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The Copyright Act protects the photographer's right to their own photographs. There are two kinds of provision concerning photographs in the Copyright Act. An image, which was created by photographing, may receive copyright protection either as a photographic work or a related right as a photograph i.e. an ordinary photograph. Photographs that meet the prerequisites of independence and originality, receive copyright protection as works.  All other photographs receive a more limited protection as ordinary photographs, in accordance with the related rights defined in the Copyright Act.

Protection is thus granted to all photographs; ones taken in a studio, those taken amongst the family, such as tourist photographs, as well as reportage photographs. A requirement for the protection of an ordinary photograph is, simply, that it has been taken. Ordinary photographs receive almost as extensive protection as photographs that were taken as a work. The main difference concerns the shorter period of protection of an ordinary photograph. The following applies both to a photographic work as well as a photograph, unless otherwise specified.

Photographic works and photographs are images that were created through photography or techniques comparable to photography. A photograph is taken to mean an image that is created by exposing a sensitive material (such as film, or a sensor) to light. The light may be visible or invisible.  An image that is created using a technique comparable to photography includes imaging that happens by the use of a thermographic camera. The storage medium may be anything, e.g. magnetic tape, memory card, image stored in the hard drive of a computer. It does not matter whether the image can be seen without technical aids. Photographs taken with a digital camera and a mobile phone are photographs in the sense intended by the Copyright Act. Individual frames from a film are protected as photographs intended by Section 49, or if they meet the originality requirements, photographic works as intended by Section 1 of the Copyright Act

A photographic work differs from a photograph in that a photographic work is the independent and original result of its author's intellectual creative work. A photographic work should reflect its author's creative decisions and be such that no one else could have ended up with the same result, if they approached a similar photography assignment. It is not always easy to draw a clear line between a photographic work and a photograph that is protected by related rights, and this will have to be resolved based on individual cases.

There are few cases regarding the originality requirements of photographs. The Turku Court of Appeal ruling no. 2154 of 1997 assessed a photograph on the label of a wine bottle, which depicted rapids. The photography did not receive protection as a photographic work, but as an ordinary photograph.

The copyright of a photographic work, or the related right to a photograph, does not protect an idea, theme or plot. Concepts, principles, technical solutions and any information that is presented, are also not protected, and these are therefore exploitable by anyone. Copyright protects a photographic work's form of appearance and expression, to which the author contributed by their intellectual creative work.


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