The Changing World of Photography & Law

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I wanted to write this article to talk about the changing world of photography and along with that law. As a photographer I want to dive into this to talk about somethings that all photographers should pay attention to. No matter if you are commercial, food, landscape, portrait, or even a wedding photographer. All of the following apply to you.

  1. Copyright releases and Copyright/Look and Feel – I cannot stress this enough. Not only can it protect the client it can protect you and your art. In the case of Mannion V. Coors Brewing Co. in New York the plaintiff Mannion was successful in his suit against Coors for using the likeness of an images that he did of Kevin Garnett for SLAM magazine. Coors recreated the image for a Los Angeles advertisement. The court used 3 pieces to decided the copyright of a photograph. 1 – the creation of the subject, 2-the rendition of the image, and 3-the timing of the photograph. So when the art that you have made is done not only is the image protected, the client protected, but also with some degree the likeness is protected. I contacted a legal funding company to ask them if they had heard anything about this. I was told that they get request from photographers all the time for this and also how valid most of the request are after researching the case.
  2. You cannot use an image just because you found it on the web – Many people in the world feel like if they find an image on the web it is theirs to create whatever they want/use with it. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In 2010 Daniel Morel proved this in his case against Getty Images for taking and selling his images that he posted on Twitter. With this you are able to post and retweet but you can not use images for commercial use. When the verdict was handed down Morel got 1,200,000 awarded in damages.
  3. Just because you have a client buy the prints/negatives it does not give the client the copyright – This is a common misconception that I have seen from all types of clients from portrait to commercial. ” I have the print or digital negative their for I can do whatever I want to do with it.” This information is completely false. In a famous case regarding the estate of Vivian Maier a famous street photographer, John Maloof acquired many of her unprocessed photos and published them. Maier’s living relatives claimed to have the copyright over the images and the judge approved a settlement between the estate of Maier and Maloof. In the undisclosed settlement Maloof is still able to exhibit the photo’s that Maier produced when alive.

I thought that it was a good idea to talk about this because so many are miss informed. From clients to photographers. I was recently in a lawsuit that was similar in statute that I was the plaintiff and had to go to court. Knowing this information really helped understand what was going on and help me be successful in the end.

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