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Photography copyright in Europe: 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 two very important concerns in terms of copyright in the European Union countries. Firstly,  the moment when the photo starts to be protected by law. Secondly, the kinds of photos that are protected.  That is to say, 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.

Above all, an important aspect of the EU copyright law is the originality of the photographic work. This is a condition for an artwork to be protected. Therefore a question arises. When is a photograph “original”?  Let’s have a look at what the European Parliament says about it.

“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

In other words, 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, 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 and Photography copyright in Europe

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 was 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 will get their hands 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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