This article on ‘Photography Laws in India: Complete Guide for Photographers’ was written by Akash Sharma an intern at Legal Upanishad.
“A pause button of life that brings all our visualizations back in front of us is what photography is all about.”
At present with the enhancement of technology, we have reached an era where photography has been empowered to reach new heights. Today the scope of photography is not just limited to the art of making memory tangible for personal pleasure but rather it has been taken very seriously for professional work and which makes it essential to have rights over such professional work.
The article reaches to various legal rights that the nation has provided in the field of photography and the measures that are taken for its safeguarding if a scenario of infringement occurs along with the suggestions which could make these legal rights more effective and efficient in the making the nation a better place in the realm of photography.
Photography serves as a remarkable medium to capture and preserve our emotions and experiences within the confines of a rectangular piece of paper. Art, science, and practice of capturing light or other forms of electromagnetic radiation to create enduring images is what Photography is all about. There are two approaches by which the process could be accomplished, the first involves chemical processes utilizing light-sensitive materials while the other relies on electronic techniques employing image sensors.
Compared to the early days of photography when it first emerged, marked by the invention of the Camera Obscura and the groundbreaking capture of the first permanent photograph titled “View from the Window at Le Gras” by French inventor Joseph Nicéphore Niépce in 1826 using the heliography process, the field of photography has significantly transformed in the present era. Technological advancements have greatly enhanced the processing capabilities and possibilities within the realm of photography.
As technology and professionalism have advanced, ensuring the protection of rights over photographs has become a crucial necessity to ensure the security and well-being of the subjects captured by photographers. Therefore, recognizing the importance of this matter, legal frameworks have been established both globally and within individual nations to enhance and safeguard the rights associated with the artistic work of capturing photographs.
Applicable Photography laws in India
With the enhancement of technology, photography becomes more accessible, yet it brings forth legal challenges concerning intellectual property and privacy. Misunderstandings often arise regarding photo ownership, the rights of subjects, and acceptable usage. It is crucial to understand the foundational principles of photography laws in India and regulations. To address these concerns, various laws and rights have been established to safeguard photographs.
- The Copyright Act 1957 – Photography laws in India are governed by various provisions and landmark cases. The Copyright Act, of 1957 protects photographers’ rights over their images. Under the Copyright Act of 1957 in India, photographs are recognized and safeguarded as artistic works according to Section 2(c). However, it is imperative for the photograph to be considered original in order to receive such protection.
- IPC, 1806 – The Indian Penal Code of 1860 encompasses provisions pertaining to privacy and defamation, which can be relevant to photography. Sections 499 and 500 specifically address the offense of criminal defamation, while Sections 354C and 354D address the privacy concerns of women, including issues related to voyeurism and stalking. These provisions serve as legal safeguards in the context of photography and related violations.
- Right to Privacy – In a significant ruling known as the “Privacy Case” or “Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) v. Union of India,” the Supreme Court of India declared the right to privacy as a fundamental right protected by the Indian Constitution in 2017. This landmark judgment has significant implications for photography and the safeguarding of individuals’ privacy in the country.
- Artist rights – Photographers in India enjoy moral rights under the Copyright Act. Section 57 of the Act provides them with the right to be recognized as the creators of their photographs and the ability to object to any modifications that could potentially harm their reputation. These rights protect the integrity of their work and ensure that their authorship is acknowledged and respected.
Infringement and Landmark Judgements related to Photography Laws in India
Infringement of photography laws in India occurs when actions violate copyright, privacy, or other relevant regulations. This includes unauthorized use, reproduction, distribution, or modification of photographs without proper permissions or licenses, as well as capturing images in restricted areas, invading privacy, or using photos in a defamatory manner. Infringement can result in legal consequences, such as civil liabilities or criminal charges. Respecting and complying with photography laws in India is essential for ethical and lawful practices.
Some of the notable major landmark cases include –
- Cadbury India Ltd. v. S.M. Dyechem established that visual similarity can lead to the infringement of artistic copyright.
- In the case of Kesari Maratha Trust v. Devidas Tularam Bagul, the Bombay High Court ruled that publishing photographs without the photographer’s permission by copying them from another published source constitutes copyright infringement. However, it was clarified that individuals other than the photographer can use the photograph without malicious intent to profit, such as for educational, research, and judicial purposes.
- In the case of Fairmount Hotels Pvt. Ltd. vs. Bhupender Singh, the Delhi High Court acknowledged copyright protection for photos on Facebook and ruled in favor of the Plaintiff. This highlights the importance of recognizing copyright on social media platforms and respecting photographers’ rights.
Registration of Copyright
Photography in India is automatically protected by copyright upon creation, but registering with the Copyright Office offers additional benefits. It is a voluntary process, providing stronger legal claims. The application includes details like title, author/photographer’s name, and creation date. Registration provides evidence of ownership, aids in legal disputes, and enables the filing of infringement lawsuits. Copyright generally lasts the author’s lifetime plus 60 years. Indian registration extends protection to other countries through international copyright treaties like the Berne Convention.
Efforts are underway to strengthen and enhance legal rights in the field of photography. To further improve their effectiveness and efficiency, several measures can be considered.
These include establishing clear guidelines on privacy to balance the rights of photographers and individuals, enhancing copyright education and enforcement, streamlining the copyright registration process for photographs, exploring digital rights management mechanisms, fostering collaboration with industry stakeholders, and conducting regular reviews of laws to keep pace with technological advancements and evolving practices.
These steps would contribute to a more robust legal framework for protecting the rights of photographers in the nation.
In conclusion, photography in India is subject to a range of legal rights and regulations. Copyright law automatically safeguards photographs upon creation, and registration offers additional advantages. Privacy laws address consent and photography in public and private spaces, while the recognition of the right to privacy by the Supreme Court strengthens individuals’ protection.
Artists’ rights ensure photographers are acknowledged as authors and can object to harmful modifications. Drone regulations and intellectual property laws also impact photography. Adherence to these legal rights and staying informed about any updates are crucial for photographers to maintain ethical and lawful practices
- Asia Jasmine, “Law relating to Photography and Rights of Photographers over content”, Legal Desire, 15 May 2021, available at: https://legaldesire.com/law-relating-to-photography-and-rights-of-photographers-over-content/ (last visited – July 13, 2023)
- “What Photographers Need to Know about Copyright Protection in India?”, Kashish IPR, 29 January 2020, available at: https://www.kashishipr.com/blog/what-photographers-need-to-know-about-copyright-protection-in-india/#:~:text=In%20India%2C%20photographs%20are%20protected,photograph%20can%20also%20be%20protected (last visited – July 13, 2023)