Photography Rights

Discussion in 'Business of Photography' started by bob_dobbs|2, Aug 12, 2013.

  1. Hello,

    I realize there are a number of posts in regards to "who owns the rights"...
    I have not found one that meets my particular circumstances.
    I am an employee for a international company, based in the United States. I was never hired as a photographer, and I was never asked to sign any documents in regards to photography.
    The demand for the only full time photographer grew to such a level that I was asked to go on international trips and take over some of the photography duties. I did agree to go on trips and I did do photography for the company. I used my personal equipment and I also used the equipment owned by the company. I never received any extra compensation for the photography work I did.
    1. Who owns the rights to the photgraphs that I took?
    2. Does it matter if photos were taken using my personal equipment as opposed to the company owned equipment?
    3. If I do not own the photographs am I still allowed to use the images as examples of my work and display them, even if not for sale?
    4. What about photos that have nothing to do with the company's work? Landscapes, etc..?
    I do not have the best of relationships with the company. After I began taking photographs for the company I asked the full time photographer about photo rights, and I was told that it does not matter what equipment was used. All photographs by any employee are considered property of the company.
    Any help will be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you,
    Bob
     
  2. Who owns the rights to the photographs that I took?​
    If you're on the clock getting paid to do it, and haven't made specific arrangements to the contrary, the odds are that it's "work for hire," and your employer owns what they paid you to produce - just like they do with the output of your other activities on their behalf.
    Does it matter ... personal equipment​
    Very likely not, no. Just like it wouldn't matter if you signed your name on important company documents using a pen that you brought from home.
    am I still allowed to use the images​
    Sure, if you and the owner of the images make such an arrangement. In this case, they would be licensing the images to you for a very specific purpose (portfolio use). They'd probably want that license to be very clear in the limits it places on your ability to sell them, re-license them to someone else, etc.
    What about photos that have nothing to do with the company's work?​
    Presumably you shot those on your own time, right? Those are yours. Of course, I'm a caveman, not a lawyer. If you sense that there will be some friction over this, you might consider getting some legal advice. But regardless, get your employer to license to you the portfolio use you're looking for - it's hard to imagine they'd have a problem with that.
     
  3. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Start by reading this.
    Since you agreed to it in the context of your employment, there's a good chance it would fall under work for hire as that document outlines. It's hard to see it being otherwise. If you read that document, you will see that equipment ownership doesn't matter, they own the photographs and you would need a license to display them, even not for sale, and, if the photos were taken in the context of employment, it doesn't matter what they show. If, however, you shot the landscapes on your own time and they weren't asking you to shoot them, they are yours.
     
  4. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Guess I took too long to finish that answer. However, that document in my first sentence does pretty much let you know everything you need to know.
     
  5. Wow!
    I gotta say... this really sucks.
    Hired for computer work, nothing whatsoever to do with Creative/Art work. Never signed any agreements about photography or any contracts; and they can still claim all my photos?
    No extra compensation for the work I did, which was very far out of the realm of my work position, and they still own it all?
    Use my personal equipment; and they still own it.
    As far as talking to them about use of images... The company, in my opinion, will never allow it. Even if it brings them some exposure; they are a billion dollar a year company and they are very 'possesive', and unless I plaster their name everywhere I don't see any way of getting them to allow anything.
    As for my taking photos 'on my own time', it was hard to determine what my time was. There were no set hours when I was out of the country and I could be out from 7am to 7pm; (though I still only received my regular pay regardless of however many hours I 'worked'). I took photos in that time having nothing to do with the reason I was there. I also took photos at dinner/lunch etc... that were paid for by the company. Is that their time or mine?
    Wow! what a mess... lol...
    Thanks for the reply.
    Very disheartening.....
     
  6. It sounds like you need to clarify your role with the company fairly soon so this condition/circumstance does not continue unless you tacitly agree.
    <Chas>
     
  7. This sort of thing usually falls into the "and other duties as required" category of an employment agreement. Not really any different than being asked to, say, attend a trade show for a few days and schmooze with vendors or prospective clients - even if it's not part of your normal duties.

    If you want an unusual relationship with your employer (as it relates to things like photography), you've got to get that worked out in advance of it growing into being part of your job.
     
  8. "Just like it wouldn't matter if you signed your name on important company documents using a pen that you brought from home."​
    I agree with Jeff and Matt except for a quibble on this point. Which will be inconsequential in this particular case but useful for future reference. Ownership of equipment is one of the factors when reviewing the continuum of factors showing the amount control over the actor in deciding if a hire is an independent contractor or an employer (work for hire). Ownership of equipment by the actor is a long established factor in favor of less control over the actor which supports them having independent contractor status. The reason it is inconsequential, however, is because the rest of the story reveals too many factors showing employee type control which exceeds the lone equipment ownership factor.
    I asked the full time photographer about photo rights, and I was told that it does not matter what equipment was used. All photographs by any employee are considered property of the company.​
    The full time photographer is putting the cart before the horse. They are jumping to the conclusion and disregarding a factor (just discussed) that is considered in order reach the conclusion. The conclusion appears correct, nevertheless, since the preponderance of other factors showing control exceeds the equipment ownership factor.
     
  9. No extra compensation for the work I did, which was very far out of the realm of my work position, and they still own it all?​
    If you were paid specially and independently in addition to the normal salary them maybe that could be used to support a claim that your activities were a side arrangement separate from you work duties. The fact that your activities were treated as a requirement for your job and for getting paid your normal employee pay actually works against you, not for you.


    As for my taking photos 'on my own time', it was hard to determine what my time was. There were no set hours (though I still only received my regular pay regardless of however many hours I 'worked'). I took photos in that time having nothing to do with the reason I was there. I also took photos at dinner/lunch etc... that were paid for by the company. Is that their time or mine?​
    Its not looking good.
     
  10. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Ownership of equipment is one of the factors when reviewing the continuum of factors showing the amount control over the actor in deciding if a hire is an independent contractor or an employer​
    That's a good point and I thought about mentioning it, but it only complicates this situation, and, as you know, there are six factors that govern the independent contractor status, five of which probably don't meet the test here.
     
  11. Depending on the authority, there can be many more factors such as the IRS 20... http://www.appraisalinstitute.org/newsadvocacy/downloads/key_documents/IndependentContractorVsEmployee.PDF. States have their own lists developed by agencies and courts. I haven't gotten around to seeing if there's an exhaustive or uniformly used list featured in federal copyright cases or a bit of a more ad hoc approach.
     
  12. It's late to worry about it now. You accepted the assignments and ideally should have come to an agreement then about ownership, use, etc.
    Have you asked your employer about your using the images? They might not care, so long as you don't sell them to a competitor of otherwise interfere with their business.
    I'm guessing that you at least have not posted this under your own name? (Church of the Subgenius - J.R. 'Bob' Dobbs)
     
  13. Why don't you just separate your personal images out of the images you took for work? Like your landscapes and lunches etc. I take photographs for work all the time, and I use my camera. I only give them the images I took for them, I don't necessarily give them all the images on the card. Another solution, is just carry more than one card. One for your stuff and one for theirs. Just switch them as necessary.
     
  14. FWIW, the legislation quoted above by Jeff Spirer and John H. is very similar to that applied by the UK Inland Revenue in determining if someone is an employee or a freelance contractor. Employees have very restricted claims which they can make against tax, freelancers ("self-employed") have much more flexibility in their claims; hence the rules are applied very strictly and it is very important to get all the customer agreements clear and in place.
    Even as a freelance, any work done for a customer cannot, except by agreement, be used for extra personal profit. I do some work as a freelance consultant for various clients, provide my own office facilities and equipment, professional indemnity insurance, travelling and training updates. But all my work is confidential for the particular client, and cannot be used for any other benefit to myself; this is all set out in the agreement with the client, together with the client's exact instructions and requirements. Tedious, but essential!
     
  15. The issue of who owns a photo came up in the wake of the bombing of the Murrah building in Oklahoma City by Timothy
    McVeigh and conspirators. The. Most remembered photo of that act of right-wing home grown terrorism is of a fireman
    carrying a mortally wounded infant The photographer was an employee of a gas company and took the photo even
    though it had nothing to do with his job (I think he was an inspector for a gas pipeline company.) and he had signed no
    work for hire agreement. Eventually the issue of who owned the photo, the man who snapped the shutter or the company
    he was working for at the time. The courts ruled that because the man made the photos on company time, even though
    they had nothing to do with his job description, the rights to the photos belonged to the company.

    I may have some of the particulars wrong about the man who he worked for, but if that ruling was never successfully
    appealed that is the precedent that you r (former) employer's attorneys will find as it is on the books.

    I imagine the current Edward Snowden situation (another case of treason) won't help your position much either.

    I am not a lawyer and I don't play one on the Internet. Best wishes and I'm sorry to a eater of bad news.
     
  16. PERSONALLY I CONSIDER ANY PHOTOGRAPHY I TAKE BEYOND AND ABOVE WHAT MY EMPLOYER ASKS AND IF IT IS NOT RELEVENT TO THE COMPANY I AM WORKING FOR, IT IS MY PROPERTY.

    AS LONG AS I AM NOT USING COMPANY PHOTOS IN ANY WAY BUT TAKE SNAPS OF PICTURES ON MY WAY THERE OR ON FREE TIME, THEY ARE MINE
    JUST BECAUSE A COMPANY PAYS ME TO GO TO, LETS SAY, SHOOT OUR INDIANAPOLIS FACTORY AND I CAPTURE GREAT SHOTS OF SURROUNDING COUNTRYSIDE THAT NO WAY INTERFERES WITH THE COMPANY, THEY ARE MY WORK.
    JUST LIKE A COFFEE OR LUNCH BREAK, HOW I SPEND MY TIME IS MY BUSINESS.
    AS A MANAGER, I PERSONALLY ENCOURAGE MY EMPLOYEES TO USE THEIR FREE TIME PURSUING THEIR INTERESTS. FIRST, IT PROVIDES INCENTIVE TO TRAVEL FOR BUSINESS AND SECONDLY IT HOPEFULLY HONES THEIR PHOTOGRAPHY SKILLS FOR THE TASK WE ASK OF THEM.
    <>NOT REALLY A LEGAL ISSUE IF IT DOES NOT INVOLVE COMPANY PROPERTY OR PROPIETARY CONTENT.
    EVEN "BILLION DOLLAR A YEAR" COMPANIES ARE ONLY BUILT BY PROGRESSIVE THINKING INDIVIDUALS WHO THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX.
     
  17. Rob, you're shouting! :)
     

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