In a pinch friends can share many things, up to but not including a toothbrush. Sometimes in the heat of battle (photography) it is necessary to borrow another person’s camera in order to get the shot. When this happens, a curious legality emerges: that of deferring copyright ownership.
Laurie Hernandez, Owner of the Worldesigns Photo which operates the Costa Rica tours where I serve as instructor, and I were walking in Tenorio National Park. A small ground Anole made an appearance on the trail as we climbed the steps out of the Rio Celeste canyon.
Laurie put her foot in its path to stop its running away when it unexpectedly crawled onto her shoe. With her gear stowed in her pack for the climb out and a skittish lizard on her foot she was unable to get a shot. I used my Canon G10 to snap this quick picture showing the Anole displaying his colorful throat-flap. The lizard then scurried off her shoe and onto a rock beside the path. Knowing that she had a much better angle, I passed my camera down the trail to her so that she could get the shot.
If you look very closely at Laurie’s photo taken with my camera you can see something curious occurred… The copyright notice changed! By my ceding my camera to another photographer, the other photographer becomes the copyright holder as the creator of the image. This happened several times over the course of our most recent Costa Rica tour and we, as dutifully-minded keepers of copyright, not only copied the images for the other photographer’s library but changed the copyright notice on the photo as well.
Once during the trip, I was in the passenger seat of the car holding my own camera and another photographer’s similarly configured camera/lens. A bird appeared for photographing and I, by mistake, grabbed the wrong camera and fired away. Now I had copyrighted material on another’s camera. Another image swap and copyright change occurred at that night’s image-editing session.
Whether you are helping out a friend with an inaccessible camera, grab the wrong camera by mistake, or take a picture on behalf of someone, you may be sharing more than just gear. You are sharing the responsibility of ensuring the custody of the copyright and the ultimate ownership of the images-provided the image is of value and worth the effort.
We still have room for a couple more on the April 2010 Tour but time is running out.
Rikk Flohr © 2010