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Copyright of Photographs in India

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Manish Jindal

December 6, 2023

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Copyright of Photographs in India

Are you interested to learn the copyright of photographs in India? In the age of smartphones and instant sharing platforms, capturing and sharing a photograph is a matter of a mere click.

But beyond this immediacy lies a complex web of legal intricacies.

The moment the shutter releases, not only is a memory frozen in time but a slew of copyright implications come into play.

In a country like India, rich in its cultural tapestry and historic backdrops, photography is more than just a hobby—it’s an art, a profession, and for many, a passion.

But how many of us truly understand the rights that come attached with these photos? Who truly owns an image, and how can it be legally used or shared?

Join us as we delve into the fascinating world of photographic copyright in India, shedding light on what every photographer, be it amateur or professional, should know.

 Photography Law in India

Copyright:

  • Just like many countries, once a photograph is taken, the copyright of the image belongs to the photographer unless there’s a contract that specifies otherwise. This means others cannot use the photo without the photographer’s permission.
  • Copyright protection in India is governed by the Copyright Act, 1957. A photograph is considered an ‘artistic work’ under this Act and is thus protected.
  • If someone violates the copyright, the photographer can seek legal remedies, including compensation for damages.

How to Register for Copyright of Photographs in India?

Registering the copyright of photographs in India provides legal proof of your copyright ownership and can enhance the remedies available to you in case of infringement.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to registering your copyright of photographs in India:

1. Determine Eligibility:

  • Before you proceed, ensure your photograph is original and has a degree of creativity. While the act of capturing the image grants you copyright, registration offers further protection.

2. Prepare Your Photographs:

  • If you’re registering multiple photos, decide whether you’ll register them as a collection (under one copyright registration) or individually.
  • Organising them as a collection can save on fees but might have implications on damages in an infringement case.
  • Label each photograph clearly. If submitting as a collection, have a title for the collection as well as individual titles for each photo.

3. Visit the Official Website:

4. Create an Account:

  • You’ll need to create an account to proceed. Once registered, log in to your account.

5. Fill Out the Application:

  • Go to the ‘New Applications’ section and select the ‘Artistic’ category since photographs fall under this category.
  • Complete the application form with the required details. You might need details such as the name of the photographer, year and location of the photograph, and more.

6. Upload the Photographs:

  • Digital copies of the photographs to be copyrighted need to be uploaded. Follow the site’s guidelines for format and size.

7. Pay the Fee:

  • After filling out the application and uploading the photos, you’ll need to pay a registration fee. The amount might vary depending on whether you’re registering a single work, a collection, or are a part of certain organisations.

8. Submit the Application:

  • Once everything is complete, submit your application. An acknowledgment will be sent to your registered email.

9. Examination:

  • The Copyright Office will review your application. They might ask for further details or clarifications if required.

10. Receive the Registration Certificate:

  • If everything is in order, you’ll receive a copyright registration certificate. This can take several months.

Note: While the registration process is fairly straightforward, consulting a legal expert or attorney specialising in intellectual property rights can provide guidance tailored to your specific needs.

Copyright of Photographs in India in Social Media Platforms

The advent of social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest has revolutionised the way we share and consume photographs.

These platforms allow for immediate dissemination of images, reaching audiences of vast scales.

But with this convenience comes a set of challenges, especially concerning the protection of photographers’ rights. A prominent challenge is copyright infringement.

What is Copyright Infringement?

In simplest terms, copyright infringement occurs when someone uses a copyrighted work without the permission of the copyright owner.

For photographs, this could mean using a photo without the photographer’s consent, altering it without permission, or even distributing it without giving due credit.

How Does Infringement Happen on Social Media?

  1. Unauthorised Sharing: Many users innocently believe that if an image is online, it’s free for use. They might share a photographer’s work on their own profile without thinking about copyright.
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  3. Misuse of ‘Reposting’: While some platforms have a culture of ‘reposting’ where users share others’ content, doing so without proper credit or against the wishes of the original creator can be infringing.
  4. Profile Pictures and Cover Photos: Using a copyrighted photograph as a profile picture or a cover photo without permission.
  5. Creating Derivatives: Editing or manipulating someone else’s photograph and then sharing it as one’s own can also amount to infringement.

How Can Photographers Protect Themselves?

  1. Watermarking: While it might detract from the purity of the image, watermarks can act as a deterrent and identify an image’s original source.
  2. Clear Copyright Statements: Having a clear and visible copyright statement on your profile and alongside shared photographs can act as a reminder of ownership.
  3. Use Platform Reporting Tools: Most social media platforms have mechanisms to report copyright infringement. Familiarise yourself with these tools to take quick action.
  4. Reverse Image Searches: Tools like Google’s reverse image search can help photographers find unauthorised uses of their images online.
  5. Legal Action: In cases of serious or repeated infringements, photographers might consider legal avenues, although this can be complex given the global nature of social media.

Social Media Platforms’ Stance

Most major platforms have terms of service that users agree to, which typically state that sharing copyrighted content without permission is prohibited.

When informed of violations, these platforms often have processes in place to remove infringing content, though the efficacy and speed of these processes can vary.

How to Avoid Photography Copyright Infringement? – Copyright of Photographs in India

In today’s digital landscape, where photos are easily accessible and shareable, it’s more important than ever to be cautious about how we use and distribute images.

Whether you’re a blogger, a marketer, or just someone looking to post content on social media, here’s how you can avoid copyright infringement with respect to photographs:

  1. Always Assume Photos Are Copyrighted: By default, assume that every photograph you come across online is copyrighted. Just because an image is on the internet doesn’t mean it’s free to use.
  2. Seek Permission: If you find a photograph that you’d like to use, reach out to the photographer or copyright holder for permission. Many photographers will allow usage for specific purposes or might charge a licensing fee.
  3. Use Royalty-Free or Licensed Stock Photos: Websites like Shutterstock, Unsplash, and Pexels offer vast libraries of images that are either free to use or available for purchase. However, always read the licensing agreement carefully, as there may still be some restrictions.
  4. Look for Creative Commons Licenses: Creative Commons licenses give photographers a way to grant permissions for their work to be used in specific ways. Always abide by the terms stated in the license, and give appropriate credit.
  5. Provide Proper Attribution: Even when a photograph is available for use with attribution, make sure you credit the photographer in the manner specified.
  6. Avoid “Fair Use” Assumptions: While “fair use” can be a defense against copyright infringement in specific contexts (e.g., criticism, commentary, news reporting, education), it’s a complex legal doctrine and can vary by country. It’s not always a safe or clear-cut route to rely on for general use.
  7. Be Cautious with ‘Reposting’: Just because someone else shared a photo on social media doesn’t mean you can repost it without potential copyright issues. Use reposting tools that provide proper credit or seek permission first.
  8. Utilise Reverse Image Search: If you’re unsure about the origin of a photograph, use tools like Google’s reverse image search to potentially identify its original source and check its copyright status.
  9. Educate Yourself: Spend time learning about copyright basics. Websites like the U.S. Copyright Office or the World Intellectual Property Organisation offer valuable resources.
  10. When in Doubt, Don’t Use It: If you’re unsure about the copyright status of a photograph, or if you can’t easily get permission, it’s best to choose a different image.
  11. Regularly Review and Update: For businesses, periodically review the images you’re using on your website, promotional materials, and social media to ensure compliance with copyright rules.

Conclusion

The intricate tapestry of India’s cultural, historical, and visual narratives has given rise to countless breathtaking photographs, each echoing the uniqueness of its origins.

However, in this age of digital proliferation, it is paramount to understand and respect the intellectual property woven into these images.

The copyright laws of India serve as a shield, protecting the rights of photographers and ensuring that their creations are not misappropriated.

While technology has blurred the boundaries of content sharing, it’s crucial to remember the essence of copyright: to recognise, honor, and safeguard the creativity and effort behind every captured moment.

As consumers, creators, or mere admirers of these visual stories, our responsibility is to tread this digital realm with awareness, ensuring that the sanctity of originality is always upheld.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does a photograph automatically have copyright protection once taken in India?

Yes, once a photograph is taken, it is automatically protected under the Copyright Act, 1957, as an ‘artistic work.’

The photographer doesn’t need to register it for copyright protection, although registration can offer added legal advantages.

Do I need the subject’s permission to copyright a photograph of them?

Copyright and privacy rights are separate issues.

While a photograph inherently belongs to the photographer in terms of copyright, you might still need the subject’s permission to publish or distribute it, especially if it’s for commercial purposes or if it invades the subject’s privacy.

How long does copyright of photographs in India last?

In India, the copyright protection for a photograph lasts for the lifetime of the photographer plus 60 years.

After this period, the photograph goes into the public domain.

Can I use a copyrighted photograph if I give credit to the photographer?

Not necessarily. Giving credit is a good practice, but it doesn’t replace the need for permission.

Unless the photo is released under a license that allows such use with attribution, you should always seek the photographer’s permission before using it.

How can I legally use someone else’s photograph?

To legally use someone else’s photograph, you can: Seek direct permission from the copyright holder.

Check if the photo is available under a license that allows your intended use (e.g., Creative Commons licenses).

Purchase or obtain a license through stock photo agencies.

Use photos that are in the public domain.
 

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