#880 New Copyright Law in Canada – Good News!

It’s been a long time coming – with so many elections in the last ten years this new legislation took some time becoming law but it has now made it through.

copyright reform

copyright reform

What was wrong with the OLD legislation?
There are many new aspects to the new copyright legislation but the one that stands out for photographers is they retain copyright of the work they produce BY DEFAULT. Other artists have had this right for a long time. Photographers in other developed nations have enjoyed this basic principle for a long time, too! Canada has been behind.

CAPIC says:
Until the adoption of Bill C-11, photographers were not on the same footing as other creators. They were considered, according to the law, technicians and not artists: when a customer ordered a photo, the copyright belonged to the client. 

It was necessary to sign an agreement with the client to ensure the photographer “owned” the rights to the work. This is why CAPIC was created!

Bill C-11 was necessary for the aberration of this old law. Now, photographers are the first owners of copyright works they produce, be it an artistic, personal, or the result of a commission, commercial photographers now automatically own the copyright and moral rights of their work.

Who cares?
Copyright ownership offers the ability to earn money from the work in question. WIthout copyright (and the ability to earn a living) there is little incentive for a working photographer to produce photos!

When you buy a music CD or download a music file you are effectively licensing the song(s) for personal use. The artist retains copyright.

Now the same idea applies to photos.


Copyright does not necessarily mean the owner has the right to freely use the photo. There my be permissions needed from recognizable people if the creator wants to use photos of the recognizable people.

For example, your wedding photographer may own the copyright to your photos. It does not automatically mean they have the right to license the wedding photo of you to Coca Cola for use in a Coke ad!

Are you a regular producer of published photographs?
If you are, have a look at Access Copyright Рthey collect fees related to copyright and enforce copyright while distributing collected funds to members every year. I received my annual cheque today. Yippee!

#96 Copyright revisited

I had two slightly disturbing comments in response to my post (#94) on copyright. They both came from the same ‘anonymous‘ person – no name was attached & only a ‘fake e-mail’ was given. They demanded that I “Delete this post (#94)”!

My best guess from the mystery person’s angry responses was, perhaps, they hired a wedding photographer and there was a misunderstanding as to who had what rights to the photos and files. That’s a tough scenario and illustrates a good reason to have a written agreement clearly outlining details of the service.

There are two common wedding scenarios:

  • The traditional wedding photographer usually offers coverage of the wedding for a set fee and then sells packages of photographs to the couple.
  • Sometimes, a photographer will offer an inclusive package (for a higher price!) including the negatives or digital files and the rights to reprint the photos as they wish.
  • It is important to know what you are paying for! Either way, the photographer generally retains copyright.

Some comments from the Mystery Person:

  1. … why should the consumer be jerked around…
  2. This law was designed to be as anti-consumer as possible.”
  3. you (photographer) should be allowed to use the photos you sell by default for non-profit/ personal use.
  4. … shouldn’t be allowed to turn around and use photos from my wedding and sell them to a stock photo company.
  5. if it was as bad as you say, how have people lived so long in your business?

Some responses to the angry person’s comments:

#s 1&2. Sounds like something went terribly wrong in their experience. That’s a shame!

3. … you should be allowed to use the photos you sell by default for non-profit/personal use.

Working photographers run photography businesses with the goal of earning a profit that supports a person or family. Selling only for “for non-profit/personal use” does not pay the bills!

4.… shouldn’t be allowed to turn around and use photos from my wedding and sell them to a stock photo company.

The mystery person is onto something here. As I understand it, a wedding photographer cannot license wedding imagery of recognizable people or private property without a proper agreement from the people or property owners. For exact specifics consult a lawyer!

5. … if it was as bad as you say, how have people lived so long in your business?

Running any small business is tough and hard work. Long hours, few certainties, changing markets and angry, anonymous messages add to the challenges. The business of photography has grown more demanding over the last twenty years. Some photographers have survived using good business practises, adapting to market changes and educating themselves on important issues like copyright!

Normally, I will not acknowledge angry, anonymous, impolite rants. But I hope this helps the Mystery Person and anyone else out there!

Interested in learning more about a creative business project? – consider my Creative Business Seminar in November, 2008.

Take care out there,


#94 Copyright Reform

First – thanks for all the birthday wishes!

Now down to business – here in Canada our copyright laws related to photography are well out of sync compared to most of the rest of the developed world.

You see, by default in Canada, a customer automatically receives copyright of your commissioned photo work once they provide payment. Unless it is specifically written otherwise you lose control over your work once the customer pays. As a photographer, copyright is the most valuable asset we have.

In most of the rest of the developed world the photographer, by default, retains their copyright unless otherwise stated.

It’s a small but important distinction. Currently if someone hires you to take a photo you have NO rights to those pictures once they pay unless it is clearly agreed you, the creator, retain copyright of the work. This means:

  • you CANNOT show any family portraits you took in your portfolio (online or paper) without permission.
  • you CANNOT re-license imagery (ie earn money) from a magazine assignment down the road – all your work is pinned to that one small sale.
  • you have no rights to your commissioned creative produce.

“So?! The photos belong to the client – they paid for them? Right?” Other creative producers in the world – musicians, writers, illustrators – retain their copyright by default. Without copyright there is little incentive to remain in business. Without incentive there will be fewer talented photographers and less available working photographers.

There are many myths around copyright and photography in Canada:

  • Usage: copyright and usage are separate entities – the photographer can retain copyright while offering the client ample usage of the photos.
  • Privacy: copyright does not mean a photographer can use photos of a person without permission. Model releases are often needed to show photos of people.

Currently, copyright reform is underway in Canada: CAPIC recently trumpeted:


Toronto, June 12, 2008 – Andre Cornellier, CAPIC Copyright Chair, reports from Ottawa that the Government of Canada included photographers in Bill C-61, An Act to amend the Copyright Act, which had its first reading in the House of Commons today.

For over 12 years CAPIC and PPOC (Professional Photographers of Canada) have worked together as the Canadian Photographers Coalition to have Section 13(2) of the Copyright Act removed. This section treated photographers differently from all other Canadian creators when photographers produced commissioned work (assignments) for third parties.

In Bill C-61, introduced today, Section 13(2) is repealed. CAPIC is pleased that the Government of Canada has listened to our concerns and introduced the appropriate legislation to deal with those concerns.

What Happens Next?

The Bill will have a Second Reading and then be referred to Committee. After hearing from interested parties, the Committee will report back to Parliament with recommendations for the wording of the final Bill. If the Bill passes Third Reading it will be forwarded to the Senate where the same procedure will be repeated. Upon approval by the Senate the Bill is signed by the Governor General and proclaimed.

That’s good news for photographers – but it’s not complete yet…

For more copyright info check CAPIC’s copyright page.

That’s a heavy topic. But, please, learn about your specific copyright laws. They’re important!