Can I post these photos on my website?

Discussion in 'Business of Photography' started by jonas_mante, May 22, 2009.

  1. Thank you for taking time to read my question. I recently shot photos for a property developer and provided a copyright release of the photos to the client. This is something I have never done in the past but to secure this client that wanted the copyright or no deal. The shoot is completed and the photos are delivered.
    My questions are as follows:-
    1. can I put up the photos that I had taken for this client on my website? I do have a category of "commercial photos" on my website.
    2. do I have to watermark the photo with the company's name on it?
    3. Can I have the photo put up on my website without any indication that it now belongs to the client? Am I correct to say that as long as I don't sell the photos, I can put it up on my site and claim it as my work?
    I need some guidance because I really would like to put it up on my site. Thank you.
  2. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Did you give up the copyright or just give a license to use? That's important.
    It's also possible that you may not be able to use the photo in a promotional way without a release from a property owner. You should see if you can work this out with the developer, otherwise you will have to pay a lawyer for advice.
  3. Did you have any sort of written contract with them that tells them what your rights to the photo are? Generally, it is understood that you as the photographer maintain original ownership and rights to the photograph and can use it for editorial/artistic use, but would likely run into trouble if you made a billboard using it to advertise your photography without first getting their approval. You should not have to put their logo/name on it for any reason. You might communicate it to them, maybe as a followup that you enjoyed working with them and appreciate the chance to add their project to your portfolio. Do you have any reason to think they would object?
  4. What you can do with the photos depends on what your agreement/contract stated. If you did in fact give away the copyright, then the client will be the one who can dictate what useage rights you may have.
    If you signed away the copyright, to answer your three issues:
    1. Probably not. Commercial use to promote your business could be considered copyright infringement.
    2. Watermarking has nothing to do with copyright.
    3. No. If you don't own the copyright, using them without credit is no different than some random person taking your photos without credit.
    Hopefully you've learned your lesson that you shouldn't give up the copyright...
  5. Thank you all for your prompt response.

    Jeff Spirer - In my scope of work and timeline sheet I had stated the following .... "Copyright for the
    photos will be provided to the client". Initially I provided the client license or usage for a limited period
    but I was eventually cornered to provided them the copyright. I did not sign any copyright release. I
    ONLY mentioned copyright for the photos in the project timeline and work scope sheet which I usually
    use for clients.

    Nathan Meador - The contract would be what I had written on my scope of work and project timeline
    sheet which I use. I mentioned in this document that ""Copyright for the photos will be provided to the
    client". No copyright release was signed by me.

    Aaron Hockley - Thanks for your input. Much appreciated. I have learned indeed about copyrights. I
    could have traded smarter to provide them full unlimited access and not mentioned about copyright at all
    although they were pushing for it.
  6. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    ""Copyright for the photos will be provided to the client". No copyright release was signed by me.​
    That sounds like a release of copyright. It's vague language, but they can argue that you no longer have the rights to the images - the copyright is either yours or theirs, and you say you have provided it to them.
  7. Thanks, Jeff. I am crystal clear on the implications of providing the vague copyright release to the client. I guess if I want to post the photos on my site, I would have to get their permission first to ensure infringements are violated. A bitter lesson learnt for being careless.
  8. Jonas, remember that "experience is what we get when we don't get what we want."
  9. All may not be lost, did you have a good relationship with them? Just ask them if they would mind allowing you to use the images in your portfolio. You wouldn't be able to print flyers with it or anything. Be sure you get your response in writing.
  10. The responses are excellent. If you do get clearance, get that in writing too. A little more tricky but they sound like potential sticklers. Maybe, however, they didn't know they could get a generous use license. Hopefully you can shoot for them again and give them a broad license this time and obtain terms acknowledging your own promotional commercial usage as well.
  11. Charles Webster - Thanks for your profound wisdom. :)
    Nathan Meador - I had a good working relationship with the client and superseded their expectation. In short, they got more than what they had bargained from a newbie photographer. This is my first real assignment.
    John Henneberger - thanks for giving me a possible solution. I would write to them and call them too. In fact, I am still providing them freebies and some free hours of post production work.
  12. Jonas –

    In less you have a contract that retains rights to the photographs, the person who pays you to do the work, owns the rights. The Golden Rule of Intellectual Property is the party with the gold makes the rules. When you make photographs for hire rarely do you retain ownership contrary to what small town portrait and wedding photographs have told their customers for years. If the pictures are made on spec then you can sell specific rights to different customers and still do what you want with the images. Don’t confuse ownership of the copyright with possessions of the negatives, prints or memory card.

  13. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Kenneth Fretz's answer is very, very wrong.
    Here is the relevant citation:
    Works Made for Hire. -- (1) a work prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment; or (2) a work specially ordered or commissioned for use as a contribution to a collective work, as a part of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, as a translation, as a supplementary work, as a compilation, as an instructional text, as a test, as answer material for a test, or as an atlas, if the parties expressly agree in a written instrument signed by them that the work shall be considered a work made for hire. (17 U.S.C. sec 101)​
    Unless you sign an agreement that says it's "work for hire," you own the copyright regardless of who paid.
    There is no "golden rule of intellectual property." However, it has always been possible to bully people into believing something along those lines.
  14. I hope so far your question is I have one along these lines....
    Say a Studio offers services including photography. The studio gets hired to photograph some product line ("take these and shoot them"). Studio shoots the designed product in studio, and provides the images to the client. Some get run as ads in a magazine (after Studio creates the ads and submits).
    1. Would the studio be able to use the images for self-promotion in mailers, web, etc? (no people involved).
    2. Is the Studio the copyright holder?
    3. Does studio need to specify clients usage limits ? If not, then what is the client limited or not limited to?
    4. If you need permission, would the same rule apply to a photo with a building in a landscape image?
    Are there clear answers to the above?

Share This Page