Authors And Rights

Written by Mihajlo Filipovic |

Seems like many people entering the field of photography still are not quite sure about what constitutes their Right Of Authorship.

Since the Internet became the quickest and most important visual knowledge source, the Rights Of Authorship are much less observed, and very much neglected by too many – both authors and viewers.

Internet is also wide open. Thefts and all possible misuse of other people’s work is so common that it has become nigh impossible to control just where and to what purpose one’s own photos are being used.

Photos are not “fair game” just because these are so easily accessible, though. People should be aware that the abusement of Rights Of Authorship can be very costly to those who decide to ignore it. Let’s discuss the basics of Photographer’s Rights  in simple terms.


The Author of the photograph is the person who has created the photograph, simply enough.


What we usually describe as “click” or “shot” actually defines the start of the process that ends with an image being created. 

The creation of the photo begins with the start of the camera's electronic and/or mechanical sequence which allows the light coming through the camera lens to reach the sensor. The light is read off the sensor, and processed by the camera firmware and other pre-programmed routines. The result of this processing is stored as a photograph file in the camera storage. When the storing of said file has ended, the creation of the photograph is complete.

Most often this cycle is actuated by pressing the shutter button on the camera. There are many different ways to achieve this, but all of those ultimately require a person to cause it.

Further possible development includes the post-processing activities on the original photograph file, deemed to create the final characteristic of the Author's work. Such an subsequent procedure, when done by the Author of such photograph, results in the creative work which also belongs to the Author in every sense of the word.

Thus, the Author of the photograph is the person who creates the photographic image file to its final stage.

Even if the subsequently made post-processing of the photo is done by someone other than the Author, it does not change the fact of the image authorship; this remains with the original image and its derivations.


In every photo creation there is a person deciding upon the content, view, moment, and other details.The setting up of the photo, and the command that starts the picture creation, whether automatically or manually, always comes from a person.

One might argue that, say, in a time-lapse photo sequence it is an author that shoots the first photo, and the camera then shoots the rest of the sequence automatically, or “without the photographer”. Not so. The photo sequence has been set up as a premeditated, intentional process, and it was the Author that had it planned, set up, and started. The whole of the stored results in a sequence is an Author’s work.


Would that be the case where another person presses the shutter button to actuate the pre-arranged photo-taking? Arranging the shot in the sense of defining the scene and choosing exposure elements is only the part of the photo-taking. It does not make the person who has arranged the shot its Author, if the actual shot was executed by someone else. The Author in such case would also be the person that presses the shutter button, or “starts the process that ends with an image being created”.


Let’s say the photographer arranges the photo scene and wants to be part of it, as in a “selfie”. The photographer also sets up the self-timer to secure enough time to enter that scene, or uses a remote camera control device to activate the camera. This photographer then is the Author of the resulting photograph.

Now, if someone else actually starts the photo-taking process, the moment of shooting belongs to that person. This makes that person the Author of the resulting photo. The moment of shooting has that kind of importance, since it determines one single point in time that defines the image content.

Within any photo-shooting team there will be several persons, each contributing within their pre-arranged role to the final outcome of the photo shoot, but the authoring rights would belong to the person starting the picture-taking process, or “shooting the pics”.


Beside Right Of Authorship there are many kinds of rights associated with the photograph.

Some rights can be transferred to others. Photographs can be made into physical product (printouts etc.), may be used for various purposes, with or without some added text or sound, or in some variations other than the original (with some  parts removed or added to the original contents).

All of those rights to various image uses and changes can be either restricted, allowed, donated or sold, EXCEPT the Right Of Authorship.

The right of authorship can not be removed from the author. It belongs to the person which has created the original work, from where all the subsequent variations, applications and uses emerge.


There are many possible contracting versions and purposes, but basically when someone has ordered some photographic work, the photographer is executing the contract. Normally, the finished product or service belongs to those that ordered such work to be done. But even in such cases, the Author of the works produced will be the photographer who took the photos. The costs or other technicalities, either met or solved, are solely the parts of the arrangement or contract. The Right Of Authorship can be decisive and invoked if, for instance, the Author's created and delivered photo files are used outside of the scope of the contract.


Any organization can have arrangements with photographers that require some kind of photo products. Upon the assignment completion, these products will be the owned by such an organization, as per previously arranged contract. Nevertheless, whatever these arrangements, derivations, usage and applications of the photographs, the Author will forever be the person which has created the original photos – even when the Author does not retain the original (which can be the part of the contract under which the photos have been created).

It is the part of the Right Of Authorship that Authors have their name displayed on their photographs, but often such right will not be insisted upon, if it, say, disturbs the final product derived from the original work. The presence or absence of author’s name on any particular image does not change their authoring rights. It is a matter of an arrangement between the author and the user of the photograph.


No difference. Freeware does not imply that such photos have been created by something other than a person, or someone nameless. It only means that this particular kind of contract allows the owner of the freeware to publish or offer such work without the obligation to state or display the Author’s name.


All Rights Reserved means exactly that: the owner of the photograph decides what to do with the photograph. But the authoring rights always remain with the person who has created the photo.


This can be done, of course. It means that the owner of the original photographic work may exchange it for any value deemed sufficient in that particular trading act…

… except the name of the Author. Author’s name can’t be legally replaced by any other name.

You might ask, what if the Author has been offered an inordinately attractive compensation for transfer of authorship to another person? This would imply that the Author agrees to be disassociated from some particular photographic work in every sense. Can it be done?

Sure, it can easily be possible. Not legally; rather otherwise, of course.

Then maybe such photographers wouldn’t want to ever be related to certain examples of their work! Photography is a field so incredibly wide that it easily accomodates all kinds of people and all of their ideas. So it is not hard to comprehend how there are also many photographs and videos that could or should earn their Authors lots of well-deserved jail time.

Such cases are regulated by other kind of law, and perpetrators are usually introduced to it by “You Have The Right To Remain Silent…“

Copyright ©

Author: Mihajlo Filipovic
Retired pro, but a lifelong amateur at heart. Also a diver with decades of experience, and still addicted to underwater photography. I never go to water without a camera, to be able to record the beauties of the submerged Nature. Which, as you well know, covers the largest part of the Earth. I will enjoy what our wonderful Earth offers to our eyes and mind for as long as I can.


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