Rights of Consumers and Photo Subjects in respect of commissioned works

On November 3, 2004, CIPPIC Associate Alex Cameron presented a brief to the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology on Bill S-9, proposed amendments to the Copyright Act that would give photographers first ownership of copyright in the photographs they take.

On April 14, 2004, CIPPIC submitted comments to the Heritage Committee on copyright reform and photographers' rights, urging Parliament to adopt rules that recognize disparities in bargaining power between different types of parties, as well as the reasonable expectations of consumers, in the context of commissioned photographs and other works of art. CIPPIC also calls for rules protecting portrait subjects from unauthorized reproduction or dissemination of their portraits.

Subsection 13(2) of the Copyright Act provides that, subject to an agreement to the contrary, first ownership of copyright in a commissioned photograph, engraving or portrait vests in the person who commissions and pays for the work. Photographers would like subsection 13(2) to be repealed so that they benefit from default ownership in copyright in the same way that most other artists do.

The issue of photographers' rights in copyright is the subject of Bill S-16, under consideration by the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, as well as the Heritage Committee's more general review of copyright legislation and reform.