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jamesray50
03-12-2012, 10:01 AM
I have an unusual situation. I have recently broken up with my fiance of 3 years. During that 3 years he has taken numerous pictures of me and my family. He is an amateur (wanna be professional) photographer. One of the pictures he has taken of me is a picture that I use on my website, business card, and profile pictures on various websites. I have received notice from him that he is going to have these pictures copywrited and I should immediately quite using them and remove any picture he has taken that is residing on my computer. My take on this, is that they are gifts and I can keep them. They weren't copywrited when I received them. Anyone know anything about this?

I may have posted this in the wrong topic section.

nealrm
03-12-2012, 02:26 PM
In the US, the photographer has copyrights on the photo the minute it is snapped. So all the photos that were taken by him are copyrighted. Unless he has presented you with signed paperwork giving you those copyright, they are retained by him. He can demand that you remove the photos from all commercial use. If you do not do so, he can take you to court and sue for damages. The amount of damages will depend on if he has the photo formally copyrighted. If they are formally copyrighted, he can win thousands of dollars in the suit. You have 24 hours from the written notice to removed the images any websites.

On the flip side, he cannot do anything commercially with the photos without a model release from you. He can keep the photos for his personnel use, but that is it.

As for the photos on your computer, that would be a gray area. It could fall under the fair use clause.

jamesray50
03-12-2012, 02:47 PM
Thanks for your reply. He sent me an email stating that he was in the process of having all his images copyrighted and that I was to remove any image that he had given me immediately. I think he's bluffing since he has sent me dozens of emails over the last two weeks and is cyber stalking me. But, I also don't want to have to fork over any money to him. But, he gave me these pictures, and he put them on my computer. It was a gift. Wouldn't the date of him receiving the copyright and the date that shows the image on my computer show that it was given to me before he had them copyrighted?

nealrm
03-12-2012, 03:14 PM
No - the photos had copyrights the instant that the photographs were taken. Photographer can apply for a formal copyright afterwards if they wish. However, they are copyrighted either way, the only difference in this case would be the amount of the award in the civil suit. Given the nature of the relationship, I suggest you get the photos off the websites and stop using the photos for any commercial use - TODAY. If he does follow through on the formal copyright, he can win thousands of dollars. I have read about cases reaching 6 figures per photo.

jamesray50
03-12-2012, 04:08 PM
Thanks, I read somewhere that I had 24 hours after written notice, so I suppose the emails are written notice and I will take your advice and remove the images. I just hope I can remember everywhere I am using them. I know there is one website where you can put a profile image and it will use it on other sites, but I can't remember the name of it. Do you know?

Harold Mansfield
03-12-2012, 07:05 PM
On a sidenote, what a petty, chickensh*t thing to do.
That's the kind of pettiness you would expect from college aged kids and teen agers.
Not grown up adults.

I'm just sayin'.

jamesray50
03-12-2012, 07:30 PM
You're right, petty. It's not like he's going to make any money from the images I am using.

Business Attorney
03-13-2012, 03:42 PM
I'm just going to pipe in here to agree with what nealrm said. Your former BF owns the copyright and you should stop using the images. His "gift" of the images to you might constitute a royalty-free license to use the images, but if you lose that argument, the copyright law provides for statutory damages, so the owner of the the copyright is not required to show any financial injury in order to collect monetary damages.

jamesray50
03-13-2012, 05:19 PM
I changed it on my website and social networks, and on Gravatar. But, not sure if I have found everywhere it is. I even ordered new business cards. I'm just glad I hadn't placed the order for my brochures yet because it also has my picture on them. What a pain this has been.

Thanks for everyone's advise.

Russ in Vancouver
03-15-2012, 05:33 PM
I am so sorry to hear what you are going through. What a joke of a man he must be.
Just to clarify, nealrm, does the person clicking the picture have to be a licensed photographer or can anyone claim to be a photographer and use these copyright laws?

My wife just took some photos of me for professional use, she used my camera, lol, can she claim something against me if we divorce?

Russ in Vancouver
03-15-2012, 05:33 PM
I am so sorry to hear what you are going through. What a joke of a man he must be.
Just to clarify, nealrm, does the person clicking the picture have to be a licensed photographer or can anyone claim to be a photographer and use these copyright laws?

My wife just took some photos of me for professional use, she used my camera, lol, can she claim something against me if we divorce?

nealrm
03-15-2012, 08:42 PM
You don't even need to claim to be a professional photographer, the copyright is automatic.

lucas.bowser
03-16-2012, 09:20 AM
Just a quick question. Hasn't she hit the statute of limitations for any of the images that she has been using for three years or more, since he was aware of the "infringement" for that whole time? Not saying she should keep them up, just wondering about this technicality.

nealrm
03-16-2012, 10:38 AM
In my opinion, that technicality would just end up with a court case. The question would be if she was infringing on the copyright the entire time or if she was using the photos with permission and the permission was revoked after the breakup. Even if she were to win, the cost of defending the case would exceed the cost of new photos and business cards. Plus, why would she want to keep item around that reminded her of this guy.

Haup9
03-18-2012, 09:31 AM
My wife just took some photos of me for professional use, she used my camera, lol, can she claim something against me if we divorce?

The copyright belongs to the photographer. So technically yes she could.

Here is a link that I think explains this whole question very well. Copyright Law for Photographers (http://www.photosecrets.com/photography-law-copyright)

Business Attorney
03-19-2012, 01:45 PM
The copyright belongs to the photographer. So technically yes she could.

Here is a link that I think explains this whole question very well. Copyright Law for Photographers (http://www.photosecrets.com/photography-law-copyright)

The person who snaps the shutter probably has a copyright 99% of the time, but not always.

Section 201(a) of the Copyright Act says:



Initial Ownership.óCopyright in a work protected under this title vests initially in the author or authors of the work. The authors of a joint work are coowners of copyright in the work.


The author of a photograph is the one who adds the creative element. Let's say that I have a camera on a tripod, all set up to take my picture: in focus, the best lighting, a good camera angle, etc... I have picked the background, what I wearing, etc... Rather than put the camera on auto and have to run to jump into the shot, I ask my wife to click when I say "now." She exercises no discretion and simply pushes the shutter at the appropriate moment. I maintain that I am the author of the work as defined in the Copyright Act since all of the creative elements were determined by me. My wife was no more the author than the camera would have been if I had set it on automatic.

Now, let's say that I set the scene. I have picked the background, what I wearing, etc... I also chose the camera angle and the pose, but my wife focused the camera and told me to smile bigger. Perhaps at some point the work became a joint work, but even then I would be a coowner of the copyright under the Act.

By the way, not every photograph is entitled to a copyright. There must be a reasonable amount of creative effort involved. If I take a photo of a 2 dimensional object, say a historic document, and my photo is, as nearly as my skills, equipment and lighting conditions allow, a faithful reproduction of the document, chances are I do NOT have any copyright in my image.

lucas.bowser
03-19-2012, 02:15 PM
So, out of curiosity, what constitutes a reasonable amount of creative effort involved?

For example, Google has people drive down the streets and take photos of neighborhoods for their Street View. Does that receive copyright protection? How about if I use an iPhone to take a picture of my Son's birthday party? What if I stand across the street from the Alamo and take a picture of it that any of thousands of annual visitors could have taken?

Is there a clear standard, or is it a Justice Potter type situation?

billbenson
03-19-2012, 03:13 PM
Or you are on vacation and ask some person walking by to take a picture of my wife and I? Does that stranger own the copyright. He's the one that lined up the camera.

nealrm
03-19-2012, 07:11 PM
David is correctly pointing out some of the grayer areas of copyright law. But in general, if someone is using a camera as a camera (not as a copier or scanner), does anything other the hit the shutter button, then that person has at least a portion of the copyright.

So how does that effect your vacation photos. They most likely are copyrighted by the person that took the photo. However, unless you are planning on using the photos commercially, the discussion is generally academic. The value of personnel photo is close to zero and little harm is being done to the photographer because the image is on your computer.

However, if you are planning on using the photo commercially, either by selling it, using it in advertising or any other way of monetizing the image, you better make sure you have the permission of the person behind the camera. In that case the value of the photo is not zero and you are depriving the photographer compensation for his labor. While there are times that the camera holder may not own the copyright straight out, that detail is best worked out before hand. By the way, the same rules apply to graphics.

It should also be noted that just because you own the copyrights to a photo, doesn't mean you can use it however you want. You can take and copyright photos of anything you can see from public property or land you own with few exceptions (public bathrooms, changing stalls, locker-rooms etc). However, If a person is in the image AND is recognizable or the subject of the photo you must have a release. Next time you go to a concert, amusement park or sporting event look at the back of the ticket. It very likely will have a statement allowing them to use your image.

Business Attorney
03-19-2012, 10:44 PM
So, out of curiosity, what constitutes a reasonable amount of creative effort involved?

For example, Google has people drive down the streets and take photos of neighborhoods for their Street View. Does that receive copyright protection? How about if I use an iPhone to take a picture of my Son's birthday party? What if I stand across the street from the Alamo and take a picture of it that any of thousands of annual visitors could have taken?

Is there a clear standard, or is it a Justice Potter type situation?

It's a Justice Potter situation. It takes a fairly small amount of creative effort to move a work into the copyright protection realm, but there is no black and white rule. The same rule applies to severely limit copyrights in published directories such as phone books which are simply alphabetically arranged lists of facts: name, address, phone number. There must be something more, such as selecting, sorting and grouping facts, to trigger copyright protection for a list of facts.

JessicaLee
11-14-2012, 12:33 PM
wait. I know this is a really dumb question, but does an email constitute WRITTEN NOTICE? I always thought that written notice in the legal sense meant it actually had to be a signed document in your hand. And within 24 hours of recieving the email? It could take you weeks to open your email. But when you send something in the mail it is postmarked, so 24 hours of recieving it would be related to the postmark.. I don't know, I know nothing about the law.

libra
11-18-2012, 11:58 PM
I consider this thread both interesting and important, and it deserves a sticky status. In business, situations of conflict can arise from the use of images vis-a-viz their copyright, rights of use, and ownership.

Take a case of a business which assigns work to a photographer, either as an employee or a contracting party, the issue of ownership, rights and restrictions on the use of images can be rather contentious and complicated.

Consider a case where the business assigns the photographer to take a cluster of photographs of a third party's property (eg. a store or restaurant) for advertising purposes in the mass media, what rights exist between the business, the photographer, and the property owner for the final images? What kind of photographic release is most suitable? Note that there are 3 parties involved in this example.

Are there any knowledgeable views from anyone about such a situation?

nealrm
11-19-2012, 08:45 AM
Your question combines two different subjects, copyright and monetizing of the photos. In the US there are extremely few restriction of what you can photograph in and from public locations. People, buildings, signs, landscape can all be photographed. If it is generally visible to the public you can photograph it. The copyrights are assigned to the photographer the moment the shutter is clicked. If the photographer is an employee there should be a contract in place stating that the photographed given all copyrights to the employer. The objects in the photo do not have any claims to the copyrights in the US.

Photo taken from private property are a little different. The owner can restrict what, when and how anything can be photographed. Unless there is a contact that specifies otherwise, the photographer still would own the copyrights and could monetize the photos. (See below).

While you can take the photos, you can't necessary monetize on the photos. Monetize a photo mean to selling the image, use it in advertising or other media. In that case, if a recognizable person is in the image, you must get their permission to use their likeness. That is called a release. Property and objects do not have rights in the US, so you do not need a release to use the image of a building.

In you example, the company that sent the photographer would most likely have the copyrights on the photo. Unless there was a contact specifying otherwise, the business would not have any rights to the photos.

FYI: Next time you go to an amusement park, or concert look at the back of the ticket. Very likely there will be wording on it relating to photography. It may contain text stating what you can do with any photos taken and/or a general release that allows them to use your image.

billbenson
11-19-2012, 10:48 AM
Take a more unusual situation Neal. Lets say I'm at a friends house and a break in occurs and I photograph the robbers. For whatever reason the owners of the property don't want the video made public. If I take it to either the police or put it on youtube am I violating a copyright?

nealrm
11-19-2012, 11:03 AM
You would not be violating copyrights, that would not be an issue since you took the video. You would own the copyrights.

Nor would taking the photos to the police be an issue. That would not be monetizing the photos.

But if you are taking images of people and posting those images on youtube. That would be monetizing the photos. However, there are laws in place that allows images of people to be used without their permission with respect to news stories. If and how those would apply here, I do not know.

libra
11-26-2012, 05:08 AM
Thanks Neal, for the valuable comments at #23.

So it seems it's all a matter of having an agreement (contract) in place for any kind of arrangement.

SDGSteve
11-29-2012, 09:07 AM
Lets say I'm at a friends house

This is relevant; you would still own the copyright but you would need a contract affirming that you had permission to shoot at that private location to put the stuff on youtube or moneytise it.

Images of people without permission; if it's in a public place such as street photography it's a grey area and varies from country to country, if you have no permission but it's in the public interest to post the pictures (eg so people could identify the robbers who have broken the law) then you're OK, this is how newspapers can run pictures of people accused of different things, and it's the area of the law the paparazzi stretch taking photos of celebrities, because defining "in the public interest" is complex.