Each country of the European Union has its own legislation system, and consequently its own copyright law. However, these systems are highly unified and the basic copyright laws are very similar in each member state. Therefore, in this article we will describe these similarities and name them EU copyright, in contrast, for example, to the copyright laws in the USA.

When is a photo copyrighted in the EU?

We should mention here about two very important issues when it comes to the photography protected by copyright in the European Union countries. The first is the moment when the photo starts to be protected by law, and the second is the kinds of photos that are protected: namely, when can we call the photo “original”?
According to the copyright law in most European countries, an artwork is automatically copyrighted upon creation of the work. No registration is needed. This is different from, for example, the US copyright system, where you have to register the works in the Copyright Office (which is concerned mostly with works of art originating from that country). The registration of photographs is indeed a recommended action in the USA but we will focus on that in another article.

The second aspect of the EU copyright law is the originality of the photographic work, which is a condition for an artwork to be protected. When is a photograph “original”? The question arises. Let’s have a look at what the European Parliament says about that:

“Photographs which are original in the sense that they are the author’s own intellectual creation shall be protected” and “Member States may provide for the protection of other photographs.” – EU DIRECTIVE 2006/116/EC

That means that everywhere in Europe you can expect your photo to be copyrighted as long as it’s your own intellectual creation. “What is the intellectual creation?” you may ask. This question is not easy to answer. If you can show that you had some thoughts about composition, like the use of light, special techniques, creative ideas, etc. your artwork should be protected. At any rate, we’re not aware of any case in which a professional photographer wasn’t granted their copyright because the photo wasn’t “original”.

Watermark is not necessary for copyright

When we deal with copyright infringements, we often hear that a photo didn’t have a watermark and therefore is not copyrighted.

To make things clear: a watermark is not a requirement for copyright. This should be pretty obvious. If a company purchases a license to use a photo in an advertisement and it is agreed that they don’t have to name the photographer, eventually a copy of the photo without a watermark will be legally on the Internet. If a watermark were required for copyright, the photo would lose its copyright protection in that very moment.

Proving the copyright

Ok, so now you know that you own the copyright. But how can you prove it?
Many courts simply assume you own the copyright if you’re the first who published the work. This sometimes doesn’t work since you can backdate things on the Internet.

Another approach is to show that you have the biggest version of the photograph, since mostly you only put a downscaled version online. It’s therefore recommended to never hand out your full-sized image.

However, sometimes your customer wants to have the full-sized version and you can’t be sure anymore that nobody can get a hand on it. In this case, you can still show via raw image files that you’re the one who took the photo.

European copyright protection

Copyright exists so that your work is protected and you and only you have the last decision where your photos are published and how they are used. PhotoClaim is happy to assist you with your copyright problems. If you need any help, please get in touch with us. Look what we can do for you.
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