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Copyright Mix Ups

Does Copyright Stop Me From Taking A Photograph?

Sometimes you are told you cannot take photographs of a public performance because it breaches copyright. Chances are this is not strictly true when it comes to stills photography, but in many ways it is academic because there are many other ways we can be stopped from taking photographs. Copyright is often used as the reason, whether or not it is.

When Does Copyright Stop You?

Copyright stops you from taking a photograph that is the same as someone else’s photograph. you can’t copy someone else’s work - that’s the whole idea behind copyright.

However, speaking of ideas, you can’t copyright an idea. So, the idea of photographing a bride in front of a church cannot be subject to copyright.

Compare this to copying an existing photograph of a bride in a special pose in front of a specific church with specific lighting -- this isn’t copying an idea, this is copying an existing photograph and copyright may prohibit it.

Similarly, if you have taken a photograph yourself, but you have sold your copyright to someone else, you are not permitted to copy your own work without their permission!

When Does Copyright Not Stop You?

Although an architect may own copyright on a building, chances are you are not prevented from photographing that building in a public place. The same applies to sculptures and other landmarks.

Nevertheless, often there will be restrictions applied to photography. Often these restrictions will only apply to commercial photography. These restrictions are imposed by the owners or occupiers of the land.

For instance, if you wanted to photograph the Sydney Opera House from the grounds of the Opera House, you would need permission from the Sydney Opera House Trust. On the other hand, photograph the Opera House from Mrs Macquarie’s Chair and you don’t need permission from the Opera House (but you will need permission from the royal Botanic Gardens because they control the land upon which you need to stand to take your photograph).

The point to understand is that copyright protects the photograph once it is created. Prohibitions and restrictions applied to the act of photography often have nothing to do with copyright, but sometimes people will say they do because it sounds legal and official.

This is general information only. We do not know your specific financial or legal situation and we are not providing you with advice. As such, this article should not be relied upon as legal, financial or accounting advice. Please use this article as a conversation starter with your own adviser.

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