Drones are useful for photographic purposes. They can produce excellent still photos and video that can embrace broad areas or zoom in for precise details. The photographs are more than nice pictures; they are a digital property with ownership rights and commercial value. Photographers and other professionals do not typically take commercial drone classes. Rather than take drone license classes, artists, photographers, and filmmakers often rely upon drone services. Drone service operators sometimes forget to determine the respective rights of their companies, their customers, and contractors. Failure to clarify rights and responsibilities can lead to confusion, conflicts, and loss of valuable business opportunities.
Who Owns the Photos?
When the drone photography stems from a contract with a drone service company, the drone might be piloted by the drone company and photographed by someone else. There is a question- who owns the photographs or video? This is a topic that many commercial drone classes overlook. Copyright law would likely indicate the photographer since he or she created the photo.
Confusion and Claims
The customer might say it belongs to them because they intended to acquire it. The drone service might also assume it owns the property as the owner of the drone photographic platform and camera. The problem is that all parties have an expectation and only one can be the legal owner. The reason for the situation is a failure to determine and allocate rights and responsibilities from the outset. The copyright protections provide a form of ownership and control and protection against infringement. Infringing copyright exposes the actor to legal consequences including money damages. The copyright protects the owner’s exclusive rights. Copyright protections secure the following ownership powers per 17 U.S. Code § 106 – Exclusive rights in copyrighted works. The law includes the below-listed rights. (1)To reproduce the work (2) Prepare derivative works (3) Distribute copies (4) To perform the work (5) To display the work publicly, and (6) To perform the sound recordings digital work publicly by audio transmissions.
The owner can license, sell, assign, give, transfer, or otherwise dispose of his or her property.
The Two-part Approach
A split or two-part contract is an excellent way to resolve the question and to protect the drone service, the customer, the contractor, and the photographer. The drone service can separate the drone services from the rights and ownership of the photograph or other products of the flight. By clearly requiring contractors and photographers to expressly take or forfeit their rights, the drone service can solve the issue by avoiding conflicts through agreements. The drone service can adjust its agreement and, for example, accommodate photographer customers that clearly want to retain their rights. The drone service provider can attempt to retain all rights, but this will likely affect the nature, and volume of customers willing to accept such an arrangement. In the two-part approach, the drone service provider can make a deliberate choice to set price and term by agreement rather than by default, confusion, and conflict.