Intellectual Property

South Africa

Copyright Photographs

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Copyright does NOT need to be registered in South Africa

It is not possible to register copyright photographs in South Africa, unlike other forms of intellectual property, copyright vests in the photographer once the photo has been created in material form, but in South Africa the person who commissions the photograph obtains ownership. In other words, freelancers must therefore step down from any rights to their photographs which are commissioned by others. Fortunately, a simple clause in an agreement between the photographer and the commissioner can ensure that the photographer still retains rights to his own work. Copyright Attorneys specialise in setting up agreements like these. It is important to know that once you upload your photographs onto the Internet that it is your own responsibility to take the necessary steps to protect the copyright of your photographs.

Material form
One of the requirements for copyright is that the work must be created in material form. The idea of just taking a photo cannot qualify for this right, but saving the files on your computer, or printing the photographs qualify as material form.

The photograph must be original, but it is important to understand that unlike patents, the photo does not necessarily have to comply with novelty requirements to be original. If the author or artist puts in a lot of effort and skill as well as time into the production of the artwork, it can be original.  

Present a copyright notice (stating that the work is protected under law)
A copyright notice is not required, but displaying it shows that you are aware of copyright law.

Keep supporting evidence
The progression of the work. Early drafts, sketches, synopsis, rough recordings, etc. are all evidence that the work progressed over time, rather than being copied from elsewhere. Footprints or watermark evidence inserted into finished documents that will identify the author in some way, such as deliberate mistakes or watermarked logos.

Ensure your photographs are properly marked and dated
Some people might even post or courier their own work to themselves, to record the date of creation.

Copyright Duration

This depends on the type of work that has been created. Generally, the term of copyright is 50 years, subject to the following:

Literary, Musical or Artistic Works
Copyright exists for the life of the author plus 50 years following death, calculated from the end of the year the author died in or 50 years from the date of first publication, performance in public, offering for sale of records thereof or the broadcasting thereof , whichever is later.

Films and Photographs
50 years from the end of the year in which the work is made publicly available, or the end of the year in which the work is first published, whichever is longer, or fifty years from the end of the year in which the work is made

Sound Recordings
50 years from the end of the year in which the recording is first published

50 years from the end of the year in which the broadcast first takes place

Programme-carrying Signals
50 years from the end of the year in which the signals are emitted to a satellite

Published Editions
50 years from the end of the year in which the edition is published

Transfer of Copyright

Much like other property, copyright can be transferred by assignment, testamentary disposition or by operation of law. Copyright can also be licensed to a licensee for royalties. It is important to note that an assignment and an exclusive license (which precludes anyone else, including the author from using the creation) must be in writing and signed by the assignor to be valid. A non-exclusive license may be written or oral, or inferred from the conduct of the parties. It is important to know that once you upload your photographs onto the Internet that it is your own responsibility to take the necessary steps to protect the copyright of your photographs. Read more about Copyright Infringement

Copyright Symbol ©

The first step to protect your photographs should be a copyright symbol on the photo and credits. You could even embed / watermark the notice in the photograph when displaying it on the Internet. For this purpose include the normal copyright symbol of a C in a circle ©, and be sure to include the date of publishing and your name in the copyright notice. Also include the phrase of All Rights Reserved in addition to the above mentioned details.

Copyright Licensing

When selling your pictures online or to a third party, be sure to provide a list of terms and conditions for usage of the photo to ensure copyright protection of photographs. You can assign exclusive rights, one-time or transactional rights, all rights, media rights, print and transfer rights. Our experienced team of intellectual property attorneys will be able to assist with such agreements. Contact us today for assistance regarding copyright protection of your photographs on the Internet or when selling them to a third party.

Stock Photography Rights

Stock photographs taken and made available for public or commercial usage via the Internet upon payment of a fee and agreement to the terms and conditions of usage. As such photographic copyright exist on the stock photos. The stock photographs can be bought and used in a website, publication, graphic design or any form of publication. It should be noted that photographic copyright exist on stock photographs and you can thus not even copy and use the thumbnail image without purchasing the photo. Various types of photographic copyright exist for stock photos. It is imperative to understand the different usage rights. A royalty fee photo means that you can use the image as many times as you want for a specific fixed fee. You will thus be able to use the photo in a brochure of which for instance, 2000 or so are printed. You should however, note that you will not have exclusive rights to the image. You may for instance, not resell the image if not agreed upon with the owner and the photo can be bought by several persons who may use it in their websites and publications.

Sell your Photographs

Submit your content and sell across all Adobe platforms to reach millions of users!

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Referral program to help you earn more money

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Add your images to the Bigstock collection. You always keep the copyright to your work.

What We Can Do For You

South Africa

South Africa

We assist with the filing, prosecution and enforcement of your patent, design, trade mark and plant breeders’ rights in South Africa. Copyright dispute resolution and litigation. Franchise agreements and negotiation. Company registrations. Domain name registration and protection.

Patents in Africa, Trademarks in Africa

File in Africa

Foreign clients who wish to file patent, design and trade mark applications in South Africa and across Africa (including OAPI and ARIPO). Our firm acts as a patent agent as well as a trade mark agent for foreign clients who wish to protect their Intellectual Property in Africa.

World, International Protection

International Protection

Local clients who wish to file and protect patent , design and trade mark applications internationally. Our services include the search, filing and renewal of patents and trade marks in foreign markets such as Australia, China, the United States, Canada, Europe, Japan, etc.

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