Photography Copyright Law

Have you ever wondered who owns a photograph or digital image? The answer is simple. The photographer ALWAYS owns the photograph, unless he or she transferred those rights through a contract for hire (such as in the case of freelance photographers) or a signed release by the photographer. Without something signed by the photographer giving up his or her rights to the image, it belongs to the photographer for the remainder of his or her life and, in some cases, up to 70 years beyond his or her life.

For more information on copyright information regarding ownership of photographs, please refer to the following:

  • Professional Photographer’s Association ( – Understanding Photographic Copyright:

  • Digital Media Law Project ( – Copyrightable Subject Matter:

  • Thomas Rankin Associates ( – Photos, Photos, Who Owns the Photos?:

  • Ken Kaminesky ( – Photography and Copyright Law:

  • One Beacon Professional Insurance ( – Model Photos After the Shoot: Who Owns The Rights?

  • US Copyright Office ( – Copyright Act of 1976:

  • US Copyright Office ( – Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998