If you ever wander around the Contemporary Art Centre in Vilnius, you will notice an inscription: “Everyone is an artist, but only artists know that”. Everyone who has a camera or a smartphone could be a photographer these days. But not all of us know if our photos have artistic value and could be the subject to copyright.
According to the Law on Copyright and Related Rights of the Republic of Lithuania “the subject matter of copyright shall include original […] artistic works, including works of painting and graphic art, which are the result of creative activities of an author, whatever may be the objective form of their expression”. This suggests that photography can be considered as the subject matter of copyright, as it can be treated as a form of visual art where the reality is captured and portrayed by artistic means.
Is the photography always an art?
Works of visual art, such as paintings or sculptures, are only subject to copyright if they reflect their authors’ personality. A court evaluates this in each case individually. The Supreme Court of Lithuania states that photography is the result of intellectual activity even in cases when it does not display a lot of individuality or creativity. This is because the photography, namely the process of capturing a view, involves chemical, electronic and other technologies. No matter where a picture was taken (in a pub or at home) or what its value is (one million euros or one euro), it is still considered to be a work of art protected by law.
Authors’ economic rights
Only the author to whom the photography is the result of creative activity can exploit the original of a work or its copies (no matter if it is tangible or not) for his whole life. Successors have this right too (for 70 years after author’s death). It is always recommended to find out who the author or successor of your interested photo is and ask for the permission to use that photo, as the author of the photo or the successor has the right to file a lawsuit and demand for compensation.