May Not Own the Copyright in Photos of Yourself

You May Not Own the Copyright in Photos of Yourself

You probably do not own the copyright in photographs of yourself. This means that, without the permission of the true owner, you cannot copy or post the photo, or allow others to. Copyright law vests ownership of a creative work in the artist who created it. The photographer, not the subject, is the “author” who created the photo and owns the right to use and display it.  

There are nuances that can give the subject needed rights. If it is a selfie, or you set up the camera on a timer, then you are the photographer and own the copyright. If the photographer assigned to you the copyright in writing, then you own it. If there is a written license, you have rights as the agreement states. If you believe there is an implied license due to the nature of the relationship, then your rights extend only to what the photographer and you are deemed to have agreed on.    

This plays out in a number of ways. If someone gives you a photo of themself, find out who owns the copyright before using it. In your agreements with publicists and event photographers, make sure to get an assignment or license of rights. If a friend takes your picture and texts it to you, there is probably an implied license for you to use it for noncommercial purposes. Be careful about posting pictures that you did not take in case the photographer would not approve of that usage. Even consider who really own the rights in that photo taken of you in the photo booth at a recent party.

Ned T. Himmelrich
410-576-4171 • nhimmelrich@gfrlaw.com