Do I have to identify creators of photos when sharing their content online?

Creators can agree not to be identified or waive the right to be identified when their work is being used in public. PHOTO: PEXELS

SINGAPORE - Creators and performers now have a right to be identified whenever their work or performance is used in public, including when it is shared online.

This is one of the changes to the Copyright Act - aimed at strengthening their rights - that took effect on Nov 21.

Another change involves giving default copyright ownership of certain commissioned works to their creators.

The Straits Times looks at how the two changes affect the use and distribution of works such as photographs.

Q: How does the new right to be identified affect me when I am sharing photographs taken by others online?

A: The creator must be identified in a clear and reasonably prominent manner, such as in the caption of the social media post.

The identification must be in a manner that the creator wishes to be identified. For example, a photographer may intend to be known by a different name.

This obligation applies even if the creator does not own the copyright to the photos.

Q: Besides photos, what other works are covered by this new right to be identified?

A: Performances and authorial works are covered too. Authorial works comprise literary creations such as books, musical content, dramatic works such as film scripts, and artistic efforts such as paintings and photographs.

Q: Does this right to be identified apply to works created overseas?

A: Yes. The right to be identified applies to works by Singapore citizens and residents, as well as by citizens of countries which are parties to the Berne Convention or a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

"Currently, there are 179 contracting parties to the Berne Convention and 164 members of the WTO, which include countries such as Australia, China, Japan, United Kingdom and the United States," said Ms Trina Ha, chief legal counsel and director of the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore's (Ipos) legal department.

Q: Does this right to be identified apply to my works created in Singapore but used overseas?

A: The obligation, as set out in the Copyright Act, applies only when the works are used in Singapore.

For works used in another country, the intellectual property laws there will determine whether the creator must be identified. This is regardless of whether the works were created in Singapore.

Q: What if I do not know the creator of the work?

A: The right to be identified does not apply if the identity of the work's creator is not known.

Q: Are there other situations where I do not have to credit the creator of the work?

A: Creators can agree not to be identified or waive the right to be identified when their work is being used in public. Other situations include when the work is used in examinations or court proceedings.



Q: What can creators do if someone uses their work without crediting them?


A: Creators can commence court proceedings. Remedies in a lawsuit include a court order stopping those from using the work, and damages.

Q: Does this right to be identified extend to works that I have commissioned, such as wedding photographs or portraits?

A: Yes.

Q: Can I use photographs, portraits, engravings, sound recordings and films which I commissioned for any purpose?

A: Under the Copyright Act, these creators are the default copyright owners.

A commissioning party can use such works only for the purposes for which they were commissioned.

Q: Can the wedding photographer I hired use the photographs for his own purposes?

A: Under the Personal Data Protection Act, a photographer who owns the copyright to wedding photographs must obtain consent from the people featured in them.

"Creators such as photographers cannot require their clients to provide consent beyond what is reasonable to provide their services," said Ipos in its fact sheet on the Copyright Act dated Nov 19. "Further, individuals can withdraw consent earlier given."

Other laws, such as those on defamation, will also continue to apply wherever possible.

Q: What can I do if I want to freely use the photographs that I commissioned?

A: The commissioning party can negotiate with the photographer for the copyright ownership.

  • This is the first in a twice-monthly explainer series examining recent issues relating to intellectual property and technology.
  • The planned articles are intended to inform and educate, and are not to be taken as legal advice. Members of the public seeking legal help should consult a lawyer.

Correction note: An earlier version of this article included videos in the works that are covered by the new right to be identified. This has been corrected. We are sorry for the error.

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