Copyright question for informal events

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Dec 30, 2006
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Here's a question for folks who cover events informally (i.e., for friends, colleagues etc). I recently covered a youth dance event for the organizer, and it was fairly informal (no documents signed etc).

I assumed that the default copyright in this case would be that the photos belong to the photographer, but I was checking out the event website and there was a disclaimer on the web site that says 'All photographs taken during the event become the property of the association'. I think that was meant for the parents/participants, but it's not very clear.

Now in this case I don't foresee any problems - I'm not planning to use these pictures (https://www.nikoncafe.com/vforums/showthread.php?p=4227212) and they are a bunch of very friendly folks. But I'm very curious to know what to do in similar situations in the future, to avoid any problems. For example, if I use one of the pictures in my portfolio, could there be an issue?

Appreciate help from folks who have been thru similar experience. Thanks!
 
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Joined
May 27, 2006
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Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
I'm no attorney but unless you agreed to give your copyright to the "association" they can't just circumvent federal copyright law with a blanket statement as such and assume ownership.

If you were on their property it is likely that you retain copyright of your images but you could potentially run into an issue using them for commercial purposes without the property owner's permission. Additionally, the people in the photos may have certain rights of publicity/privacy depending on your state's laws. A model release would take care of that aspect.

Sean
 
Joined
Jul 21, 2007
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NJ
You're better off consulting an attorney on that.

I'm not a lawyer, but unless you signed something I cannot see how this would stand up in court. Just because there's a notice doesn't mean it's legal especially if you haven given your consent. What if they request your first born? Would you donate him/her?

Aside from that, there's the issue of what your rights are and what the expectations of the organizer are. Will fighting over this issue hurt the relationship with the organization? Is it worth it? Those are things to consider just as well; the old “just because you can, doesn't mean you should” consideration. Only you can tell the answer to that question.
 
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Famington Hills, MI
Possession is 9/10s of the law. They could argue that it's an oral contract if they engaged in some type of agreement with you. The users in the venue can't sign away your rights and they can't make you turn over images to them unless there is a contract.

I suggest you look at this website/blog if you want to keep up to date with a lot of the generalities of copyright issues. The website owner is a well know attorny who's practice is copyright infringement.

http://www.photoattorney.com
 
Joined
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Miami, Florida
This may be a good time for you to go back through your interactions with the event organizers and see if you've submitted any paperwork or written anything that would obligate you to be bound by their terms. As others have suggested, it would also be a good idea to discuss the issue with a local attorney, as there may be other laws or regulations involved.

The general rule for copyrights is that the person who creates the image is the owner of the copyrights (17 U.S.C. Sec. 201(a)). That said, every rule has its exception, and one key exception to this is works created by employees within the scope of their employment (17 U.S.C. Sec. 201(b)).

Under the current Copyright Act, "[a] transfer of copyright ownership, other than by operation of law, is not valid unless an instrument of conveyance, or a note or memorandum of the transfer, is in writing and signed by the owner of the rights conveyed or such owner's duly authorized agent." 17 U.S.C. Sec. 204(a). However, there's nothing in the act indicating that the writing cannot be signed electronically, and thus, a valid electronic signature may very well be sufficient to convey rights.

While the copyright issues can be fairly straightforward, it is important to speak with someone who understands, in your case, the potential impact that California law may have on the situation.
 
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Possession is 9/10s of the law. They could argue that it's an oral contract if they engaged in some type of agreement with you. The users in the venue can't sign away your rights and they can't make you turn over images to them unless there is a contract.
If the images are delivered to them, they can argue that an implied license exists. While the concept is similar to an oral contract, the elements to be proven are very different (and with very different consequences).
 
Joined
Aug 12, 2005
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Right. But one line on a website stating any photos taken there are owned by the venue isn't gonna fly. Can you imagine the implications for someone like a sports or wedding professinal? That's no different than a parking lot owner putting a line on a website that they own your car if you park there. It's rubbish and I'd laugh if someone tried to sue me over something like that.
 
Joined
Nov 3, 2009
Messages
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Miami, Florida
Right. But one line on a website stating any photos taken there are owned by the venue isn't gonna fly. Can you imagine the implications for someone like a sports or wedding professinal?
If there's only the one line on the website, you may right in your assessment that a claim won't stand up. However, the line in the website, combined with some other writing, could have significant implications, and that's why I suggested looking at other evidence. My experience suggests that there is never just the one line in the website; the very fact that the terms were found on the website suggests that something must have led the photographer there in the first place. And when you start stacking up evidence, a case that upon first blush seems to be black and white becomes more and more gray.

To more directly answer your question, the answer is yes, I have imagined the implications. For me, the implications are very real. I have personally run into situations where photographers were required to sign a formal set of terms or were handed credentials with language indicating that use of the credential constituted acceptance of the organizations media policies (and you'd be surprised by some of the terms that some of the professional sporting leagues try to impose). Under those circumstances, you either accept the terms and shoot or you walk away.
 
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I have personally run into situations where photographers were required to sign a formal set of terms or were handed credentials with language indicating that use of the credential constituted acceptance of the organizations media policies (and you'd be surprised by some of the terms that some of the professional sporting leagues try to impose). Under those circumstances, you either accept the terms and shoot or you walk away.
This is what I've seen, as well. To be granted media credentials, the organization supplying credentials and thereby access to the event/venue require copies of all images which they can then use for future advertising and media releases. Copyright is retained by the photographer for other than those express purposes. I was given credit on their future event posters and in their sanction's monthly magazine, and I retained my own rights to sell images to event participants.

Bottom line, if you want access, and even in some cases if you want to be allowed to bring a "professional camera with detachable lenses" into a venue, you do so while complying with the sanctioning body's terms. Or you don't shoot.

It's all in the fine print.
 
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