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Does copyright exist for proprietary RAW photos?

Does copyright exist for proprietary RAW photos?

As a photographer who (naturally) shoots raw images, I have a question as to when the copyrightable image exists. You say in the article that “when you press the shutter release you … (are) gaining copyright to that photo at the same time.” The ‘image’, at this time, only exists in a raw-format binary computer file. As you know, raw images are in proprietary formats, and the camera manufacturer will not release the specification publicly. Therefore, I don’t have unfettered access to my own works. I know that the camera manufacturer supplies their own software to process the raw images, but I am still reliant upon them (or e.g., Adobe) to actualise my images. I’d be interested to know your thoughts on this.

Gary on March 27, 2012

“A work is ‘created’ when it is fixed in a copy … for the first time. … A work is ‘fixed’ in a tangible medium of expression when its embodiment in a copy or phonorecord, by or under the authority of the author, is sufficiently permanent or stable to permit it to be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated for a period of more than transitory duration.”
U.S. Code Title 17 (Copyright Act)


According to the law (above), the format, even if it is proprietary, is not an issue in regards to copyright. Lots of my old images are in PhotoCD format, which is no longer supported by Kodak or Adobe Photoshop. The images have copyright, even if I can’t access them! (I use GraphicConverter to open them.)

copyright act, raw

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