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Some legal advice...


TPF Noob!
Feb 18, 2010
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Hoboken, NJ, USA
Can others edit my Photos
Photos NOT OK to edit
Hi, I'll try to keep this short and to the point.

I am a photographer just starting out basically, doing mostly portrait photography. Recently I got involved in some clothing designers runway shoots, as I have been wanting to get into event photography.

So, the verbal agreement with this designer was that I would shoot his show and provide some images for free to all models who sold 5 tickets or more for his show (his idea) and I would get the opportunity to sell the other images to all other models who did not sell 5 or more tickets. He said he would rent out a space in which the models could come see their images and order them from me if interested.

Well, the show came and went. I shot all models, edited about 900 images. (mostly just cropping, but some required photoshopping out weird background objects, tape on the floor, etc ) I sent him a DVD with all the images on it (not Raw, but fullsize jpegs) foolishly.

He then decided that it was too expensive to rent out a space to allow me to show images to the other models. He sent me some email addresses of these models, but none have replied when I emailed them about images, so I'm not even sure they are real addresses. Then after a little arguing back and forth through email he said he is going to email all the models and tell them not to purchase any images from me.

So, he got all his images and I got nothing out of this... not even the opportunity to try to sell.

I still have copywrite technically. Is there anything I can do to even attempt to keep him from using any of those images? .... Even some kind of legal form or statement, or something to deter him from using them?

Any advice?


Something more than a verbal agreement would have been nice... Like, something in writing, with some signatures on it.

I'm no legal expert, and this isn't the right place to ask for that advice, but - to me it sounds like a verbal agreement is not a contract, and he has no usage rights - therefore, he cannot legally use them. But, it sounds like he might try to anyway.

I'm just guessing, but I have a feeling that a verbal agreement won't mean much in court. Unless he has something in writing saying that he can use them, I don't see how he could legally do it.

Not sure what you can do to try to make him see it that way... You should talk to an attorney about this.
Let the guy go f himself and call it a learning experience. Get it in writing next time.
Bottom line is to consult an attorney. It will never hurt and, if anything comes up later, the attorney will have mind of the situation already.

Doesn't matter if it's in writing or not. But, it does vary state by state. In IL, as long as the elements are met the contract being verbal or non-verbal are binding. For example, mutual consent, offer and acceptance, and mutual consideration are elements of almost every contract and your situation sounds like most are met.
You got some costly business experience.

That often happens when an inexperienced business person, does business with an experienced business person.

Portraiture/Event is retail photography. Shooting fashion is commercial photography and has a completely different business model from retail photography.

Get Best Business Practices For Photographers by John Harringtion, and Professional Business Practices in Photography from the ASMP.

Businesses, part-time or otherwise, run on paperwork - contracts, model/property releases, estimates, delivery invoices, use licenses, terms and conditions.

Yes, you still own the copyrights to the photos. But, until you have registered them with the US Copyright Office you cannot file an infringement action in federal court. (Copyright is federal law, that's why your attorney must follow federal court rules.) www.copyright.gov.

Some other resources you may want to peruse:
www.asmp.org On the left, click on "Business Resources".
From ASMP: Most photographers go into business for themselves because they are passionate about making pictures — not because they want to be in business. The irony is that photographers who do not learn and implement sound business practices will not be able to continue photographing professionally.
... as long as the elements are met the contract being verbal or non-verbal are binding.

This sounds right to me, BUT... the problem comes when determining what elements were included in the agreement. You can tell a judge that copyrights were not included... he'll tell the judge they were.

Since it's your word against his, you MIGHT get a judge to order him to cease and desist using the images. If your are so fortunate, you'll have to be the one to police this, document proof of his contempt and go back to the court.

Whew! Is it really worth it for a "maybe?"

Thanks for the replies and advice. I'll see what happens in the next day or so with him.

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