What are Copyrights and intellectual property rights?

What are Copyrights and intellectual property rights ?

Several types of rights have to be distinguished when it comes to right issues on the French market.


Copyrights are not recognized by any law. They have been constructed by legal precedents based on several texts from the French Civil Code:

  • Article 9 :
    « Everyone has the right to respect for his/her private life. »
  • Article 1382 about civil liability :
    « Any action from a person who harms someone else obliges the first one to fix it. »

Consequently, each individual has an exclusive and absolute right on his/her image and can oppose its settling, reproduction and use. It is mandatory to obtain the authorization of the photographed person, unless the exception of copyrights applies. Indeed, the latter must be combined to the exercise of the information communication freedom. According to French courts, a photograph can be used without the authorization of the photographed persons if it has been taken on the streets during a public event such as demonstrations or Open Days. Still, the person has to be concerned by the event and the shot must respect his/her dignity.

Intellectual property Rights

The legal frame of photographs is complex since it brings in civil and criminal law. In fact, the IT did not change it all. The applicable legal rules are the same as for documentary props but the IT made many simultaneous uses of the image possible.


The literary and artistic property – part of the French Intellectual Property Code – protects the photographs from their creation if they obtain the appellation "work of the mind" characterized by their originality and their technique – either printed or digital.

A whole series of rights apply to one photograph.

  • The photographer's rights
  • The distributor's rights
  • The rights of the photographed subject: a person or someone's property – objects or private places
  • The owner's right must be respected too.

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46 rue de la Mare
75020 PARIS

President: Gilles Taquet / Photononstop
Vice-presidents: Pascal Deloche / Godong and Emmanuelle de Lharminat / Kharbine Tapabor
Treasurer: Lydie Salaun / BSIP
Secretary: Véronique Martingay / La Collection