Photographing Buildings - Who owns the copyright?

'Is it legal', 'can I do this' type questions and discussions.
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MissP
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Photographing Buildings - Who owns the copyright?

Post by MissP » Thu Sep 20, 2012 4:20 pm

Hi,

I've been looking through this site (and various others) trying to get to the bottom of my question but have hit a brick wall, can you help?

I work for a historical building that is of architectural interest, is a charity and is over 150 years old. In our archive we have a series of photographs of the building over the years. What I need to know is does the company who owns the building (the charitable trust) own the copyright to the building's likeness and therefore have the right to use the images or does the photographer own the right to use the images and do we need to seek permission and/or pay to use them?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated even if it's just pointing to a building copyright document. It seems there's a lot on the copyright of images out there but not on the copyright of the building.

Many thanks!

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AndyJ
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Post by AndyJ » Thu Sep 20, 2012 9:54 pm

Hi Miss P,
Where copyright exists in a building (more on this in a moment), that copyright is not infringed by anyone taking a photograph of it. The relevant law is Section 62 of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 which says:
62 Representation of certain artistic works on public display.
(1) This section applies to—
  • (a) buildings, and
    (b) sculptures, models for buildings and works of artistic craftsmanship, if permanently situated in a public place or in premises open to the public.
(2) The copyright in such a work is not infringed by—
  • (a) making a graphic work representing it,
    (b) making a photograph or film of it, or
    (c) making a broadcast of a visual image of it.
(3) Nor is the copyright infringed by the issue to the public of copies, or the communication to the public, of anything whose making was, by virtue of this section, not an infringement of the copyright.
However owners of premises may restrict the use of photography as a condition of entry. This is the case with most National Trust properties, the Royal Parks etc, and although it has nothing to do with copyright (and the photographer will normally retain copyright in any pictures which are taken despite such conditions applying) these rules may be applied to eject anyone found in breach of them. Photographs taken from public places are not affected by these rules.

You mentioned historical buildings. Although works of architecture are protected by copyright, this has only been the case since 1911; prior to that only the architect's drawings themselves were protected (as works of fine art) and not the physical product of the drawings. And the term of copyright under the 1911 (and later the 1956) Act was 50 years from the death of the architect. In other words most buildings over 100 years old are unlikely to attract any copyright protection at all. Even under the 1911 Act, it was permissible to photograph (or draw, paint or make an engraving of) a building. So in all likelihood, the Charity which now owns the building will need permission to use any images taken by photographers over the years, except in one special category. If the Charity, or before them the building's previous owners, commissioned the taking of any photographs or the making of paintings, drawings etc, prior to 1 August 1989, then they will be the owner of the copyright in any resulting images, unless the commissioning agreement stated otherwise. Of course it is possible that any copyright which was owned by the previous owners of the house may not have transferred to the Charitable Trust along with the bricks and mortar, and could still reside with any heirs of the family.
I hope this helps to clarify things for you.
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007

MissP
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Post by MissP » Fri Sep 21, 2012 12:27 pm

Thank you for taking the time to write that. It's extremely helpful!

Best wishes,
MissP

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