Legal precedent (Feist Publications, Inc. v. Rural Telephone Service Company, Inc., 111 S.Ct. 1282, 1287-88 (1991)) gives photographers (and others) the following rights:
the right to reproduce work in copies (reproductive right);
the right to produce derivative works based on the copyrighted works (adaptive right);
the right to distribute copies of the work (distribute right);
the right to display the copyrighted work publicly (display right);
the right to claim authorship of the work and to prevent the use of his or her name as the author of the work she or she did not create (attribution right); and
the right to prevent the use of his or her name as the author of a distortion of the work and to prevent destruction of the work (integrity right).
Copyright protection subsists from the time the work is created in fixed form. The copyright in the work of authorship immediately becomes the property of the author who created the work. Only the author or those deriving their rights through the author can rightfully claim copyright.
In the case of works made for hire, the employer and not the employee is considered to be the author. Section 101 of the copyright statute defines a "work made for hire" as:
a work prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment; or
a work specially ordered or commissioned for use as a contribution to a collective work, as a part of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, as a translation, as a supplementary work, as a compilation, as an instructional text, as a test, as answer material for a test, or as an atlas, if the parties expressly agree in a written instrument signed by them that the work shall be considered a work made for hire.