Wedding Photography...Here Comes the Bride's Lawyer

Discussion in 'Photographic Discussions' started by middleman, Jun 2, 2008.

  1. middleman

    middleman TPF Noob!

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    Hi folks,

    I’m new here, and I have to admit that I struggle with a point & shoot. I’m sure there are lots of pros on this site, and I’m looking for input on a family issue involving photo rights at a wedding. Being the oldest brother, I seem to get thrust into the position of moderator/peacekeeper.

    My sister just got married, and she hired a professional photographer for the ceremony and the reception, which were held at separate venues and on different days. Their contract stated that no other professional photographer would be shooting the events. She has plans to submit photos and an article to a local bridal magazine about her wedding and events. The ceremony was held at our family’s vacation home, and the reception was held in a meeting/banquet/reception facility at a local historic shopping center (Pioneer buildings converted to shops & restaurants). She rented the reception facility for the day. Her reception had a May Day theme, and there was a parade around the historic buildings where the procession was led by a friend dressed as a may day fairy (closest description I can give to it), followed by a bagpiper, the bride & groom, and all the guests, who were given ribbon wands to wave while they followed her around. The procession ended at a may pole in the parking lot in front of the reception facility. Volunteer guests then danced the ribbon twining dance. At the completion of this, the guests went inside the hall for a meal, program and dancing.

    My brother is a part time professional photographer who does weddings, portraits, landscapes, action sports and occasionally sells stock photos. He was not the hired photographer at my sisters wedding, but was an invited guest.

    My brother took pictures of the events both days, as did other members of the wedding party (myself included). My sister, running around frantically at the ceremony, asked my brother if he got shots of some specific items, because the hired photographer was ½ hour late (actually he sent a subcontractor for the ceremony part). He already had of some items, and took pics of other elements after she asked. My brother took care to stay out of the way of the hired guy (and sub) while he was doing posed shots, but did shoot some of the poses from the side.

    A couple of days after the events my brother posted pics on the family blog for us to view, and provided a link to his business photo hosting site so we could see all the shots he took (around 400 pics). My sister put one of the shared photos on her wedding blog as well.

    A couple of days after that, my sister and her new husband sent my brother an email stating that he had no right to use their pictures on his business website. They claim that he caused a breach of contract with their photographer, that he violated their copyrights by posting their pictures (the pics my brother took), that he published their photos without release, and that he took pictures on private property without permission…basically, a cease and desist letter. They also claim that he breached the Professional Photographers Code of Ethics.

    So, over to my brother’s host site…he posted the pics there in a separate album. The host automatically populates a shopping cart, but none of the pics had prices. Within a day he removed the option of clicking on pictures to order prints, and under availability put “N/A”. The host had a server failure, and once the album was reloaded the shopping cart reappeared. Again, within a day he removed the purchase features. This was all before sis sent her email. At this point in time, his site has pictures of the events, but he removed any pictures which identified my sister and her husband from the front. There are a couple of pictures where they are shown, but not readily identifiable.

    My sister is still saying he breached contract, stole their copyrights, and took unauthorized pictures on private property at private events. She has threatened him with legal action if he does not remove all photos from his hosting site, or if he uses any of the pictures to promote or advertise his services. To my knowledge, she has not gone after anybody else for taking pictures. I personally took pictures, and some of my shots clearly show other people taking pics and video.

    As a result of her threats, my brother put a use agreement at the entry to the gallery of event photos. Here it is (his name & business name removed for privacy reasons):

    “All photographs in this gallery are subject to copyrights of the professional photographer listed above and are protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) and by the Berne Convention. Reproduction, storage or transmittal by any means, of any image on this web site, whole or in part, is prohibited without express prior written permission. Prints purchased from this gallery may not be reproduced or scanned for any reason and may only be used for personal display. If you wish to publish or reproduce the materials in any physical or digital form or use them for any commercial purpose, including display or Web page use, you must obtain prior written permission from (name removed for privacy reasons), photographer'(s).”

    My brothers position is that he is the owner of the photos, and has every right to display them on his hosting site for family to view. He has no intention to sell any photos of the wedding party, nor use them to promote his business. He was willing to give all the photos to my sister for her use, until she started the threats. He does feel that he has the right to use some of the photos (decorations, etc) where people aren’t in the shot or when the people aren’t identifiable. He also feels that my sister has no right to use his photos at this time.

    After he posted the user agreement, my sister removed his photo from her wedding blog.




    I’m not posting all this for reaction to any bad behavior on the part of any member of my family. I’m looking for information and opinions on the validity of any claims by any party involved, and specifically the following as they relate to commercial and personal photography.

    · What is allowed of an invited guest inside a rented private facility?
    · Would a hired photographer have a case for Breach of Contract if no other person was paid for photos?
    · Is it typical for the wedding party or guests to need a photo release when the pictures are taken by a hired photographer? What about if they’re taken by family?
    · If the bride asked an outside, unpaid photographer to take pictures of elements of the wedding (decorations specifically), would that put her in Breach with the hired photographer?
    · If guests of the event complained about her using their image without a consent form, would the hired photographer be obligated to not sell those photos (including people in typical posed wedding shots)?
    Is there such thing as a code of ethics for professional wedding photographers? If so, can you provide a link?

    Thanks in advance for the feedback.
     
  2. JerryPH

    JerryPH No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    There is one simple answer to this whole drama... consult a lawyer.

    You are asking for legal advice from people on the internet, not knowing what legal competencies they have, nor if they even live in the same country as you do.

    Taking legal advice here of ANY kind concerning this topic, and accepting it as factual could indeed be a major error.

    Go talk to a LOCAL lawyer face to face and get straight facts, its the only thing to do.



    My opinions of this are:
    · What is allowed of an invited guest inside a rented private facility?
    People can take pics at that wedding if they want. Even the "professional photographer", if he came there as a wedding participant, and happened to take shots. If that other pro photographer was a family member of the B&G, that makes it a little stronger, I think.

    · Would a hired photographer have a case for Breach of Contract if no other person was paid for photos?
    If you used any of HIS pictures, yes. If nothing of his was used... no.

    · Is it typical for the wedding party or guests to need a photo release when the pictures are taken by a hired photographer? What about if they’re taken by family?
    Not that I ever heard of. If they are not making profits from the pics, and using them for PERSONAL and NONCOMMMERCIAL use, they can basically do what they want.

    · If the bride asked an outside, unpaid photographer to take pictures of elements of the wedding (decorations specifically), would that put her in Breach with the hired photographer?
    No, unless the contract between her and her hired professional photographer stated explicitely in the contract that NO ONE was allowed to bring ANY AND ALL kinds of cameras to the event. They cannot add things to the contract after the fact.

    · If guests of the event complained about her using their image without a consent form, would the hired photographer be obligated to not sell those photos (including people in typical posed wedding shots)?
    Grey area. Legally, his pics, his rules. Morally, he would have the obligation to remove pictures that perhaps some found objectionalble for whatever reason, he, as a pro, should not use. If he is smart, he will also DO SO... becuase if not, it would cause him a lot of negative PR, and pro photographers are made or broken by the PR they generate.

    I am not a lawyer, don't even play one on TV. I am not offering legal advice of ANY kind. Did I mention that you should go see a real lawyer? ;)
     
  3. keith204

    keith204 No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I can't give legal advice, but here are some thoughts.

    It hacks me off when people take pictures after I've set up a pose, or experienced photographers bring their cameras to events I shoot. Often, these other photographers are taking pictures for people they know - in my case, teams, drivers, etc.

    These people would be interested in buying from me, but instead they're taking the freebies taken by photographer friends.

    I sense that's exactly what's happening here. If the guest was a photographer, I assume he would have the respect to lay low & take a shot here and there...but 400 photos? Putting them online for easy access? Regardless of a shopping cart or not, an online gallery can hurt sales. Friends/family will go online and get their fix, without having to pay a penny.

    I understand you're in a tough position, and don't let me get you down. Just giving you one photographer's view of things. And as Jerry wisely mentioned - take the legal aspects of this to a lawyer.
     
  4. JIP

    JIP No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I can completely understand where the photographer is coming from. When I shoot a wedding I usually have no problem with other eople shooting but I do get a littlr sensitive once in a while when I see someone with a pro rig and wonder what they are shooting for. If I was that photographer and had such an exclusive event and saw another photographer showing shots from it on his site and wether by mistake or on purpose showing them for sale I would immediately without hesitation call my lawyer. In the digital age copyrights are very sensitive with high quality scans and everyone and their brother having pro gear it is very easy to go from making a little on a wedding to making nothing because someone else is selling or even giving away images from the wedding. Also when it omes to the magazine thing I think the photographer would loose alot of credibility when some other pro is showing pictures from the same events. Besides say someone is considering using your brother and they see images from that wedding on his site if they saw the spread in the magazine they could very easily assume that your brother shot those images as well taking a potential customer from that photographer. Even if he sets them straight about who took the mag shots he could still get a customer on someone elses shots.
     
  5. NateWagner

    NateWagner TPF Noob!

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    I definitely agree with Keith. Although legally your brother is ok as long as he is not trying to sell the photos. As he was not the hired photographer and there was a no other photographer clause in her contract it is quite low to post the 400+ photos online, especially if it was prior to the bride and others purchasing the photos.

    The one thing I wonder about is his use of the photos possibly for commercial use. If they are used for marketing for his photography studio or what have you he would probably need a model release (and thus couldn't do that)

    Although the bride may not have much of a case (as long as this guy doesn't try to sell the photos etc.) she may be somewhat worried because by the guy doing this she was in a sense breaking contract with her paid photographer and she may be worried about the paid photographer coming after her (not that he would necessarily be able to).

    If I were the paid photographer I would be pretty pissed about the whole situation, (and if this brother makes money in photography it sounds pretty low, but that's not what you asked about).

    I don't know of any written code of ethics, but I will say if you ask pretty much any wedding photographer they would say this was at the very least borderline unethical.
     
  6. Sw1tchFX

    Sw1tchFX TPF Noob!

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    This is the way i see it, and I dont' know if it's correct or not.

    REGARDLESS if the brother is a pro or not, at his sisters wedding, he wasn't a pro, he wasn't hired to do anything, he was asked.

    I honestly don't see what the problem is here

    pro's late, sister asks brother to shoot, he says ok, pro shows up, everyone's shooting, brother puts up pictures for everyone to see, 2 days later, sister say's you can't put the wedding pictures online for all of us to see becuase of "Photographers Code of Ethics" (not be confused with the 10 commandments:er:), sister wants to sue brother.


    The brothers site having prices on things because it does it automatically shouldn't be a problem, all he has to do is say NOT FOR SALE and he can just give her pics just like everyone else at the wedding can, and just as i'm sure he intended to. So She's suing him because the brother broke a contract, what contract? the contract with the pro? the brother shouldn't matter to the pro. It's part of her fammily, OF COURSE family is going to take pictures.



    I'm sorry but this whole thing sounds asinine. Everyone has a camera, why not the sister and her husband pick what pictures they want from everyone and just be happy. No, they have to sue their brother because he did his sister a favor and put his images online for the rest of the family to see.


    I must be reading this wrong becuase this is seriously stupid.
     
  7. Socrates

    Socrates TPF Noob!

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    Keith, I think you're right. The brother went too far. I'm not qualified with regard to the legalities but he certainly violated common courtesy.
     
  8. JIP

    JIP No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Everything you are saying is all well and good but it all goes out the window when you put the magazine situation in the equation. Also the brother is using his photos to help him with his wedding photography business.
     
  9. astrostu

    astrostu Guest

    I'm more with Sw1tchFX on this one, at least legally. Legally, he's an invited guest and the bride can no more tell him not to take photos than she can tell everyone else not to take photos unless it's explicitly prohibited in the pro's contract.

    The same thing goes with people who were actually photographed. You're at a wedding for crying out loud, OF COURSE there are going to be cameras around and people are going to be photographed. You don't have a reasonable expectation of privacy unless it's an incredibly closed ceremony, and so you shouldn't need any sort of model release.

    What I'm confused about is why the sister told the brother to take the photos down and it's a breach of blah blah blah ... especially after she used one of the photos. Is she just an intermediary for the photographer and it's the photographer who's the one complaining?
     
  10. Rhys

    Rhys TPF Noob!

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    Is it just me or can I see that marriage not lasting?
     
  11. Sw1tchFX

    Sw1tchFX TPF Noob!

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    OK, I was reading it wrong. I wasn't sure if he was using them as promotion or not or just to show friends and family.
     
  12. GeorgiaOwl

    GeorgiaOwl TPF Noob!

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    i think the bride/sister needs a midol.
     

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