Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago
Intellectual Property Office - Office of the Attorney General and Ministry of Legal Affairs, Trinidad and Tobago

Photography and Carnival

Photography and Carnival

Copyright is a property right which subsists in literary and artistic works that are original. Photographs and Photographic works are protected under the Copyright Act.

Rights of the photographer –
Original works, means works where some skill, judgment and or labour was used in the creation of the work. Since the photographer must exercise some skill in the taking of photographs, photographic works are therefore protected.

Editorial use vastly differs to commercial use. Newspaper articles constitute an exception for reproduction and communication to the public for informatory purposes pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Copyright Act Chapter 82:80. “[When the use has both commercial and non-profit characteristics, the court may consider] whether the alleged infringing use was primarily for public benefit or for private commercial gain.” — MCA, Inc. v. Wilson, 677 F.2d 180, 182 (2d Cir.1981) Editorial use is not considered a use of the person’s image for the photographers own benefit. Editorial use of an image is the use of an image to illustrate something that is newsworthy, cultural or of public interest. This includes news, entertainment, sports, music and other events.

Generally, if there is some relationship between a newsworthy article and the photograph, the use of the photograph will be considered editorial, even if the article is not directly about the subject of the photograph. If the use is editorial, incidental advertising or use of the product containing the editorial image is not considered infringing, such as the sale of a magazine or newspaper with a news image on the cover (

Commercial use benefits the photographer, so a person’s consent is needed to use their image. The person’s consent to use their image is normally documented by a model release (

Ownership of photographs –
The following should be noted:

1. The original owner of the copyright is the creator/author who has created the work. Therefore the photographer who has taken the photograph is the original owner of copyright in the work.

2. Where a photographer takes photographs during the course of employment, the copyright in the photograph belongs to the employer.

3. There are no general provisions in the Copyright Act relating to the commissioning of works, in other words, contracting someone to do work for you which is not long term employment. Persons and entities should disabuse themselves of the notion that if they have contracted someone to create works, for example a photographic work, that they would automatically own the copyright. The parties should make it quite clear in the terms of their business who should own the Copyright in the work.

4. If a photographer takes a picture of someone in a carnival costume at the mas camp for instance, that person does not own the photograph, the photographer does.

5. The person may be able to negotiate to get an electronic version or print but that does not equate to ownership of the intellectual property unless there is an assignment of the copyright in writing from the photographer to the person, signed by the photographer.

Image rights –
In Trinidad and Tobago, there are no specific laws that deal with image rights and the use of an individual’s image. At the same time, it should be noted that a person has the right to respect for his private and family life. For instance, someone goes into the home of another and takes a photograph of the home owner and then wishes to exploit it for financial gain.

1. One question which is commonly asked around carnival time is whether masqueraders can take photographs of themselves and others and what happens if other people take photographs of the masqueraders. Where an individual is in a public place, there is no legal requirement that the individual’s permission should be obtained prior to taking the photograph.

2. If during carnival, a masquerader’s image appears in a carnival compilation through an accredited photographer (in other words, a photographer who has paid to take photographs for the carnival route) then there is not much the masquerader can do to object, as the photograph was taken by an accredited photographer in a public place.

3. Masqueraders can freely share photographs that they take themselves, provided it is for non-commercial purposes.

4. If the photograph is for commercial purposes and is taken along the Carnival venue, the person must be accredited. Accreditation means an individual, non-transferable and revocable right of access to one or more areas at a Venue for a specified period, solely for the purpose of carrying out the role to be performed by the Accredited Media as specified in the application. In 2014, it was acknowledged that accreditation by the NCC refers only to access to the venue and use of facilities provided for accredited persons. It does not constitute a licence or permission for the use of Intellectual Property (IP) rights For information on accreditation, please contact the National Carnival Commission (NCC).

5. In relation to celebrities and well known individuals such as famous entertainers/ sportspersons, the protection of their images in Trinidad and Tobago is dealt with through the application of various laws such as passing-off, defamation, malicious falsehood, registered trademarks, contract, and tort, such as the tort of deceit. Therefore, where a photograph contains the image of a celebrity or sportsperson, the celebrity or sportsperson’s permission must be obtained to use the image commercially.


  • Posted January 14, 2019 Gerard-Paul Wanliss 1:59 am

    As a photographer myself I found this information very informative

    • Posted February 1, 2019 IPO Webmaster 8:15 am

      Hi Gerard-Paul

      I am glad that it was helpful. If you have any further questions feel free to contact or visit us.

      • Posted February 17, 2019 DjZindee 12:06 am

        Hi there I have one question pertaining to taking pictures of Carnival Costumes during Carnival days. My question is this, If a masquerader from a Mas band approves to have their picture in costume used for promotional purposes will it still be illegal to use the photograph to place on social media or on various media sites

        • Posted February 26, 2019 IPO Webmaster 10:52 am

          Please revisit the image rights section of the article and if further clarification is required, please contact the IPO directly.

  • Posted February 14, 2019 Mark Lyndersay 8:45 pm

    Thank you for posting this.
    As a point of clarification, what exactly does accreditation mean in this context?
    The NCC is clear that it is accrediting access to a controlled space and they do not control the assignation of copyright, that right, allegedly, resides with the stakeholder body. However the stakeholder body claims that the fee is for “copyright,” as if what is being offered for sale is a hand of fig and not a discrete series of licensing agreements for specific use. Queried on what exactly is being purchased, the response is always “copyright.” Since nothing specific is being licensed and there is no apparent mechanism for assigning payment to a specific recipient and any serious licensing of the photographic works by a photographer will require specific negotiation with the neighbouring rights owners, how is this licensing system legitimate?

    • Posted February 26, 2019 IPO Webmaster 10:32 am

      Thank you for your valued feedback. We addressed this issue in the article.

  • Posted February 15, 2019 Tiffany 9:28 pm

    5. …..” the celebrity or sportsperson’s permission must be obtained to use the image commercially” How do the local newspapers manage to get around this, as I see pictures of both local and foreign celebrities on front covers of newspapers? Newspapers are commercial entities.

    • Posted February 26, 2019 IPO Webmaster 10:42 am

      Please note that newspaper articles constitute an exception for reproduction and communication to the public for informatory purposes pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Copyright Act Chapter 82:80.

  • Posted February 16, 2019 alan brizan 7:28 am

    So I will be taking Video then. If anyone questions is simply state the my client took a still frame of my video. If masqueraders can take photos of themselves then what defines a “masquerader”? A person in a costume? And no. Photos of Celebrities is governed by the law where the publication takes place. Not in Trinidad & Tobago. If you take a picture of a celebrity you own the photograph. If you sell your services during carnival you sold your photograph. It matters not if the client is local or foreign or a masquerader. And social media is publication according to US law because Amazon, Facebook are servers in US. Social Media publication is a publication from the US and the LAW in the US and the rest of the world is the person who presses the button owns the rights of the photograph. The concept of accredited photographers for Carnival seems a bit legally dubious since many International Agencies will be here taking photographs on behalf of International Media.

    • Posted February 26, 2019 IPO Webmaster 10:48 am

      Please read the article again and if further clarification is required, please contact the IPO directly.

  • Posted February 16, 2019 Rachael 12:38 pm

    Well stated; I believe things need to be explored in a wider context to avoid confusion.

    • Posted February 26, 2019 IPO Webmaster 10:48 am

      Thank you for your feedback Rachael.

  • Posted February 21, 2019 Stacey 3:01 pm

    Great information

    • Posted February 26, 2019 IPO Webmaster 10:59 am

      Thank you for your feedback Stacey.

  • Posted February 21, 2019 Annaliese 3:27 pm

    Can someone please make clear what is meant by commercial use? Thanks

    • Posted February 26, 2019 IPO Webmaster 10:59 am

      Please revisit the rights of the photographer section in the article and if any further clarification is required, please contact the IPO directly.

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