When you make pictures for people and they pay you money there are certain rules about what you and they do with those pictures. I don’t mean rules of decency or design or technical specifications – I mean copyright.
Good business-like photographers who like to write contracts make arrangements to lease, license, and lock-up nearly everything they do, from the images to the EXIF data to the Nice biscuits on the studio coffee bar. Good business-like clients do the same thing in the other direction. It is sometimes a wonder that they ever actually get around to taking pictures, what with the negotiating and finagling.
There is a vast grey area – far more than 50 shades – when the pictures are taken for no money in either direction and only the vaguest plan as to how they may be owned or used. I have a Drobo hard drive array full of images like that – people who look good, bad or indifferent and whose images might be useful for all sorts of things…except no decision about it was ever canvassed.
I can pretty well tell myself that if someone paid me money for taking advertising pics of themselves I shouldn’t use the images for something else. I am comfortable with this – the images are there if they ever need more but I won’t need to access them. In some way I reckon they have the copyright.
If someone never paid any money to me I suspect I own the copyright…and the only real restrictions I have on using those images are the ones of fair comment or defamatory intent. I’m chary about this…I won’t use the images from my studio to be mean to people who trusted me.
But that leaves a vast plain of endeavour. Can I use the pics for money-earning and not share the money with the subject? With no model release, probably not in large scale commercial practise. Can I use the images for competition display? Probably yes.
And then…can I use a picture of someone to promote the political ambitions of someone else? Now that’s the temptation. We’ve elections coming up and I have some corker posters for the Labopublican Party and the Impressionist Party planned. Do I dare?