Membership for Visual Artists with the Copyright Agency entitles artists to licence fees from:

  • educational and government use of images under copying schemes (statutory licences)
  • uses of images overseas under licence schemes managed by Copyright Agency international affiliates.
  • income collected from Copyright Agency licences in Australia and New Zealand and statutory license income collected by Screenrights
  • income collected by Copyright Agency’s international partners, which is only deducted if your art is reproduced internationally and income is collected overseas
  • income collected from ‘statutory’ licence fees by Copyright Agency


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Terms and Conditions

Other services include:

  • free national seminars
  • member e-news
  • funding for visual arts projects through our Cultural Fund
  • funding for career development opportunities for visual artists through our Career Fund
  • advocacy for creator’s rights



A photographer’s rights depends on a number of factors, such as whether the photographer was on staff or a freelancer, the type of client and the purpose of the photographer.

Freelance Photographers

If a photograph was taken by a freelance photographer for a client, the agreement between the photographer and the client will determine what rights the client has and what, if any, rights the photographer has.

In some cases, the agreement clearly set this out. If not, the client is likely to be entitled to use the photograph for the purposes it was commissioned for, but not for other purposes without the photographer’s permission.

There is a special provision in the Copyright Act for photographs commissioned for a private or domestic purpose, where there is no agreement between the photographer and the client about who owns copyright (section 35(5)).

There are also special provisions for works made for, or first published by, a government (Commonwealth, State or Territory). The government owns copyright in the absence of an agreement to the contrary.

Because of changes to the law from time to time, ownership can be affecting by when a work was created.

The following summarises when the client, rather than the photographer, was the first owner of copyright in a photograph in the absence of agreement about copyright ownership.

Since 1 July 1998
  • commissioned for private or domestic purpose (includes: portrait of family members, wedding party, children)
  • commissioned portrait (for any purpose)
  • client = government
if client indicated purpose of photograph, photographer can restrain use for any other purpose (see Matthews v ACP)
Before 1 July 1998
  • photograph commissioned for any purpose
  • client = government

  • photograph taken since 1 May 1969, and
  • client indicated purpose of photograph

photographer can restrain use for any other purpose


In most cases, copyright in photographs taken by employees as part of their job is owned by the employer. However, there is a special provision in the Copyright Act for employees of newspapers, magazines and other periodical publications.



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