Ownership of a Photograph and the Oscars

November 28, 2017 | By Charles Botensten

Q. I recall that you had previously addressed the issue of who owns a photograph in your Legal Line Question of the Week.  During the Oscars, Bradley Cooper took a picture with Ellen DeGeneres’ cell phone.  Who is the rightful owner of this picture?

A. Bradley Cooper is the owner of the famous “selfie” taken at the Oscars.  Even though he used Ellen DeGeneres’ phone to do so, general copyright law states that the person who takes a photograph owns the copyright of the image.

In our previous Legal Line Question of the Week, we addressed  the issue of a seller who  wanted to re-use photographs taken by a real estate broker whose listing expired.  We indicated that, absent an agreement to the contrary, the real estate broker was the owner of the photographs and would not be compelled to return the images to the seller.  

Important Tip:   In order to avoid questions of ownership relating to photographs used in advertising a property, a real estate broker should address this issue clearly within the listing agreement.  Similarly, if a real estate broker hires a photographer to take pictures of the property, the real estate broker should have an agreement with the photographer as to the ownership of such images

The Legal Line Question by:
Neil B. Garfinkel
REBNY Broker Counsel

Partner-in-charge of real estate and banking practices at Abrams Garfinkel Margolis Bergson, LLP