The rights on photographs

The copyright Act provides for three different categories of photographs:

  • Photographic works, having such creative features to easily recognize the personal touch of the author;
  • Simple photographs, as the images of persons or aspects, elements or events of natural and social life, acquired by photographic or equivalent process […];
  • Photographic reproductions, i.e. simple reproductions of written papers, business documents, material items, technical drawings and similar products.

Photographic works have both the moral and the economic rights as per Copyright Law (art. 12-19, law 633/41). The use of a photographic work, like any other work, is subject to the author’s permission or his heirs and possibly upon a payment.

The economic rights last his entire life and 70 years after his death.

Simple photographs

The simple photographs, on the other hand, grant a number of “minor” rights.

The author, in fact, has the exclusive right of reproduction and distribution/sale besides the right of an appropriate payment for the use of the photographs, providing they display the following details:

  • the photographer’s name;
  • the date when the photograph was taken;
  • the author’s name of the photographic work of art.

Failing this, the reproduction is not illicit and payment is not due.

These rights have a validity of twenty years from the creation of the photograph (art. 92 LA).

Finally, photographic reproductions don’t have any particular protection and can freely be used.

Obviously, it is not easy to distinguish the different types of photographs, for this reason it is always recommended to refer to an expert.