Legal and practical aspects of wedding photography

You join me as I prepare for my wedding on Friday. The amount of people asking “how are you feeling” or “how are you doing?” is making me wonder: am I going to get married, or I am going to jail? (Some grim-faced elder statesmen at Brodies LLP tell me that it’s a bit of both.)

Of course, the happy occasion presents the perfect opportunity to blog about some of the legal aspects of wedding photography.

Anybody who has got married is probably familiar with what I call “Wedding Tax”, whereby any service automatically doubles in price if it is to be provided as part of a wedding celebration. Photography is a good example of this crude “taxation”. If you pay a wedding photographer the payment will typically be for the photographer’s time and an allocated number of prints. Any additional prints must be ordered via the photographer, at an additional cost.

This is because under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1998, copyright in a photo vests in the photographer (or his/her employer), even where you commission the photo.  So any reproduction of the prints without  permission will be an infringement of the photographer’s rights.

However, if you commission a photo for “private and domestic” purposes then you do have rights to stop it being displayed against your wishes. These stem from the “moral rights” that were introduced into UK law in 1988. I know one IP/IT lawyer who asserted her moral rights in order to get her wedding photograph removed from the photographer’s window display (but the same thing could apply to a web site).

Finally, remember that photos can constitute personal data in terms of the UK data protection legislation.  So “processing” a photo (which is a very wide concept) technically requires the consent of all the people in it.  The link between photographs in public places, privacy and data protection was explored in detail in the case of Murray v Big Pictures (UK), which involved publication of pictures of JK Rowling’s infant son.  However, I suspect that outside of celebrity culture this is quite a low risk.  I mean imagine I had to get my brother’s consent before showing a group photo to my wife’s family. Nuts.

Happily my wedding photos are being taken by my friend, Martin, who co-runs Ladybird Photography so I’m not paying some crazy price, and Martin is also going to give me access to all the photos he will take (in exchange for a little free publicity).

So in summary, if you are thinking of engaging a wedding photographer, engage Martin because he is a nice guy who takes superb photos – no pressure Martin – or at least clarify the following points:
1. How many prints or photos you are getting access to. (This risk of “photo ransom” can actually be compared to “data ransom”, which we have blogged about previously.)
2. What you can do with them
3. What the photographer can do with them in the future.

John “Dead Man Walking” McGonagle

[Ed – All the best to John from the Brodies’ Techbloggers.]


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August 2011
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