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Friday, 23 February 2024 07:22

[OPINION] The Photos You Paid Your Photographer To Snap You Do Not Belong To You, They Belong To The Photographer - Stanley Alieke

Intellectual property rights law is quite interesting and most times controversial: An intending husband and wife hire a photographer and pay the photographer handsomely to come and cover their wedding. By common sense, the husband and wife are right to assume that since they have paid the photographer, every picture of theirs snapped by the photographer ought to legally belong to them. But no, that’s not what the law says; the law says that though you have paid the photographer, though it is your image that was snapped by the photographer, those pictures legally belong to the photographer and not the couple. The same goes when a family invites a photographer to come to their house and snap them family photos for their family portrait, same goes when a parent(s) invites a photographer to come and capture the images of their infant. That your family portrait, that your child’s image captured by the photographer belongs to the photographer and not you or your child. In fact, by law, before you do anything with those wedding pictures or family portraits, you need to seek the consent of the photographer or else he has the right to commence an action against you for copyright infringement. 

Cases like these have gone to court and the courts have all agreed that the photographer owns the copyright of every picture taken by him with his camera even though he has been paid for the photos. The landmark case that must always be mentioned whenever image copyright in Nigeria is being discussed is the case of BANIRE V. NTA STAR TV (CA/A/345/2017).

In the above case, Ms Banire, a photographer/videographer brought legal action against NTA Star TV because NTA Star TV used her images for outdoor advertisements on billboards mounted all around Abeokuta and Akure without her consent and authorization. This, she claimed, amounted to infringement of her copyright on those images. NTA TV stars, on the other hand, raised the defence that they acquired and paid for those pictures, although through a third party, hence, they did not infringe on Ms Banire’s copyright to the images. 

On appeal, the appellate court held that the law has afore provided in Sections 10 and 51 of the Copyright Act, that it is that it is the photographer and not the person in the image that owns the copyright to the picture. His Lordship, Justice Muhammed Baba Idris (JCA), reiterated “What is evident from the above provision is that the person who is a muse or the person in the photograph is not in fact the author and therefore he/she does not own copyright in the photograph. Rather it is the person who took the photograph that is the author.”

The only time when a person who has been snapped or who pays for the photos can own the copyright in those images is when there has been a transfer of copyright ownership in writing from the photographer to the person or when the photographer signs a release form, releasing the intellectual properties in those images to the person. 

 Stan Alieke is an Abuja based legal practitioner.

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