Copyright: What, Why & When?

Last week Dorset Photo event had an issue with a 'big' rider using watermarked issues all over their Facebook page, the riders response was 'everyone does it lol' and unfortunately a lot of people do do it but that in no way makes it right! I am currently facing an issue with a company over some work I did for them (if you are reading this no you can't try and sue me for writing this!) where they are trying to take me to court for complaining about them removing my logo ( apparently I have ruined their company name)! However THEY are the ones committing an offence by breaching copyright laws.... So I thought now would be a good time to remind everyone of what the law on copyright really is. Quite a few of these have been posted by various photo companies recently but what harm can another one do? It affects my income and therefore I am going to write about it! I would rather try and educate people now then have to get into arguments later!

This blog is going to be in the form of a FAQ to try and break it down for those of you who are confused about copyright and what that word actually means... It is also primarily about event photography as this is there the major issues sit. The same rules apply to private photoshoots too.

  • I own the photo I bought at last weeks event from don't I? I can do with it as I like:

Not necessarily, If you bought a print, then thats what you bought, a print, you didn't buy the image of you or the rights to copy or share it, if you did it would have been ALOT more expensive!

  • But I want to share it on Facebook? Can I? What do I need to do to get this right if I can't?

No you can't share it on Facebook, if you wish to do so the best thing to do is ask the photographer, they will either be very nice and say yes because you purchased a print or they will offer you the option to buy a social media quality JPEG, these are usually very cheap and some companies give them to you for free if you buy a print

  • Ok so I've done all that, can I make changes to the JPEG I've purchased?

No, you still haven't purchased the rights to it, a photographer will want to protect their reputation by ensuring all photos sold stay at the same quality and editing finish you are provided with, therefore you should not edit photos you have purchased at an event or through a private photoshoot

  • I'm pretty much advertising the photographer if I use watermarked images, so why do they get annoyed?

THIS IS NOT HOW IT WORKS! Each image you copy looses them money, imagine if everyone did this? Photographers would have to cease trading and you wouldn't have the joy of having them at events anymore! Photography, especially event photography, really isn't a very profitable business and so even £3 from someone buying a JPEG makes a difference.

  • Well can I crop out the watermark? PROBLEM SOLVED?!


  • What is the photographer going to do about it though? Ive seen others being threatened with legal action but do they really have a leg to stand on?

YES they do have a leg to stand on! A big leg! They can send you a bill for the images you have 'stolen' and if you do not pay this they can take you to court and I can assure you they will win! Photographers are also a big family, collectively they will all black list you at events and not take photos of you, this means you don't even have a chance to buy one next time, there just won't be any photos of you!

  • Can I use the images purchased when I sell my horse, for my business or for profitable gain?

In general no, however this is incredibly hard to police, at this point you will need to approach the photographer to ask about purchasing the copyright to the images, some photographers will charge for this and prices do vary tremendously, however others will just ask that you put their name by the image when you use it.

RULE TO LIVE BY: If a picture is good enough for you to screen shot/steal or enjoy even when covered with a watermark then its good enough to pay for.


  • Copy the image (CDPA 1988, s16(2), s16(3)(b))

  • Reproduce the image (CDPA 1988, s17(1) and (2))

  • Remove any watermarks or claim work to be your own

I WILL take you to court and so will other photographers, is it really worth it?

This means NO taking pictures of pictures, NO copying of pictures from photographers websites, NO copying of images from Social Media, NO CROPPING!!

Hope this makes it all a little bit clearer for you.

Emily x

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