Change in Canada Copyright Act Impacts Event Photo Ownership

Camera LenseIn Canada, before the passage of  Bill C-11 amending the  Copyright Act, event planners (or clients) who hired photographers for events, owned the images produced. In an active LinkedIn discussion about using event photos for event planner portfolios, Montreal photographer Alexandre Racine alerted the group to the revisions to the Copyright Act.  As of November, 2012, the photographer who shoots an image now owns copyright in Canada.

The revised legislation has not been without controversy. To clarify the impact of this change, I consulted Montreal photographer Andre Cornellier, Copyright Chair, CAPIC, (The Canadian Association of Professional Image Creators). He indicated that copyright laws giving photographers ownership of the photos they shoot on behalf of clients brought Canada up to date with international best practices that have existed in many countries for about 40 years.

The law does not distinguish between amateur and professional photographers. The exception is that full time (permanent) employees don't own the copyright for images they shoot for employers. The company owns it.

Part-time employees, may or may not own copyright depending on the specific situation. Contractors and freelancers, such as event staff, retain copyright for all images they shoot unless it is transferred by contract.

In French:

Loi sur le droit d'auteur, 1 de 4 : Quels changements pour les photographes ? from Capic Montreal on Vimeo.

When hiring photographers, Mr. Cornellier stressed the following.

  • Always have a contract.
  • Spell out how the photos are to be used (e.g. website, brochure, blog, editorials, portfolio, in proposals, etc.).
  • Include a clause in which the photographer grants a license for photo use.
  • If needed, stipulate that the images can't be sold to competitors and retaining exclusive rights to photo use in your field or industry.

While the Copyright Act makes provisions for entering into agreements for re-assignment of copyright, Mr. Cornellier cautioned that this can carry a hefty price tag (i.e. up to about $40,000 to purchase exclusive global rights for a single image).

There is a distinction between moral rights and copyright. Even if copyright is assigned, the photographer retains the moral right to be credited and it can't be assigned. It may be waived in whole or part. It is the still the right of photographers to determine if credit is required and how they are to be credited (e.g. name on image, photo credit on page, name on page of credits on website). Any purchase of copyright or waiver of moral rights is to be negotiated and clearly specified in writing.

Privacy Laws

Canadian privacy laws, which are under both federal and provincial jurisdiction, also have an impact on the legal use of photos. At the federal level, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the Constitution Act protects the freedom of artistic expression.

Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta have privacy legislation giving individuals control over the use of their image or likeness. Even in provinces that don't have privacy laws, under Civil Law, which governs disputes between private parties, individuals depicted in photos can launch civil action if they have not signed a release for publication of a photo. The court rules based on the body of "case law" for similar cases.

If you intend to use event photos on the Internet or for printed material, it is extremely important to get permission forms signed by:

  • clients
  • participants or attendees - what is known as a model's release
  • private venues

If you are based in or planning an event in Canada, keep privacy legislation and copyright law changes in mind when using event photos.


Please Note: This feature is not intended to provide legal advice. It has been written strictly to raise the awareness of event planners. For advice, consult a competent legal professional specializing in Canadian privacy and copyright laws.


Next week, Cvent Event Blog will discuss how U.S. based event planners can legally use event photos. 

For tips to protect your own intellectual property, consult Event Planning Challenges: Protecting Your Intellectual Property on the Cvent Event Blog.

Photo Credit: Salzoman

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