Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Who owns the copyright for this photo?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock these past few days, you have probably seen the Ellen DeGeneres orchestrated selfie.  For a recap, Ellen wanted to beat the all-time record for re-tweets by gathering a gaggle of actors and actresses for a group selfie. She used a Samsung phone for the photo, which was a prop provided by Samsung, one of the sponsors at the Oscars. The camera required some distance to encompass the whole group, so Ellen handed the camera off to Bradley Cooper, who by virtue of being at the front and having with longer arms than Ellen, took the iconic photo.

But who actually owns the copyright for the photo?  There are actually four potential players: Bradley Cooper, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Samsung, and Ellen DeGeneres. The Associated Press thinks it is Ellen DeGeneres.  They asked her for permission to use the photo, which she granted.  However, traditionally, copyright ownership goes to the photo’s creator, which is usually the person that takes the photo.  In this case, that is Bradley Cooper.

Read the Art Law Journal article at


IIM? said...

This is an important and often overlooked issue, especially within the small arts/marketing interning sector. Many marketing interns will invariably document events and day-to-day activities with the company camera, yet be forced to fore-go the copyright for such work due to their no-pay status, and instead receiving a one-line credit somewhere. I'm not a law expert, so I don't know how a credit for a photo holds up against the companies pre-exisiting terms of employment service regarding daily photo operations, if it exists.

Jarvis said...

The "photo creator" is not necessarily the person who pushes the button. It usually is the one who initiates the event. Since all the folks you mentioned are wealthy, they really don't care. The value of this images is based on its PR power, which all parties will & are benefiting from.