I work for a UK higher education institute, and have taken some photos for online & print (surgical procedures, labs, equipment etc)

Photography is not a part of my job description.

Who owns the images?

  • IANAL, and don't know but if you took them for work or were directed by a superior to do so, then I hope it would belong to the company. You could of course refuse to do it, if it is not part of your job description. If you write some C code but your job description says Python, then is all the C code under your copyright? Hopefully not!
    – Unapiedra
    Sep 3, 2013 at 13:16
  • Thanks, was pretty much my understanding too - something just made me a little unsure... Anyone else?
    – Mossman
    Sep 3, 2013 at 13:43
  • Realistically, talk to your HR department and if necessary a lawyer. The devil is all in the details.
    – Philip Kendall
    Sep 3, 2013 at 14:40
  • 1
    Though it is good to have this sort of question on this site, the fact that your requests for clarification were ignored doesn't make this forum a suitable alternative. Legally, you should be taking their silence as "No, you can't use these images personally," not "Maybe you can, maybe you can't." A large organization can drop a load of hurt on you in a copyright dispute, even if, in the end, you are adjudged to be in the right. You need the explicit permission of someone at your company with the legal authority to give it. Going without is foolish. Sep 3, 2013 at 15:17
  • 1
    This is not a iron-clad legal test, but ask yourself "Did I already get paid to take those pictures?". If you took them as part of your paid work, I'd hope you agree they belong to your employer regardless of what legal loopholes may exist. Sep 3, 2013 at 15:48

2 Answers 2


Usual disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. If the use of these images could potentially cause you a serious problem at work, talk to a lawyer in their professional capacity.

The best place to start is probably the UK copyright service's page on Photography and copyright; paragraph 1 is the crucial one here. This then comes down to whether the photos were taken "for the company" or whether it was a personal endeavour on your part. The sort of things that a court would look at here would include whether the photos were taken on company time, whether they were taken on company property and whether they were taken with company equipment - but that's not an exhaustive list, and none of those points will absolutely decide the matter one way or another.


I am not a lawyer, you should neither act nor refrain from acting on any advice I may offer.

That said, The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 is quite ambiguous in this situation since section 11 - First ownership of copyright says:-

(1) The author of a work is the first owner of any copyright in it, subject to the following provisions..

(2) Where a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work [or a film] is made by an employee in the course of his employment, his employer is the first owner of any copyright in the work subject to any agreement to the contrary.

(3) This section does not apply to Crown copyright or Parliamentary copyright (see sections 163 and 165) or to copyright which subsists by virtue of section 168 (copyright of certain international organisations).

Since creating the image was/is not in the course of your employment (that is to say it was far outside your remit and job description) that there may be scope to assert yourself as the 'first owner'. That said, engaging in a legal battle with a higher education institution (which tend to have deep pockets especially for legal bills) may not be a useful application of your time and money. Depending on what you want to do with the images, you may be better off assessing the potential impact and operate on the basis that forgiveness is more readily obtainable than permission.

A lawyer will be able to research the precedents and give you a clearer answer as to how this law is interpreted in the courts.

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