The Photographer’s Copyright – Photograph as Art, Photograph as Database

90 Pages Posted: 8 Feb 2020 Last revised: 19 May 2024

See all articles by Justin Hughes

Justin Hughes

Loyola Law School Los Angeles

Date Written: September 20, 2011


This Article explores the interaction between copyright law and photography, the 19th century technological development that most challenged copyright’s conceptual underpinnings. Prior to this article, neither courts nor commentators have seen the parallelism between copyright ability issues for photographs and the same issues for compilations of data. After exploring those parallels, the Article describes how originality-based copyright protects far fewer photos than most people believe; why courts stretch notions of originality to protect much photography; the possibility of less robust, incentive-based protection systems; and how technological developments challenge the fragile conceptual framework established in the 19th and 20th centuries for copyright protection of photography.

Keywords: copyright, photography, originality, technology, intellectual property

Suggested Citation

Hughes, Justin, The Photographer’s Copyright – Photograph as Art, Photograph as Database (September 20, 2011). Harvard Journal of Law and Technology, Vol. 25, 2012, Cardozo Legal Studies Research Paper No. 347, Available at SSRN:

Justin Hughes (Contact Author)

Loyola Law School Los Angeles ( email )

919 Albany Street
Los Angeles, CA 90015-1211
United States
213-736-8108 (Phone)


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