Photography usage rights

Discussion in 'Business of Photography' started by alicec88, Nov 9, 2017.

  1. Hello everyone,

    I've been assigned to shoot a café for one of my regular clients ( an interior designer that designed the whole place right down to the furnishings). Am I right to say that the usage rights are only for the designer and not the café when requested by the designer? Does this mean if the owners of the café want to use these photos (that was given to the designer), they are going to have to purchase them?

    Second, assuming the café was the one who approached me, they buy and own the photos. Can these photos be given to the interior designer for his/her portfolio without charges?

    Thanks in advance for any advice.
  2. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Your question is confusing.

    "I've been assigned to shoot a café for one of my regular clients ( an interior designer that designed the whole place right down to the furnishings)"

    "assuming the café was the one who approached me"

    So, before you thank anyone in advance for advice - the question is WHO is your CLIENT? - the Cafe Owners or the Interior Designer?


    Irrespective of the above question: in general terms "Usage Rights" in most commercial photography situations are outlined and allocated for a period of time and specific use and/or volume, in the contact between the PHOTOGRAPHER and the CLIENT. (ergo the question above: WHO is your CLIENT?)

    So, the next question is, do you have a contract?

    Secondly, if yes, what Usage Rights does that contract specify and allocate, and to whom?


    Probably more important – if you do not have a contract or if you do have a contract which omits mention of Usage Rights - it is worthy to note that various precedents are active within various jurisdictions; therefore it would assist respondents if you disclosed where you are working.

    alicec88 likes this.
  3. My advice is to check with the designer. Did the cafe grant the designer rights to have their private space photographed? If not, the struggle over rights might be between the cafe and the designer, and may have little to do with you. The designer might have it in their contract that photographs for marketing purposes may be taken, but might not spell out rights beyond that. I would check with the designer first and find out what was agreed upon between the designer and the cafe.
    alicec88 and William Michael like this.
  4. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Yes. I reckon that's a good point especially if the job was done in the USA. (Not that I am au fait with all the nuances of USA legal technicalities), but what I mean is, if the shoot were here, in AUS, there likely would not would not be much, if any hassle at all in this regard because, as I understand, the right to photograph a private space would be implicit for such a "Professional Shoot" by the fact that the owners allowed entry and allowed the shoot to continue: i.e. the emphasis being that if the owners did not want to imply rights they should have instructed the crew to leave - and it would be very unlikely that for such a shoot the owners would be ignorant of it ocuring.

    Anyway that's just another reason why the OP should consider detailing the location of this job, and also clarifying all the Contract details.

  5. Thank you so much for pointing out everything.

    I'm currently based in Singapore. My client is the designer, not the cafe owners. Since she (the designer) and I have been working together for a while now, I've recently realised that the photos I did for her (past jobs) has been passed on to the establishments she designed for. Obviously, I'm at fault for not giving her a contract to sign before the photoshoot, only a mutual understanding that the photos are for her portfolio as she never mentioned about the establishments using the photos. However, the usage rights are usually stated in my invoices.

    I believe the cafes/restaurants she designed for naturally grant her the rights to arrange a photoshoot for her own portfolio, the problem is they are often happy to get the images from the designer for free to use on their own websites and social medias.

    So the question is, can she (the designer) give these photos that are intended solely for her portfolio to the café owners for them to use freely?


    Second scenario:

    What if the café is my client. The usage rights will apply strictly for the café's usage (website, social medias and marketing materials). Does this mean the café can't give these photos (intended for café usage only) to the designer who designed the cafe for his/her portfolio?
  6. paul ron

    paul ron NYC

    I seem to get the idea of this post.. its a thrid party issue.

    Contracts are a very tricky business and all depend on where you are... laws differ form country to country as well as state to state. Best advice is have a lawyer design the contract. Yes it costs a few bucks but saves you a ton of trouble later.

    Id draw my contract with the person paying me. If the other person wants copies to be used for his portfolio, he has to get permission from the paying client as well as you, the copyright holder. it can be stipulated in your contract as third party usage.

    but again it depends on where you are. Some countries have strange laws about copyright and usage language.

    Then on the other side of the coin.... if you don't mind everyone passing your pics around with your water mark for free advertising and this is just first time experience, then don't sweat it, just cash the check.
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2017
  7. paul ron

    paul ron NYC

    BTW, Bring up the issue of the third party possibly wanting copies for his portfolio, as a courtesy. This will avoid problems later since it was discussed, and makes you look like the thoughtful nice guy.

    BTW the EDIT time limit here is ridiculous.15 minutes??????... why not a few hours?

  8. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    In a nutshell: you're asking direct questions and seeking direct answers - and I think that there is not definitive detail in the information to address the questions and to provide definitive answers. For example "However, the usage rights are usually stated in my invoices" - either the invoices that you gave to the Designer had Usage Rights stipulated or they did not - which is it?

    Not withstanding that - if Usage Rights were stipulated in the Invoice(s) that you provided to the Designer and those Usage Rights were clear cut (i.e. legally preventing the Designer from any use OTHER THAN her Portfolio) - then my expectation is the answer to your question is she should NOT pass on the image for third party use - BUT - the point is she has: so now - from a BUSINESS Viewpoint, you need to weigh up how costly it will be to employ legal action to stop the third party's use of the images; how likely that will be effective; and how much potential damage that will incur to your business prospecting.

    Possibly a more elegant solution would be to use a paper contract for all future dealings with the Designer including a payment structure for Usage Rights.

    Additional to the above regarding how to move forward with the designer: consider approaching all the cafes and other third parties individually, explaining that it appears they are in breech, using copyright images without permission, and offer them a specific purpose shoot to address THEIR Advertising and Marketing needs, so they no longer need to use old images which were shot with the Brief addressing a Designer's Advertising.

    I see this a a possibility to grow your business - you need to articulate that the Brief to address a designer's marketing is totally different from a Brief to address a Cafe's Advertising.


    In regard to your second question - Usage Rights will apply to exactly whatever is stated in the Usage Rights.

    Those Usage Rights are whatever that you make them.

    But typically, yes, if I shot for a Cafe, then the Usage Rights would stipulate the platforms and mediums (for example their website, their menus, their print advertising); possibly a period of time and/or a number of issues (i.e print run), and yes, the Usage Rights in my contract would typically state something like "Images for for the sole uses applicable Advertising and Marketing of ABC Cafe and no other Entity".

  9. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member


    If you have been a member since 2003, then you might remember that, previously, there was not any editing period at all: this was discussed at great length and a 10 minute editing period was introduced, but many were adverse to this.

    The edit time is to correct minor grammatical errors and the like.

    A long period of editing time may cause disruption to the flow of conversation and (in the cases of intense discussion) allow parties to remove or amend statements which can completely change the nature of the conversation.

    One (key) premise of Photonet's Terms of Use and Community Guidelines is the responsibility of the Member for all which that Member Publishes - if you will, once said, it can't be unsaid.

    This response is to answer your question, not to begin a debate, in this thread, about this off-topic.

  10. You should charge each party that wants to use the photos a separate fee based on their own usage, and your usage license to each party should state that the license is non-transferrable, and no third parties may use the photos, without your written permission. Also, get used to the concept that you are selling people usage rights to your photos, not the photos themselves; and that your ability to sell usage rights to each photo to multiple parties is a significant part of your income, unless a client wants purchase exclusive rights for an additional fee, to compensate you for lost secondary licensing income.

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