Media Law Handbook

Copyright Law


2. What is intellectual property?

1. Copyright

After a University of Colorado student took a picture of a tranquilized bear falling from a tree, the image quickly went from being a photograph in a campus newspaper to being a photograph everyone wanted. Then as media organizations asked to use the picture, a dispute erupted between the photographer and the student newspaper: Who owned the picture?

In this situation, the student newspaper had no written agreement clarifying who owned the copyrights to photographs taken by its unpaid staff. Therefore, because the student took the photograph, he owned the rights to sell it to others.[1] The dispute was settled amicably and did not go to court, but it illustrates the way copyright law affects the day-to-day work of journalists. This chapter will provide an overview of copyright law and address copyright law questions that frequently come up in newsrooms.


[1] Brittany Anas, CU-Boulder: Student Photographer Owns Copyright To “Falling Bear” Photo, Daily Camera (Apr. 30, 2012),

2. What is intellectual property?

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