I have a device that captures digital media content. The manufacturer of the device claims in their terms of service that, while I own the copyright to all of the raw content captured, that they own all digital copies of that content!?

Can anyone tell me if this even makes sense let alone would be legally enforceable in any meaningful way?


  • 1
    Can you state the exact wording? It is certainly possible that they may "own" the physical representation of bits without copyright, but without copyright or licence, one can't do anything with those bits. So, while possible, it would be very strange to me.
    – user3851
    May 17 '16 at 13:34
  • Do you own the device? Are the digital copies physically stored in the device?
    – phoog
    May 17 '16 at 17:12
  • There is one paragraph that says You will own the copyrights in: (a) all imagery that You capture and generate on the Camera and then soon after says Notwithstanding, the foregoing, XXXXX will own all digital copies of Raw Camera Imagery. "imagery" and "Raw Camera Imaergy" are equivalent.
    – lockstock
    May 18 '16 at 0:12
  • And yes I completely own the device
    – lockstock
    May 18 '16 at 0:13
  • If your camera's memory is full, is the company going to sue you for destruction of their property when you erase everything to have space for more photos? I think you should contact their legal department.
    – gnasher729
    Jun 6 '16 at 7:50

The camera manufacturer can make all kinds of claims, but that doesn't make them true. Their claim seems utterly ridiculous to me. If they ever tried to enforce it in court, this would create such a stink, their business selling cameras would be dead.

I think you should contact their legal department and ask for written clarification, for example before you delete anything from the camera's memory, which they claim as their property. Don't want to be accused of destruction of property.

In the EU, when the memory of the camera is filled, you could take it back to the seller and ask for a refund, since these terms state quite clearly that you are not allowed to delete any of the raw images on the camera, so the product is clearly not fit for purpose. Not being able to delete images for legal reasons is a defect that was present when the product was sold to you.


Ownership of an image (in the abstract) means ownership of the rights over, and benefits from, that image. There is no other meaning of ownership for a purely digital item sure as a pixel map. Your ownership doesn't mean "physical control of the copy of it that's on my camera". (Sure you can physically lock up the camera but that's not "owning" in law).

Analogy - you can sue for trespass, which is when your property rights are infringed by someone entering your land without consent. But nobody would argue that putting a wall up is ownership. The right to evict people, or enforce their removal, or seek compensation for their intrusion, is the legal right which manifests as ownership in the context of trespass. Not a watertight analogy gut may help get the idea across.

Imagine you couldn't stop a person copying your images, or your new designs, or your booknyou just wrote, you couldn't force them to acknowledge you are the creator, you couldn't control what they did or didn't do with them... in effect when it comes to this kind of property, the only ownership you have is the right in law to make decisions about, and enforce rights in, those things.

So no, splitting ownership from rights (including copyright) doesn't make legal sense.

  • 1
    Sure it makes sense. When you buy a painting, you own the physical painting but not copyright to it. When you buy a book or a CD: same thing. You own the object and can sell it because of the first sale doctrine, but you can't make copies of it.
    – user3851
    Jun 5 '16 at 21:00
  • No, you don't. Sorry. You're discussing two issues - the physical object and the actual image. In this question the topic is ownership and rights over, essentially, a very huge number - namely the number that expresses 20-50 million pixels at 24-48 bits each. The "image" doesn't exist other than as a number and rights in it (when used as an image). Its a bit like patent law and the specific implementation vs the novel/invented concept. (Even ownership of a house has little meaning other than in terms of rights over it - think about it). Look up "choses in action" and inchoate objects.
    – Stilez
    Jun 5 '16 at 21:48
  • Sorry for what? Don't tell me what I'm discussing. I know what I'm discussing. And I've thought about it, a lot. The sentence "splitting ownership from rights (including copyright) doesn't make legal sense" is false. It isn't at all like patent law. Think about it.
    – user3851
    Jun 5 '16 at 22:32
  • Try this. List out what exactly owning "the copyright to all of the raw content" means someone can do or have, and what exactly ownership of "all digital copies of that content" means someone can do or have. You'll find they both come down to rights - and not possession. "Ownership" in law is just a collection of rights, nothing more.
    – Stilez
    Jun 6 '16 at 7:05
  • @Stilez - Your answer is legally wrong. Analogies, arguments, and descriptions of things that could be legal don't help when they don't comport with the law as it is, which is the concern here.
    – feetwet
    Jun 6 '16 at 16:58

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