Need Help with Ownership Issue

Discussion in 'General Shop Talk' started by ChangeFive, Jul 31, 2009.

  1. ChangeFive

    ChangeFive TPF Noob!

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    I work for an IT firm that deals with a myriad of technology issues, one of which is web design. A customer had contracted us to build a website for them and also wanted pictures taken for the website. While I would not call myself a professional photographer by any means, I have done some small time photography shoots for friends, etc. Since I was the person with the most photography experience and the customer had seen some of my work before, they wanted me to take the pictures. I was paid by my employer my regular hourly rate to do this job. The customer was given a flat fee for the total design of the website (pictures included).

    So to try and wrap this up before I write a book, the customer has now come back and wants some of the original pictures to use in ads and brochures for the company. Do I still legally own these pictures and should I charge them or license them out for this usage, since I originally took the pictures for usage on the website? Any advice would be greatly appreciated since this is a bit of a murky area for me.
     
  2. c.cloudwalker

    c.cloudwalker TPF Noob!

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    Excuse my french but I think you are scre*ed. Your company owns the rights. Sorry.

    This is a case of "work for hire" and here's a short quote from the linked article: "...if the person shooting the photograph is working within the scope of employment -- for example a newspaper’s employed staff photographer – the work will be a “work made for hire” owned by the corporation."

    Photo Lawyer: Work for Hire
     
  3. ChangeFive

    ChangeFive TPF Noob!

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    I figured it was a good possibility that my company owns my work since I did it under their time. Oh well, lesson learned. Thanks for replying so quickly.
     
  4. astrostu

    astrostu I shoot for the stars

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    I don't know what the law is where you live, but I would guess that what cloudwalker said is the case: You were paid to do the photography by your company pursuant to your normal work tasks. I don't think there's any way you can claim that you own the photos. I think you should get credit, but you don't get to charge for them.

    Now, the murkier issue, I think, is whether your company owns the photos or whether the customer does. I would guess that your company does, and you need to check with them and the way they licensed them before turning over any of the original files.
     
  5. KmH

    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish Supporting Member

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    If it was done in the USA, the company owns the copyright as "work for hire".

    If the work was done in Canada the client owns the copyrights.

    That's part of the reason people should flesh out their profile on international forums. Particularly when seeking legal advice.

    Where have all the professionals gone?
     
  6. Actor

    Actor TPF Noob!

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    If done in the USA you are dealing with the most convoluted set of copyright laws on the planet and should consult a lawyer who specializes in copyright. Such lawyers are not cheap and you should weigh any possible gain against the expense of even a initial consultation.

    That said, here's my, non-lawyer, understanding of USA copyright laws:


    • The term "work for hire" applies to copyright only and not to ownership of any media.
    • "Work for hire" is never automatic and does not apply unless explicitly included in a contract. In the absence of such a contract an employee retains copyright even if photography is normally part of his job. Judges like to see those exact words, "work for hire," in the contract before ruling in favor of the employer.
    • If an employee undertakes a photographic assignment for his employer he retains ownership of any media unless (1)such media was provided by the employer, or (2)he was reimbursed for the costs of such media (including processing), or (3)his contract with the employer specifically requires him to bear such costs (with the further proviso that such a requirement is not prohibited by law as being an unfair labor practice).
    • An employee's claim to ownership of media may be compromised if he voluntarily surrenders possession of such media, either original or copy, to any person. That such a person may demand the surrender of the media under threat, overt of implied, of adverse action, such as termination of employment, does not necessarily make the surrender involuntary.
    • Any contract in which an author sells his by-line is unenforceable. A person claiming to be the author of any work by virtue of his paying the true author for his by-line is deemed to be a fraud with the public as its victim. The historic precedent for this is the case of a young Steven Foster selling his by-line for Old Folks at Home, A.K.A. Swanee River. The courts held that this was not legal. This principle is the reason for the interminable lists of credits at the ends of movies.
     
  7. UUilliam

    UUilliam TPF Noob!

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    You should have told your work since they will own copyright of the images as they are paying you to take them, you want a higher hourly rate for your photography... i bet you were paid like $15 an hour for it? you should have asked for about $30 - $80 an hour for the photography
     

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