Thoughts on uploading images from webcams

Would taking a screenshot from a webcam and uploading it count as copywrite?

Not if you own the webcam, otherwise yes.


Yes, unless you own the webcam, posting the photos to iNat would be a copyright violation.


EDIT: I now understand that by ‘webcam’ the OP may have been talking about other people’s live streams provided on the internet. In my answer below, I had just assumed he was talking about using a webcam to take a photo.

Is this really true? As a semi-professional photographer myself, equipment ownership doesn’t even come into the copyright equation. If a client borrows my camera to take a photo on one of my small-group wildlife tours, that photo is their copyright by default.
There would have to be an explicit contract setting out that they are working on my behalf and forfeit copyright of any photos to me, as would be the case in a photographer working for an employer where the photos he takes as part of his job are stipulated to belong to the company. I would have thought the same would be true with a webcam; I can’t see why it wouldn’t.
Remember that huge case a few years back with nature photographer David Slater who gave his camera to a crested macaque to play with and it took a photo of itself? A huge copyright debate ensued, in which it was finally decided that the photographer probably would have some legal claim to copyright ownership of the photo that the monkey took with his camera, but ONLY because under UK/US law animals cannot own copyrights. Legal commenters were pretty clear that were same situation to arise with a person in place of the monkey, and the person accidentally pressed the shutter button while toying with the borrowed camera, that person would be the legal copyright owner of the shot under the law as it stands.

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If you own the camera, and you are the one operating it, then you have the copyright. If someone else is operating your camera, then they have the copyright.


I have used webcam pictures on my blog, with permission from the owner of the webcam (and therefore of those images) The owner chooses the where and when for the images, while setting up the webcam.

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I understand what you are saying but in the case of the web cam, if set up by someone else and streamed as a live feed, the “owner” of that web cam should have an intellectual property claim over that feed. Not much different than capturing an image off of a movie screen in a theatre or worse capturing the whole movie.

So it is not so much the ownership of the actual originating instrument of image capture as you pointed out. But it should be the intellectual property of the person or group that set up the camera (usually the camera owner), composed the setting, captured the image or live feed, and choose the method to disseminate that intellectual property. As a receiver of that information, the consumer is copying someone’s intellectual property by taking a screen shot.

The owner should be able to grant privileges as they wish.


@milodoingstuff Are you planning on posting photos from webcam streams to iNat? Curious as to the motivation behind your question.

No, I was just curious.

The OP didn’t mention anything about live streaming, so in my answer I had just assumed he was talking about a webcam in the sense of a type of camera device. From your answer, I now realise that perhaps he is talking about other people’s live feeds that he finds online.

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