Business

Ask the experts: Image usage rights

May 2016 issue

Q. If I attend a motorsport event and make a great image of a driver, I have the copyright to that image. But those cars are all licensed/registered, right? So can I sell the image, or am I required to get a release from the driver or NASCAR? The same question would probably apply to professional sports players and teams, too. Any advice?

A. Yes, with very few exceptions, you’re the copyright owner of the images you create. However, although owning copyright gives you the right to control the use of your work, it does not necessarily give you the right to do anything you want with your images. There are other factors that affect image usage, such as rights to publicity, rights to privacy, and trademark rights. 

In most cases, it’s best practice for a photographer to obtain signed releases from individuals pictured (for the use of their likeness) and from any relevant parties for the use of their trademarks before using images for any commercial purpose. Since this issue requires several legal considerations, I strongly advise that you contact an attorney for specific guidance.

Lindsey Forson, Government Affairs Manager, PPA

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