Copyright Law, how confusing!

So today myself and a few other professional photographers have been discussing copyright law.  This came about because a client has used a print to make an enlargement of an image and produced a large canvas. Is this right or wrong?? Well this is what I want to explain.

copyright, bailie and belle, photographer, hertfordshire

Copyright logo









There are a few questions that trigger my thoughts here: –


  1. Who knows what copyright © is?
  2. What does it mean?
  3. Does copyright transfer to another?
  4. Who owns the original artwork?
  5. Is high resolution the same as copyright?
  6. Is there such a thing as copyright free images?


Here we go


  1. By definition of the British Institute of Professional Photographers The copyright in a photograph belongs to the person who took it:
    Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 – the only exception being employed photographers, where it is his or her employer who owns the copyright unless they have a contractual agreement to the contrary.In practice, this means that clients may only use photographs taken by a professional photographer in ways that have been agreed at the time they were commissioned. If further uses are required at a later date, permission must be sought from the copyright holder and an additional fee agreed.
  2. What this means is that ANY image produced by a professional photographer is owned entirely by the photographer, just as Van Gogh owned all of his art, if you bought a print of Café Terrace at Night you do not own the original, nor does it give you the right to copy it. For instance using the example above, buying a print from a photographer does NOT entitle you to reproduce it in anyway; in fact it is illegal, just as if you have stolen something out of a shop.
  3. It most certainly can transfer, some photographers sell artwork to other companies and give them copyright for them to use freely. It also transfers 70 years after it was originally produced.
  4. The photographer always owns the original artwork, if you brought said print, you own that print and nothing else, it does not give you the right or entitlement to make copies of that print, or make something else by scanning it and sending it to a printer. As a side note any printer worth their money will never allow you to print something that does not have a signed print release from the original photographer – more on this later.
  5. High resolution – vs. copyright. High resolution is a term used to describe image that have a high pixel count, it is not the same as copyright. One is used to determine the printable quality of the image the other states ownership of the image.
  6. Copyright free images do exist. However they are not for public use, they are used as “stock” images, people tend to use these on a website or for other commercial uses. Someone may pay for a commercial shoot and in the contract the photographer passes over full copyright, so they can then use these images as they wish; they can use them as their own and do not need to seek permission from the original artist.


You may also have heard the term print release, this is something any professional photographer gives as a signed document with a delivery of a digital image, it entitles the client to use this image for anything they may want, for example as huge canvas or a memory book of images. I would suggest myself if you were going to do this that you look at what products your photographer has, they always supply the highest quality professional products, other printers may offer something similar, but it will not be the quality of a professional product. Nor will it last as long photographers supply archival products which mean they will last at least one hundred years.


I think this whole post has pointed to which products do you actually require? If you want something you can endlessly print from then buy some digital files.  If you want a beautiful piece of bespoke art, then purchase a framed print, or a print block.  Remember these are your memories, you preserve them the best way possible.


I will cover these terms, print release and high-resolution images later on in my blog.


I hope this clears up a lot of confusion.


Carli xxx


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