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Photo Booth Copyright?

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I'm building an art installation for an upcoming festival. The installation will consist of a photo booth where people can pay 10 cents, push a button, and have their photo taken, as well as computer screens around town in store front's windows displaying the photos.
Once a photo is taken, it's uploaded to a website which cycles through all the photos taken so far. This site is what the screens in store fronts will be showing.

My question is about the copyright of the photos taken. My intention was to include a small note in the photo booth stating that all photos would be taken under a CC0 license, and after the festival provide an easy download of all the photos taken to anyone interested. I was thinking that this would make it easy for someone to build on the photos if they had an idea for another artwork.

However, I was just thinking that if the photos are created by the participant pressing a button, then they would probably own the copyright on their portrait, and I wouldn't really be in a position to release the photos under CC0.

I would love to hear anyone's thoughts about how I might deal with this. Am I wrong in how I understand the situation? Is there a different way I could freely release the photos?

Two notes:

1. It is clear to people when they enter the booth that their photo is going to be displayed publicly, rather than privately like a traditional photo booth.

2. This is in Canada, though I believe the photography laws are similar to the US.
initiated Jul 3, 2013 in Ask Techdirt by Alex Keeling (160 points)   1 1 1

2 Responses

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Sure, you will have copyright on the design of the booth, but not over the pictures it takes. And you will have copyright over photo's that have custom frames that you've created. The picture then becomes a derivate work with one part beging public domain and the other is your work. (Your frame.) If I would create those frames, copyright would be mine, too. Because I created the frame and you just made the derivate work. You would need a license from me in that case.

And the creativity of the participant will also be quite low in general, unless they're going to do a real strange pose, wearing make-up and clothes especially for this picture. But if they would just walk around dressed as clowns and just have their picture taken then it's not much creativity. Most likely not enough to claim copyright. Their appearance is a creative choice, the fact that they had their picture taken is not. Anyone with a camera could take pictures of them without having to give them copyrights just because they've dressed in a creative way.

However, the personalities will have a different right called Personality Rights. ( This might limit the things that can be done with those pictures. You might, for example, use them with a newspaper article or display them in your shop. But you might not use them for e.g. a dating site or other commercial purposes without the participant agreeing with this purpose. But the picture itself is still public domain.

Also, it makes not much difference if you're continuously filming or just have a shutter open and close. Filming might actually make it even less creative, since it would be like a surveillance cam.

response added Jul 3, 2013 by Lisa Westveld (420 points)   1 3
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Copyright would suggest creativity. Pictures taken in a photobooth lack creativity so there's no copyright. Doesn't matter who presses the button but the automated process kills any claims for copyrights. As a result, the picture is immediately part of the public domain, thus even skipping any CC0 license that you would like to add to it.

There's no originality to a photo booth picture, so copyright is moot.
response added Jul 3, 2013 by Lisa Westveld (420 points)   1 3
What about the creativity of me setting up the booth so that the shots are framed a certain way, or have a particular backdrop, or cropping the photo from 16:9 to 4:3 before making it available?
As well, what about the creativity of the participant posing in certain way, dressing in particular clothes, or using particular props?
In my opinion, those are all creative choices.
I appreciate your input, but I feel that the law (as far as I understand it) would place the copyright of the photo with whoever presses the button which activates the shutter.

On that note, it occurs to me that the way my software is running, the camera's sensor is continuously reading new frames, and the button press grabs the frame that the camera happens to have at that moment. There's actually no shutter to open, it's more like pausing a video stream. I'm not sure  whether this makes a difference from a legal standpoint.

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