In today’s internet-driven economy, businesses recognize the importance of using digital content to reach consumers. However, this often creates unique intellectual property issues – including potential copyright infringement questions.

Photographs and videos are amongst the most effective digital content – garnering significantly more likes, comments and click-thoughts on social media than text-based posts alone. While the use of photographs and videos presents an enormous marketing advantage, it also raises additional potential for legal exposure where such photographs or videos are not carefully sourced.

Protections under Copyright Law

Copyright law protects the creative expression of an idea – be it words on a page, notes in a song, brushstrokes on a canvas or the various compositional elements in a photograph or video: such as lighting, shadow, camera angle, etc. Such copyright protection can extend to photographs of products, places and people. While you cannot “copyright” a person, for example, copyright protection could extend to a particular photograph of a person.

Copyright protection over photographs has been recognized in the U.S. since the late 1800s – and therein lies the challenge. Often we are left trying to fit 21st century issues into 19th century legal frameworks. Sometimes, this results in illogical outcomes.


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