Thanks to Google and Apple, we are all Authors and Creative Artists!

By Dr. Cristina Busch, legal advisor of IMAGO and the IMAGO Author Rights Committee

Nice new world. But reality is different.
We shall just concentrate on the legal situation of Cinematographers regarding author’s rights and explain who are considered to be authors according to EU-legislation and the Berne Convention.


IMAGO’s Author’s Rights Committee launched a Survey regarding author’s rights of Cinematographers in the autumn of 2016. The objective of this study was to conduct exhaustive research into the legal situation of cinematographers and to obtain empirical facts, since without this information any campaign to improve the legal situation of cinematographers is doomed to fail.
These are the facts with a very brief summary of the results:
The Survey was sent to 53 IMAGO’s members’ associations, 43 gave detailed answers, and the facts for international cinematographers are:
26 countries recognize cinematographers as co-authors of film.
17 countries of those 26 countries also recognize cinematographers as authors of the photographic works of the film. However, in 7 countries which provide full legal protection for cinematographers as co-authors and authors of the photographic works of the film, cinematographers do not have any protection of collecting rights societies.

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MAGO`s Authorship Committee, from left: Simon Plum DFF, Nigel Walters BSC, Dr. Cristina Busch (legal advisor), Luciano Tovoli ASC AIC, and Arko Okk ESC. (Committee members absent: Vittorio Storaro AIC ASC, Jost Vacano ASC BVK, Rolv Haan fnf and Barry Ackroyd BSC)

26 countries valued and protected Cinematographers as co-authors. That is, for Copyright law (next time we will clarify the “confusion” between Author’s rights vs. Copyright) to protect an author there must be an ORIGINAL creative work. This is to say the author has to “imprint” his mark of personality upon his/her creative work. Cinematographers hold great influence over all important creative elements of the film. In particular, the visual and the lighting design corresponds almost only to him/her. As the lighting design is a very essential part of the film, since it provides every individual image with its own special atmosphere, and also influences the feeling of the whole film, it is the cinematographer who imprints his/her mark of personality upon the film, together with the director. I can only quote Tony Costa (AIP), during the third “Cinematography in progress conference”, this year, proposing a research work called “One film, three versions”. He projected the same film shot three times with the same director, the same script, the same intentions, the same actors, the same crew, the same editor, the same music, etc. but with a different cinematographer each time. At the end, three very different films produced different emotions. Therefore, there is no doubt that cinematographers are actually co-authors of the film. IMAGO plans a worldwide research into the artistic role of cinematographers. Cinematographers had previously been too shy to value and claim recognition for their artistic work, which entails not only full control of our images, but also recognition of economic and moral rights as authors.

Check HERE full presentation by Dr.Cristina Busch presented in Belgrade March 2019