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Is the model a co-creator of the photo, or does he only have rights to his image?

22.09.2020 | EN, News EN

Is the model a co-creator of the photo, or does he only have rights to his image?

wrz 22, 2020

The model’s work involves, amongst others, taking part in fashion shows, photo sessions, advertisements, etc. and the results of such works are a common element of the reality that surrounds us. From the legal point of view, the question arises what rights the model has to the photos. Is she/he a co-creator of the photo or does she/he only have the rights to the image on it? There is no clear answer to this question because everything depends on the model’s contribution to the final result which is the photo.

The photo session is based on the cooperation of the photographer with the posing model. Posing for photos is a model activity that can be creative when the model decides on what pose to take, what emotions to show, etc. She/he can also choose clothes, props, etc. In this case, the photographer’s work may be limited to pressing a button on the camera. The photographer will only passively follow the model who, in this case, can be considered the creator of the photo.

A different situation is when the model poses according to the instructions of the photographer or the producer of the session. Then the photographer is the sole creator of the photo. However, in addition to these two opposite situations, the photographer and the model may collaborate. They can make decisions together and they both may co-create the photo.

Joint copyrights of the co-authors arise when the photo is created and is owned by all co-authors in parts resulting from their contribution to the work. The model, as a co-creator, may decide on her/his copyrights individually, e.g. as to how the photo is to be used or sold. As a co-creator, she/he makes these decisions together with the photographer who is the other co-creator of the work.

In order to avoid doubts and legal risks, all issues related to the ownership of the copyright should be precisely regulated in a contract. The copyright to the photo is usually acquired by the photographer or the session producer. They may later dispose of them by licensing or transferring them to another entity. Contracts should therefore contain provisions regarding the economic copyrights, the use of the model’s image, as well as moral rights. The lack od appropriate regulations in the contract may lead to disputes, and in extreme cases even make it impossible to use the photo.

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