Industry Focus: Photography in Publishing


Before my MA in writing at Falmouth, I achieved my undergraduate in Photography. For my final project, I wanted to combine both medias together to create something publishable for the future.

My final project involved taking photos in a private building, and this got me thinking: what about copyright laws? What permission do I need to obtain, if I want to publish this project?

Copyright is designed to protect from others using your work. Here are the facts that I believe everybody needs to be aware of as creators.


Generally Useful Stuff:

  • You, as a creator, are protected by copyright. You’re free to use your own material however you please. Photography, digitally and physically written pieces, music, art and more formats are sheltered under this law.
  • Unless the creator is either contracted by a company, or bound by a document stating otherwise, the creator is entitled to individual protection. This lasts up until 70 years after their death.
  • Copyright does not protect certain materials, such as spoken phrases or quotes, facts or theories.


Photographing On-Location:

  • Everybody has the right to photograph on public land; open areas such as beaches, parks and footpaths. Anything that is framed and captured in a public space is completely legal – even if your camera is pointing into private land.
  • Photographing within private land is different: permission is needed from the property owner. A way to prevent any issues is to gain a written grant. This will allow you protection from any future disputes.
  • It’s important to note that upon entry to the private space, the land owner can impose any conditions, including the forbidding of any photography or video.


Photographing People:

  • According to the Human Rights Act of 1988, everybody has their own right to privacy. There’s currently no law that prevents you from taking a picture of somebody in a public place. However, some subjects can dispute this. Cases leading to photographers facing charges of harassment have been seen before. (See the paparazzi for details).
  • Overall, the laws here are very vague. There mostly appears to be an unwritten rule of personal space and common decency. Stick to this, be polite and everything will be fine.
  • For planned photography sessions, a Model Release Form can be composed as a protective contract between artist and subject.


Using Other People’s Work:

  • Again, this is a case of gaining permission from the creator. However, any work under the Public Domain is not protected by copyright law. This could be because the artist clearly deemed it as free to use. Under the Public Domain, it’s even free for commercial purposes. Clipart is a great example of this.


The Future:

  • Current affairs may soon be seeing drastic changes to the UK, as we all know. It’s been suggested that although there is no need to re-visit the UK copyright laws after Brexit, the government might make changes. This is currently uncertain.
  • Overall, I’ve learnt to make sure that I have every agreement in writing. Copyright laws can seem terrifying but it’s better if everybody knows their rights – particularly if you’re aiming for your work to be published.

by Holly Challinor