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In the same way that musicians control who can reproduce their music, photographers control who can reproduce their images. Authors of original works own the copyright in their work and this is enshrined in legislation – the Copyright Designs & Patents Act 1988 – more information on copyright ownership can be found at

Shops, hairdressers and pubs etc. all need licences to play music - photographers, like musicians, own the copyright in their work and issue licences to enable people to reproduce their images. This is why it is important that you discuss your commission and fully brief your photographer including details about where and how you would like to use the images. The photographer will give you a licence (usage rights) that will reflect the agreed media – i.e. on a website, in a brochure etc., the time period and territories. The use of these images will be exclusive to you. This means that the photographer will not be able to allow any third party to use the images they shot for you during the time they are licensed for your use and beyond if this is agreed.

If you buy a copy of a book, computer software or a CD, making that purchase doesn’t give you the rights to make copies of it or broadcast to the public. That right remains with the copyright owner.


There is a difference between the medium (e.g. transparency/ negative/digital file) and the content (the image) but one is of no use without the other. If you were to claim ownership to the transparency this doesn’t mean you own its content. The image on the transparency is the copyright of the photographer and without a licence it would be illegal to reproduce it. If you need further reproductions, they can be done by your photographer in a professional manner and to a high standard. As mentioned above – the images will be exclusive to you so there is no fear that the photographer will sell them on to another client whilst you have a licence to use them.

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