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Content, Writing and Copyright Forum

Photo rights
do I own the rights?

 3:59 pm on Feb 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

I have a website where visitors can upload photos to the site. Yesterday CNN contacted me because they wanted to use some of the photos on their site. I don't have any type of user agreement that covers photo usage. Do the photos that my visitors upload become my property once they post them on the site?



 4:02 pm on Feb 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

The short answer is "No." In all likelihood, there is a big chance that some of the photos uploaded by your members are swiped from other websites.


 4:14 pm on Feb 11, 2004 (gmt 0)


Even if your members are seemingly savvy businesses or organizations, it's been my experience that you can't trust them regarding photo rights. Very often I've had a chamber of commerce submit a professional photo that they claimed was theirs only to find that they had just purchased rights for a print brochure. Your electronic and print distribution rights now need to be spelled out in a written release from the original owner when you accept the content. Professional photographers now patrol the web routinely using image search and/or tips from friends.


 11:33 pm on Feb 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

They only become your property upon upload if you have an agreement with contributors that they are transfering copyright to you when they upload the images.


 12:26 am on Feb 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

The minute something is fixed in tangible form the creator author of it (in this case the photographer) legally owns all rights to it.

Copyright ownership cannot be legally tranferred to you by someone simply uploading a photo to your web site it has to be in writing.

What you may want to do is make sure those uploading the photos to your site legally own them and have the right to publish and distribute them. If they don't then you can be held liable for illegal distribution of copyrighted content.

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