Author: Sagar Godbole
We perched precariously on a ledge, trying to pose in front of the city palace in Udaipur. The Danish tourist, whom we had requested to take our customary touristy snap, fumbled around with my Micromax phone, trying to figure out how to take a picture. When he finally managed to get one, it was that of my friend in midair as he tumbled off the ledge.
As my phone continuously buzzed with people ‘liking’ and re-tweeting this picture, I realised how I could have made some money had the image been of a comet shooting across the sky, instead of my clumsy friend falling.
Unfortunately, many photos on your camera are not actually yours because of the legal framework in India. The Indian Copyright Act of 1957, under section 2(d)(iv), states that the person taking the photograph will be the ‘author’ of the picture. Then it goes on to state in section 17 that the author of a work shall be the first owner of the copyright therein. The effect of these provisions is that under the Indian law, copyright belongs to the person, who clicks the picture rather than the one who owns the camera.
The only exception to this rule is in cases where the photographer clicks a picture as an employee or in return for money as consideration. Therefore, the photos taken by a magazine photographer are owned by the magazine, while you own the images clicked by the photographer you hire to cover your wedding.
On the other hand, of all the hundreds of images stored on your camera from your last trip, you only own the copyright to those which you have clicked yourself. In case of images that are taken by someone else, you must seek their permission before using the photos. Fortunately, India is not a very litigious country, so you can breathe easy. It is highly unlikely that you would be sued for copyright violation by a random passerby, who clicked a picture for you.
To be on the safer side, though, it would be wise to seek permission or to acknowledge the photographer if you know who that person is, especially if you intend to use the photo commercially. For all basic intents and purposes, permission sought and given via a simple email suffices, so there is no need to jump through the hoops of complicated legal documentation.
But if you want to avoid such issues entirely, there is an easy and increasingly popular way to do so. Click only selfies during your vacations! To help you click group photos, you can even get a selfie stick.
The latest narcissistic sensation sweeping the world may have some legal benefits after all!