Copyright VS Reproduction Licence

So this isn’t the most interesting or glamorous blog post. There’s not too many videos or pictures I could put in to spice this post up. It is however, an oft-asked question, one which we believe is so important to differentiate the distinction between copyright and reproduction licence that we needed to make a blog post all about it. So to make things more interesting, I’ll splice in some behind the scenes shots of us at work, completely unrelated to legal information, but at least they look nice. So here we go – what is copyright vs reproduction licence? Why do you give us one not the other, when another wedding company says we can have the copyright?

1. Copyright

Copyright, at least in the UK, is automatically generated when an artist creates a piece of Intellectual Property (IP). When a singer thinks up a song, or an artist draws a picture, they automatically own that copyright. Photographers create their IP when they press the button to take the picture. The copyright is a legal shield covering your work, that if someone tries to pinch your work, claim it as their own or make money off it, you can step in and say “wait a minute, I own the copyright, it’s my picture and you can’t do that!” You wouldn’t like it if you, an architect, had just built an awe-inspiring building and then a stranger walks up and claims its theirs, takes all the publicity and credit for it.

2. Reproduction Licence

This is where we start to delve into the deep depths of UK Law. A Reproduction licence is a licence which I, the owner of the Intellectual Property can give to another person, so they can use my IP for some things. Typically in photography, you would give a licence to a media outlet. They can use your images for their site, and in return you’d either get paid, credited or other services in trade.

Reproduction Licences can vary, some can let you copy, share and print the images but not sell them yourself – some will let a newspaper use your images for a certain period of time (like 3 months) on their website before having to take it down. All reproduction licences are customisable and there is no set rule for whats included in them, you adjust them as you see fit to best suit the licensee. A reproduction Licence does not transfer the copyright of the image to another party.

3. Why do you give a Reproduction Licence for Wedding Images?

At wedding fayres we can overhear other photographers tell the couples “you get full copyright on your images”. “That wedding photographer over there offers the copyright, can you do the same?“. We have to answer with a no, but back it up with you recieve the full reproduction licence to print, share and own the images indefinitely. So why have we such a firm stance on not giving the copyright away? Let’s assume these scenarios:

You are a hollywood A-lister, and you hire me and I give you the copyright. Once I’ve given you the images, I can no longer legally say I took or own the images. Every picture and their legal ownership has been given to you. I can’t promote my business with your pictures. I can’t say I’ve shot your wedding and you can now sell my images to media outlets for big bucks. A little mean, no?

I take photographs for your wedding, and you get the copyright. You then take my images and set up a photography wedding service. Using my pictures for promotion you get loads of bookings. The people you book think that they will receive images of the quality displayed in our images.

By giving the reproduction licence to the couple, we grant them permission to print off what they need. You can also share them online and post them to family and friends. It’s a small distinction but one which can have a very big impact to a creative business that survives solely on the integrity of their Intellectual Property. We promise we’re not trying to stiff you and give you a vicious licence. You have free and unlimited use to the pictures, after all it’s your big day! We just need to protect our work under the ever-complex UK laws.


If you would like to book your own wedding day with Special Day Photography, please contact us. We travel all throughout the UK but are based in Cheltenham. If you have a wedding in Bristol, Birmingham, Cardiff or Oxford please get in touch. We specialise in lifestyle wedding photography, with nothing too staged or forced. We’d love to catch up with you over a coffee to discuss any plans you may have.