61 Reforms to C-61, Day 60: Photography Provisions

While they have received little attention, Bill C-61 contains several provisions long demanded by professional photographers.  Under current copyright law, where a photograph is commissioned (ie. school photos, weddings, etc.), the copyright in the photo rests with the person who commissioned it (ie. the consumer).  Photographers have long thought this unfair and sought to obtain exclusive copyright in the photos.  Absent a legislative change, most photographers use contract to obtain the rights they require. 

Bill C-61 would change the current default by deleting the provision that grants copyright to the commissioner of the photograph.  In an attempt to alleviate consumer concerns, the bill also includes a provision that states that it is not an act of copyright infringement:

for an individual to use for private or non-commercial purposes a photograph or portrait that was commissioned by the individual for personal purposes and made for valuable consideration, unless the individual and the owner of the copyright in the photograph or portrait have agreed otherwise.

This consumer-focused provision address some, though not all, of the consumer-related concerns with the photography reforms since an exception is a far cry from being the actual copyright owner. 

Alex Cameron wrote a detailed analysis of similar provisions in Bill C-60 that highlight potential concerns related to privacy (ie. photographer using a commissioned photo without permission) and striking the right balance.  Cameron recommended the adoption of the Australian approach, which vests copyright for photographs commissioned for private or domestic purposes with the commissioner but grants the photographer the right to restrain uses not contemplated at the time of commissioning:

the [commissioner] is the owner of any copyright subsisting in the work by virtue of this Part, but, if at the time the agreement was made that person made known, expressly or by implication, to the author of the work the purpose for which the work was required, the author is entitled to restrain the doing, otherwise than for that purpose, of any act comprised in the copyright in the work

Addressing photographer concerns is important and some modest reforms to C-61 would ensure that photographers enjoy the rights they need to commercially benefit from their work, while simultaneously providing consumers with appropriate rights and protections.


  1. Old Photos Belong to Someone New
    At the very end of the bill, under the transitional sections, are some rather odd things with reference to the photography changes. (Look at Section 38.)

    My understanding is that if a individual was the commissioner of an existing photograph before C-61 came into effect, they would remain the copyright holder after C-61 came info effect.

    However, if a corporation was the commissioner of that photo, the copyright would revert to the photographer as defined by C-61. Based on the wording, this applies to existing photos as well. Moreover, since copyright in corporation photos lasted for 50 years, but individual photos under C-61 would be life+50, this has the effect of immediately extending copyright by the life of the previously not-tracked individual!

    If your business had photo archives going back decades that consisted in part of commissioned works, you might suddenly discover you don\\\’t actually own them anymore. And if you had corporate photos that were 49 years old, and about to go into the public domain, those are suddenly subject to a whole new set of rules and an extension.

    While this might be good news for photographers, businesses appear to have been shafted. I can\\\’t see any upside at all to a substantial change like this in the rules for existing works.

  2. IE8/comment
    some news about IE8
    [ link ]

    as to the above
    screw it arrest me throw me in jail if your DUMB enough to put your HI res images publically on the net and wish to say the words please pay me , and oh you cant download these ill get you, then your the biggest idiot on earth and once they get out to the public your owned.

    Stupid law that cant possibly get enforced.
    50 years across the board is K.I.S.S.

  3. is a frame a picture?
    after all the frame of any i repeat ANY video or tv is a frame , aka a picture, so they are trying to slide in making my pre 1958 movies as illegal too well sue me quick boys …..

  4. greedy bastards says:

    greedy bastards
    and give me a break if you havent mad emoney after 50 years then YOU SUCK

  5. Surely this is a bit silly?
    These photographers aren’t working on free time – they’re making something, for someone else – in this case, a paying customer. They want to claim copyright on things like pictures of highly personal and important landmarks in the lives of others? The nerve.

  6. Stupid
    If I commission a photographer to take my portrait, the photographer believes he should own the copyright?

    Come on now, where is the sense, I should have the say of where, when and how my image is used. I don’t care how good he can point a lens, it is the camera taking the photo, so if you follow it down to reasonable and logical conclusion why is the manufacturer of the camera not claiming copyright on the photo? After all, without the manufacture the photographer could not be a photographer, and without me he would not have a subject.

    This copyright gets stupid when you take it to its logical conclusion, don’t you think?

  7. Bad News
    This somewhat early, but relevant to the discussions on the ‘Canadian DMC’. It appears the conservative party is leading in pre election polls. I get the feeling from reading responses that people are completely unaware of the tories’ activities in past year.

    Toronto Star article: [ link ]

  8. this should be easy to do fairly.
    I sometimes consider myself a bit of a photographer. BUT it is probaly best if an INDIVIDUAL who commissions a photograph were to hold the copyright, and the Photographer should have a licence to that work for self promotion on their own premises or the premisis of potential clients.

    A photo commissioned by an Organization, who is in a position to cover this off in Contract, should belong to the Photograper, but with a fairly broad licence to do almost anything automacticaly falling on the organization. Print/Advertising/WEB for the use of the firm or its related companies should be automaticaly included.

    A 50 year limit is lots, and the photographer must keep available the source (negative or Digital files) for that entire period, and may only dispose of them by transfering them to the customer or obtaining permison from the client.

  9. Default of “No Copy”
    “Stupid law that cant possibly get enforced.”

    This part creates a form of distributed enforcement. You take that personal portrait to a copyshop, and they explicitly block you from doing anything with it.

    This happens already with places like Walmart. It happens NOW. One of the arguments against photographers owning the copyright is that there becomes no way to prove you actually have bought the rights to copy your own portrait. Worse still, these places have on occasion refused to copy works that are not professional or commissioned — they really are the person’s own work — because they look too good, and so
    “must be professional”.

    In “charles” example, if the photographer goes out of business, but couldn’t get in touch with you, the originals (negatives and files) are destroyed, likely along with the records that could indicate who can give permission.

    This becomes like orphaned works entrapped in DRM. Nobody is allowed to get them out, nobody is allowed to help get them out, and nobody is around to provide either the needed permissions or copies without the DRM.

    The only way around this that I can see is a very strict registration system. Photos can be checked against the registration system – but if they aren’t there, then there’s no restrictions. This solves the orphan works problem; photographers would likely object because it means they can’t easily convert 50 years of work into a stock library.

  10. peterborough says:

    polls done by media companies that are tied to what ??????

    Just get to the election and lets see how harper does.
    A train line in peterborough when all around me the sewage system is open in the street?

    LIKE WTF….
    come to aylmer and perry street ahve a look.
    This conservative wants to setup a rail line so he can get more fat your seen the size a that dean del mastro ( dean Donut pastro) while we get to sniff the shit in the street and get bad water, and god forbid we get another flood.

  11. ya lke i want to buy pictures says:

    ya lke i want to buy pictures now
    and you want me to pay for you to own the photograph?

    yes lets put this in a bill and guess what, YOUR OUT OF A JOB CAUSE no body will pay for photographs period.

    The absurdity as looked at from purchasing of dvds and cds now comes to photographs except it really gets looking retarded.

  12. Photography
    I know photographers love this – they want the copyright, as they have a business model that charges for prints. Photographers being professional camera operators / artists should be charging for their skill and time making the photograph, not the prints. When they are comissioned, the cost of hiring the photographer should include the customer owning the end result of the photographers work. It’s the only sensible way to make this work.

  13. Your hair will be rejuvenated says:

    Pleae come and link to this site.

    [ link ]

  14. Chris Charabaruk says:

    Absolutely stupid
    In my opinion, if you are commissioned to create a work for someone else, that work is the property of the commissioner, plain and simple. I can understand (and I do support) the idea of giving the creator rights to use it personally as well (perhaps for a portfolio, etc.) but as they are contracted (and usually paid) to create the work, it’s just not theirs, and that’s how it should be.

  15. “When they are comissioned, the cost of hiring the photographer should include the customer owning the end result of the photographers work. It’s the only sensible way to make this work.”

    Of course it is, that’s why photographs cost so much. But if this goes through do you expect the proce to fall, nope.

  16. Copyright is only the right to copy
    I think some people here are confusing the issue of ownership with copyright. A photographer can create and sell prints of a subject which are then sold. Say if the subject is a landscape or a monkey’s thumb there doesn’t appear to be a problem. At least most reasonable people wouldn’t object to the photographer maintaining the right to make copies of this type of photographs. Now, the confusion starts when the subject is another person who also has rights of privacy as well as publicity. I’m not sure what the best way to handle this, and am not even sure of the current law (and I shot portraits for 10 years without any copyright incident), but if the photographer is viewed more like a musician or a painter perhaps it’s easier to see why a photographer ‘should’ own the right to copy any images they’ve created.