Who ownes the photo?

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by Ciaobella, May 19, 2008.

  1. Ciaobella

    Ciaobella TPF Noob!

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    Hello all. I've got a question about who owns a photo. About a year ago, I began taking portrait pictures for my place of business (I'm a programmer for a law firm). The pictures are used for attorney bios as well as an online directory I maintain.

    As my skills have improved, I've been asked to take pictures of firm-related events. Recently, a school visited and I was asked to take pictures of the students. Two local newspapers have asked about using the pictures I took for articles they want to run about the event.

    I asked the markeing director who set this up if we had waivers signed by the students (he assures me they all signed releases releasing the firm from liability, including pictures, before being allowed on the premises).

    The first newspaper contacted me directly and assured me that I would receive credit as the photographer with any pictures they used. The second paper contacted the marketing director. He asked me to turn over the .raw file to them. When I asked if I was receiving credit in that paper as the photographer, he got very irate.

    He claims that since I was on 'company' time, the pictures belong to the firm and he can do as he wishes with them and that I'm being unreasonable to expect to be credited. I, however, feel that yes, I was on company time, hence me not charging them to take pictures, but that I should still receive credit as the photographer in whatever publication chooses to use them.

    What would be your take on this? Am I being unreasonble to expect to receive credit for my work? Also, while the firm has a waiver in place, can someone come back on me personally for using these images to promote the firm? I'm in new territory here and have to meet with the higher ups shortly to discuss. Thanks for your time in reading this!

    **UPDATE**

    So we met with the big boss (BB) and really haven't come to an agreement. They said the board seems to have a problem with me doing this on the weekends and they disagreed with me asking for name credit, even if it was as Ciaobella courtesy of Law Firm. The marketing guy (MG) was really agressive about it and said if I had such an issue with it, he'd just take the camera and do events himself and he'd go back to outsourcing the portrait pics again (we were previously paying $90 a pic).

    Quick background, the firm bought the camera body, however, I bought the lights, background/stands, umbrellas, memory card, battery, case and lens. BB was not aware that all the equipment wasn't firms and seemed to be pretty upset that I had paid for this out of pocket. I also made the point that I counted the number of pics that were on the directory (123) and multiplied it by $90 and I've saved the firm close to $11,000.

    BB and I talked again later and she asked if they reimbursed me for the lights, lens, memory card and case, would I be still willing to do portraits only. I'm kinda disgusted by the whole thing and told her so. I thought when I got into this that it would be a benefit for the firm to have someone on-staff that could do this. I invested a lot of time and money trying to improve my photo-skills. However, it's turned into a big giant mess and frankly, I'm paid irrespective if I'm running around taking pictures or sitting here typing on forums. This just seems like instead of being recognized for taking some initiative to pick up a new skill, I'm just getting beat down for it. :(

    Thanks to everyone that responded though and while I may/may not continue to do pics for the firm, it's not going to stopping me from continuing this as a hobby.
     
  2. asfixiate

    asfixiate TPF Noob!

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    As far as I know if the shots are taken with your camera they are your photos. Verbal/written contracts can change the ownership. When they are buying them from you they might be assuming they are buying the copyright to them though.

    There's lots of websites that buy photographs that they're goign to sell again. They now own them and you can't sell them again.

    Write up contracts stating you own the pictures and put in the ability for them to buy the copyright.
     
  3. Alfred D.

    Alfred D. TPF Noob!

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    You own the copyrights to the photos you took (unless you formally sign them over, in writing!). If you want it, your name should be in the credit. Nobody else's!

    As for making money off of those photos they are right, you did make them in company time, so you can't sell 'm to third parties as you like. You would need the company's permission (get it in writing!) to sell to 3rd parties.
     
  4. manaheim

    manaheim Jedi Bunnywabbit Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Consult a lawyer. :)

    I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV. My personal and unqualified interpretation of the law is that the pictures by default belong to you, but it sounds like your circumstances may complicate the situation pretty massively.

    For example, in a court of law, I would expect the following things to come up:

    • It's your equipment, so why wouldn't you own the pictures?
    • You are being paid for your time and you are performing work for the company, so the company has at least some expectation of being able to claim some rights on the images.
    • You were asked to do something not within your usual job description, so why shouldn't you own the pictures?
    • You accepted the job given to you vs. voicing it was not in your job description, which might imply acceptance.
    Now for all I know, there is probably reams of documentation on cases like this so there are probably precidents set for handling it, but, in the end... I wouldn't raise too much of a stink about it.

    Why?

    1. You are getting experience that you can refer to and use to grow your portfolio, even if your firm owns the rights exclusively.
    2. I wouldn't generally suggest ticking off your boss of your primary job for what is, at least at the moment, a hobby.
    3. It sounds like you didn't formally come to an arrangement for credit/compensation before doing the shoot.
    4. Dude... you work for a law firm. Don't get into any legal tussels with a law firm. :)
    What I would personally do is thank my boss for the opportunity to do this, say no worries if the credit is an issue for him, say that I would certainly love to do more of this kind of thing in the future, and then walk away from it.

    The next time he brings up you doing some work, express how excited you are and say that you would love to, but offer that maybe it would make sense for you guys to work out some kind of credit arrangement ahead. You're not looking for any compensation, you would just like to ensure that the company can use the photos while you retain ownership and credit.

    Don't get too formal or you'll scare him away or make him mad. I actually invoice one of my clients with a simple "payment of this debt grants XXX a limited license to use these photos for publication and advertising of YYY, [my name here] retains all legal ownership and copyright of the images. (and then some blurb about a credit when used)" or something like that. It's like maybe 2-3 lines long, but is enough to at least be a talking point if it becomes a legal issue.

    I take this approach because, while I am absolutely a paid professional, I have only been so paid for a couple of years now and I want to make it easy for my client as it allows me to continue developing experience. May I lose some rights or be abused occasionally? Maybe... but some amount of that is worth the cost to get the experience. Eventually I'll tighten it up more when I have less to lose on the customer and experience side and more to lose on the "my skills are worth XXX" side.

    I know this may not be ENTIRELY clear, but I hope you get my gist.

    Oh yeah, and I want to reiterate... CONSULT A LAWYER. :)

    [EDIT] BTW, credit for photos and ownership of them are two seperate things. Credit can be had regardless of ownership. Ownership can be maintained regardless of credit, however you have to be careful with that as it may be construed as not making efforts to guard your IP, which can then later cost you to lose your rights... again, I'm not a lawyer, but I have seen this happen in other areas.
     
  5. Village Idiot

    Village Idiot No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Yeah...trouble.

    Technically, if you take photos they're yours...unless you're being paid by a company to shoot and the agreement is that they own the photos...

    The problem here is you don't have a contract that was signed. I'm sure your list of duties for your job doesn't include photographer, but it probably has a clause or something that says "miscellaneous duties", which can probably cover everything else.

    In the future, either write up a contract of tell them that you'll shoot, but not on company time and that you want to get paid for it.
     
  6. Mystwalker

    Mystwalker TPF Noob!

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    You are a programmer. I doubt there can be any confusion about your job responsibilities. I do not believe they put "Misc Duties" for programmers :)

    In your shoe, i would talk to my boss first. You need boss to support you.

    Worst case scenario, give the director the .raw files and refuse to do any more shoots for company, or be more specific about rights in future shoots. Not worth losing your day job over this.
     
  7. manaheim

    manaheim Jedi Bunnywabbit Staff Member Supporting Member

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    But again... depends on what you want... don't forget that sometimes its ok to give up a little bit now to get what you want later. Getting experience in photography (stuff that you can say you did professionally) is not as easy as falling off of a truck... sometimes opportunities present themselves in weird ways.

    Being a photo slave for your firm may sound not so glamorous at first, but when you have all that experience racked up... who knows?

    Again, really depends on what you want.
     
  8. Socrates

    Socrates TPF Noob!

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    I don't believe that you're being unreasonable but I don't know about the legalities.

    If you're in the U.S., contact your County Bar Association. In most states, there is a plan where the Association will assign a lawyer to your case and you pay a fixed fee for your first visit ($50 ten years ago, probably $100 now) REGARDLESS of how much time is involved! IF you choose to return for a subsequent visit, you're on the clock.
     
  9. TamiyaGuy

    TamiyaGuy No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Well, unless you signed or otherwise accepted a document that specifically said the copyright would be transferred to another party, then I'm guessing that YOU own the copyright to the photos. Other people may have the right to produce and sell those photos, but only under the terms you signed the contract for.

    As for the person who asked for the RAW files and "got irate" about the copyright issues, I personally wouldn't trust them, they sound a bit shifty. If you transfer the original file to someone else, then they can copy it wherever they want, even though it would be illegal for them to do so (apart from you signing a contract etc etc).

    But whatever you do, consult a lawyer. My suggestions are exactly that, I am not a lawyer, and I only know basic rights and rules about copyright and photography. Good luck!
     
  10. Early

    Early TPF Noob!

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    I'm no lawyer either, but I believe he is correct. It's similar to when an employee invents something while on company time. That invention belongs to the company. IMO, whether or not you receive credit for the photos should be up to the company.
     
  11. asfixiate

    asfixiate TPF Noob!

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    I don't own anything I do at my current job. If I design a database, write a program, develop procedure, etc I do not own that program nor can I take it as its the company's intellectual property.

    I think since you are on the clock you don't own the shots even though it was done with your camera. now off the clock with contract you probably could own them.
     
  12. Seefutlung

    Seefutlung TPF Noob!

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    I think the marketing director is being a jerk. If you presented your request properly, I don't see see why anybody should be upset.

    photo credit = "John Doe / Courtesy of ABC Law Firm"

    As for your rights to the photos ... You are on company time. Everything you do on company time belongs to the company unless you have a contract/understanding stating otherwise.

    As to the equipment -

    The company should:

    1) supply you with camera equipment; or
    2) you voluneer to use your equipment; or
    3) company reimburses you for using said equipment.

    If the company refuses any of the above then you can probably sue them to recoop the loses of #3. I don't think I'd like to sue the law firm which "used to be" my employer, over such a trival matter.

    I am not an attorney, but I have been an employer.

    Gary
     

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