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Legal Help
Old 12-26-2006, 03:53 PM   #1 (permalink)
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heyhey and happy holidaze to everyone,

I'm having a little legal problem. Here it is in a nutshell;

During some of my shoots (my studio, my camera, model's signed a release with me, I own all copyrights to the photos, etc,) some of the people on the set like to pose with the models for a quick "vanity" shot - including myself. So when it was my turn for a vanity shot, I would step out from behind my camera (on tripod) and pose next to the model. Then somebody on the set (assistant, client, freind, etc) would depress the shutter button on my camera - taking the photo of me posing with the models. Then I would get back to work.

Herein lies the problem - one of the regulars on the set is now claimng that he owns the copyright and that I have to give him photo credit on the couple of images he shot of me posing with the models. Yes, he has even gotten a lawyer over this... and now I have retained a lawyer as well - arg!

So my question is... Does anyone know of any articles I can research on this? Or better yet... any actual court cases, etc., where this has happened and what the outcome of that was?

I certainly appreciate any help and advice,

Thanks,

Lon
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Re: Legal Help
Old 12-26-2006, 04:19 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Well it all seems sort of silly to me. And certain things don't add up.

But, why bother. Just don't use the photos and then what can the other fellow do. He doesn't have a release, so he can't use them. Do you really need to display them? Why are you willing to spend thousands on legal costs for something like a couple of vanity photos? It doesnt make sense to me.

Second, since you say hired a lawyer, why not have the lawyer do the legal research?

As far as his claim, it sounds like he was the photographer. Unless you had a contract with him stating that any shots he made were a "work for hire", then it sound like he would own the copyright, but would find it of little value since he has no property release or model release.

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Re: Legal Help
Old 12-26-2006, 04:59 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Heyhey and thanks for responding,

You are correct, this is a completely silly situation. No, I do not need to display then and no he cannot use them either - that is not the issue. It is about principal and I do not feel that it is right that some person on my set can do me a favour by snapping a pic of me posing with the models and then try to claim ownership and also try to dictate to me what I can and cannot do with those snapshots - which I do believe that I have the ownership of - especially since it was my equipment, my creative vision, etc..

To answer your second question. I would like to find out some things for myself, so I can read and have the knowledge first hand - Secondly, Yes, I can have the lawyer do all the research, but he charges by the hour and it would be much more cost efficient if I could point him to actual court cases (or articles) that he could then look directly to.

Again, thanks for replying,

Lon
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Re: Legal Help
Old 12-26-2006, 05:19 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LonCaslerBixby View Post
Heyhey and thanks for responding,

You are correct, this is a completely silly situation. No, I do not need to display then and no he cannot use them either - that is not the issue. It is about principal and I do not feel that it is right that some person on my set can do me a favour by snapping a pic of me posing with the models and then try to claim ownership and also try to dictate to me what I can and cannot do with those snapshots - which I do believe that I have the ownership of - especially since it was my equipment, my creative vision, etc..

To answer your second question. I would like to find out some things for myself, so I can read and have the knowledge first hand - Secondly, Yes, I can have the lawyer do all the research, but he charges by the hour and it would be much more cost efficient if I could point him to actual court cases (or articles) that he could then look directly to.

Again, thanks for replying,

Lon
I think you can use the "possession is nine-tenths of the law" argument since I assume you have the digital file from the camera and he doesn't.

But this gets into the actual definition of who is considered to be the copyright holder of a photograph. I suppose at issue here is the question, who is the photographer? Let's assume you did everything. You set up the lights, you posed the subjects, you pre-focused the camera (or it had AF) and you had the camera already set and the scene framed, and absolutely all this other guy did was push the shutter release, then perhaps you have a case. But was that the case? Did he instead look through the viewfinder, and perhaps zoom in or out to get both subjects in the frame? In other words did he do anything at all that could be considered framing the photo in the viewfinder? If so, then he added creative input into the photo and he pressed the shutter release? Would that not make him the photographer?

And how far would all of this extend? If I'm on vacation, and I hand my camera to a stranger and ask him to take my picture in front of a local building and he does, then who owns the copyright? Certainly he had to compose the photo, frame it, and then pressed the shutter release. Who would argue he was not the photographer?

So what you may be looking at is a "landmark" case that will have to go all the way to the Supreme Court and will cost you millions in legal fees.

http://www.photolaw.net/faq.html

See the 4th question and answer to see if this helps any. This is about joint copyright.

Cheers,
rfs
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Re: Legal Help
Old 12-26-2006, 05:33 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by R_Fredrick_Smith View Post
Let's assume you did everything. You set up the lights, you posed the subjects, you pre-focused the camera (or it had AF) and you had the camera already set and the scene framed, and absolutely all this other guy did was push the shutter release, then perhaps you have a case. But was that the case?

So what you may be looking at is a "landmark" case that will have to go all the way to the Supreme Court and will cost you millions in legal fees.
LOL...

Ya, that was definately the case... I Did do everything and yes, all he did was to press the shutter button...

Thanks for the info on the webpage, Appreciate it...

Lon
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Re: Legal Help
Old 12-26-2006, 07:07 PM   #6 (permalink)
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This may seem overly obvious and you've most likely thought of this already, but the next time you want to get out from behind the camera and in front of the lens, how about using the self-timer that almost all cameras have?
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Re: Legal Help
Old 12-26-2006, 08:53 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Ya, hindsight is 20/20 at an f/16 (crystal clear and in focus)

Thanks for responding,

Lon
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Re: Legal Help
Old 12-26-2006, 11:03 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Interesting thread. I guess if you still want to pose with the models in the future, maybe use the timer instead. Good luck.

Jean
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Re: Legal Help
Old 12-27-2006, 10:41 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Not all cameras have self timers... such as MF and LF cameras...

Quote:
Originally Posted by TheGoldy View Post
This may seem overly obvious and you've most likely thought of this already, but the next time you want to get out from behind the camera and in front of the lens, how about using the self-timer that almost all cameras have?
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Re: Legal Help
Old 12-27-2006, 11:24 AM   #10 (permalink)
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I'm certainly not a lawyer (Thank God!), but I've spent a lifetime dealing with copyright issues and I'm afraid I have to disagree with the advice you've gotten so far. If I understand correctly, it was in your studio, it was your camera, your film or memory card, you set the lighting, you set the background, you posed the model and the guy who released the shutter was a paid or unpaid assistant recruited by you to 'help' with a session you organized, shooting what is in effect a snapshot. In my view it's your copyright. Further I certainly not see him taking something this silly, a defacto work for hire situation, to court. I would do two things. First I would make a point of using the image if you wish to and second, write him off as a friend.
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