Top 10 Misconceptions about Photography and the Law

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5. You need a property release to use a photograph of a house for a commercial use.

No court or state has established a law—either by statute or through court rulings—creating a right to protect or prevent property from being photographed from a public area, or from that photograph being used editorially or commercially. Thus, no legal reason exists for a “property release,” except perhaps when photographing other copyrighted works or trademarks. Note that some stock agencies require a property release for fear of being sued.

via wppionline.com.

There Are 15 Comments On This Article.

    • @Erik, it happens I was reading about commercial photography and found this, “Commercial photography is best defined as any photography for which the photographer is paid for images rather than works of art”. A photography may arrange and shoot a fashion image that could be considered as an art piece as it often happens.JMHO

  1. Great basic information that needs to be used for education beyound theindustry and should be used in public education in middle or High Schools. I find that the younger generations percieve the web as a free resource for whatever they desire.

  2. @Erik I get the article’s description of commercial use is that the image is used to sell or advertise something else, other than just selling a copy of that image. So selling a print at a art show or exhibit is not a commercial use by that definition. It is a profit, and you do make money from it – but not commercially as they describe it.

    So if I took a photo of someone’s house and tried to advertise vinyl siding with it – THAT’s commercial use.

  3. If you shoot in France there is copyright on buildings… You can’t even publish the Tour Eiffel at night without authorization because the lighting is copyrighted. Photos of “Architect Buildings” can’t be used without prior authorization of the architect studio even for editorial.

  4. do not be fooled, you DO need a property release and as i understand from talking to my agent everything is tightening up even more
    high profile architecture buildings are becoming increasingly more difficult to use even if shot from the public domain
    and recently the heir of le corbusier has succesfuly sued a company for using a commercial shot with the famous recliner in, now even designer furniture needs a release form

  5. I saw one aspect that looks to set a bad precedent: “In all three cases, the images in questions had been registered as part of bulk registration programs. Those programs were set up to register thousands of images at once. But the federal trial courts said the bulk registrations failed to meet the legal registration requirements for individual works because they did not list the authors and titles of those individual works.”

    If I understand that correctly, the implication is that we need to go back to individually registering each image. Somehow I don’t think that was the intention of the bulk copyright processing, though we need to see how the Appeals Courts handle that.

  6. Thank you for publishing this information. For the fifteen years I served as Executive Director of ASMP both I and our legal counsel(s) felt that a property release was unnecessary because property has no rights. A recent case in California has reinforced that conclusion.

    But wait, some property owners do have rights over their property. We photographers have copyright rights to our images, and trademark owners have similar rights. Some property (not much) is trademarked. Trademark law is different from copyright law. If your image might violate a trademark right, then you need a release. That is not likely to be often, but it is a real possibility when photographing a well known product or place.

    Trademark does not protect is owner from all publication of a trademarked property. However, it is beyond the scope of blog like this to publish the treatise that would be required to illuminate that statement.

    I have been shooting for over 40 years. I have never obtained a property release. So far, I have not been sued, and, if I am sued, I am sure I will win.

  7. @ Richard – Thanks for your good post.

    An interesting case about use of trademarks in art has been in litigation for years: http://www.photoattorney.com/?p=1138

    @Gordon – The court that invalidated the stock agency copyright registrations did not do so on the basis of group registrations of photos. We have no indication that a photographer’s group registration of copyrights, if done by the parameters provided by the Copyright Office, would be invalidated.

  8. I was wondering if anyone has any insight into the laws surrounding this in Canada? Could someone post photos of real estate without having a property release on flick’r?