It depends, without seeing the wording of all these agreements, we cannot make that decision! If you take photos as part of your employment by another person, then it could well be that they own copyright. If I took photos at work, as part of my job, say I worked for the transport department and part of my job was to take drivers licence photos. I do not own copyright to any of those photos, my employer does. Now, to answer your original question properly, we need to know the wording of these agreements.
Originally Posted by FallingHorse
The copyright act states:
Photos taken in the course of employment
If an employee takes a photo as part of his or her job, the first owner of copyright will be the
employer, unless they have made an agreement to the contrary. This general rule is subject to two
major exceptions, set out in the following paragraphs.
Photos taken by employees of newspaper and magazine publishers
For photos taken by employees of newspaper or magazine publishers, different rules apply,
depending on when the photo was taken:
• For photos taken before 1 May 1969, the publisher owns copyright.
• For photos taken on or after 1 May 1969 and before 30 July 1998, the publisher owns the
rights for newspaper and magazine publication and for broadcasting, and the photographer
owns all other rights (including the right to put the photos online or in a book).
• For photos taken on or after 30 July 1998, the photographer owns the rights to photocopy the
photos and include them in books; the publisher owns all other rights.
These rules do not apply to freelance photographers, who are covered by the general rule that the
person who takes the photo owns copyright in it (unless they make an agreement to the contrary).
So without knowing exactly what and how these agreements between the parties were undertaken, then we cannot give you a definitive answer. I assume that Party A was not a newspaper or magazine, so all the exceptions do not apply. But based on the sub-contractor (freelance) part, it could well be that party A as the employer, owns copyright. However, then we get into the law regarding sub-contractor, and if Party B ONLY sub-contracted to Party A (and Party B did not sub-contract to others), then the law does not see that as being a sub-contractor, rather an employee. It was realised that people were being setup as sub-contractors to others to alleviate the need to pay things like superannuation and workers compensation insurance, and it was ruled that if a person is sub-contracted to the same person, and no others, for an set length of time, then they were actually an employee. So then laws outside copyright come into play in this matter.
Without the full disclosure of any agreements and time-frames etc, we cannot be more thorough and specific with our answers. But taken on face value, party B was employed by party A and therefore Party A owns copyright on the photos taken while that contract was in place.