Discussion in 'Photographic Discussions' started by Universal Polymath, May 25, 2009.
Legally you probably can do something since copywrite is still yours for the images so they did reproduce without your consent. However its not an uncommon practice and many people don't even see the legal harm in it at all. If you start to pursue legal lines chances are you will end up with even more bad reputation than a few wallet sized prints will ever get you.
A customer poorly treated will tell everyone about you for years.
It might be worth taking a sideline - contacting them through email noting that they have not ordered in some time and that you are wondering if they are looking to order -you could mention in passing that you did notice the print on the fridge and ask if they would like that print in larger better sizes - don't come off as hostile to them just be good natured and remember they are not some massive multinational corporation that has ripped you off for money but just a normal family
I gotta ask.... did you tell them it's unlawful to do this? Did you have the statement printed somewhere that says as much?
The reason I ask is... if they absolutely knew it... if you told them... well, they knowingly stole from you. I don't see any difference than if they pocketed a piece of your equipment.
I really don't know what I'd do. I feel compelled to confront them if that's what happened. It's not hostile, or out of line. It's merely just. If nothing else, we have to speak up for ourselves so unscrupulous people know we see them for what they are.
Too often these days, people get away with all sorts of crappy behavior without ever having to explain themselves. It's seems the only place for this is in the courts. I believe it's past time for us to speak up when we see someone cut in line, litter, etc. Certainly we need to speak up when someone steals from us. It's really pretty silly not to say something and pretend it didn't happen.
I don't know what I'd do.
I know it's a horse/barn thing to say now, but I don't sell proofs without a print order. And all proofs without an order are due back in a week. If not, I bill accordingly... and it's not cheap.
(Full disclosure: not a lawyer, what I know only applies to the US)
You can sue, you have a case. Unless you have given them express permission, they have violated your copyright. Even if you did not inform them, ignorance is not a defense. When you created the image, you are granted copyright. Your best bet would be to talk to a lawyer, even if you ultimately end up in small claims court. You have to weigh that against how your reputation might fare with the 'I sued my client' out in the open. Is that better or worse than crappy wallets? It's sad it has to come to that consideration, but it's something you have to think about.
You can learn from this and inform your clients next time. Make it part of the contract they have to sign before you will release photos to them. Personally, I make it a point to have two separate contracts, one for my release so that I can use their image and one that acknowledges my release of photos to them and what they can do with them (what rights I'm granted them).
You can contact them (by letter, not by email or in person, in real writing) and explain what you saw and the rights that were violated. Be polite but be concise.
You can learn from Pete above... good advice in regards to the proofs.
If the images were not registered with the U.S. Copyright office, they need to be www.copyright.gov .
You cannot sue in Federal court for infringement if the images have not been registered with the Federal government. You can however bring civil suit in the local small claims court but the type of damages you can seek are severly limited if the images are not registered.
Ultimately the costs in time to persure it in small claims court rarely make the effort worthwhile.
+1 on Pete's note about controlling proofs.
I would not threaten a lawsuit. Legal action is really quite silly and costs more than it's worth. This is just a lesson you'll have to take in stride. Some people are going to pirate your photos. That's about all there is to say.
I second what Alpha said.
My proof's have a watermark band that say's "this image was copied illeagally". My customers understand the ordered print will have this removed and after explanation, they also understand my reasoning for having a watermark. If they want to make a copy of a proof, they will have my watermark proudly displayed as well. I am not really interested in expensive, attempted retribution for an image that would have costed $10-20.
Umm I wouldn't sue someone over senior portraits. Just email them and ask if they are going to make a purchase and let it go. You could also ad a note about how it is unlawful to reproduce the images in the proof book and somehow tie it in with wondering why they did not make a purchase.
Find out where they were printed. If locally, you can raise the roof there and most likely receive more satisfaction.
Umm, you did have your copyright info on the prints, right? As Pete pointed out, there is power in the printed word.
How about writing a nice good-hearted letter stating that you haven't received an order yet, would they like some prints. You have noticed that they have printed them off without consent, thus breaking some laws, you appriciate that times are hard, you can't match professional printing quality like that and so you will offer them a special price (even if it isn't a special price!) All "nicey- nicey" and sweet. Chances are you'll get a sale and you have nicely made them aware that the game is up, so to speak?
The portrait world may hate me for this but I'm out to revolutionize the industry with my current price structure.
I have one flat rate for sitting, booking, and photographs. I provide a CD with all the images from the shoot in low-resolution and give the client a specified number of high res images that they can then take to any lab around the world and have printed. Currently, they can choose up to 8 high res images from a 1-2 hr. shoot. This saves my time and effort to set up prints, saves the client money in the long run, and seems to streamline the process for everyone involved. I do make an inexpensive print to show clients when I give them their photographs so they can see that my digital images will look good in print -- as an assurance of quality.
I feel like this will avoid any of the legal ramifications of film-era portraiture. The public knows what to do with digital images now and they should have some power relinquished back to them. Plus it streamlines my own business and lets me concentrate on shooting and editing -- the two things I really want to do anyway.
This type of pricing structure would all but eliminate the problems in this post, as the client would have a photograph they could print whenever they like withouth infringing on copyright. I do not give up publishing rights, only printing rights -- and then, only for specified images.
Not that I do a lot of portrait/wedding work, but when I do, this is pretty much the same system I use. At the initial client meeting, I give them a pricing schedule, and after the event, I give them a disc of low-res, water-marked .jpgs. They then choose 'X' to be cropped to this, and 'Y' to be cropped to that. Their final product is an attractively labeled CD/DVD-ROM with those images on it. I. DON'T. PRINT. When clients ask me about printing I recommend the two professional labs that I would deal with and tell them that yes, I can do it for you, but my mark-up is this much. They never seem to take me up on it...
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