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  1. #1
    News & Rum-or-ator opus's Avatar
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    Who owns the shot?

    A hypothetical question, but one that could have come up for me if the picture was a little bit more important:

    Suppose a person supplies a camera for a group of people to use ... say, a wedding, or they bring their camera to a reunion or something. Several different people grab the camera over time and fill a roll or a card. The original owner of the camera (who may also have used the camera) takes the camera home and processes the images, perhaps puts them on the internet.

    Who owns the individual shots? For purposes of:

    ...bragging rights? (awwww, this captures the perfect moment!)
    ...obstruction of use? (I don't want that picture of my cousin on the internet! I took the shot just as he was about to sneeze.)
    ...potential fame and profit? (Hey! Is that the Loch Ness Monster in the background?)
    ...business? (I'm sure I took this photo, and I want to use it in my portfolio!)


    If each individual photographer owns "their" shots, how can it be proven who took which ones?
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  2. #2
    Moderator Didache's Avatar
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    Re: Who owns the shot?

    What a fascinating question! The short answer is that I have no idea!

    I would guess that it is the taker who owns the image (regardless of who owns the camera) - the problem, as you say, is how to prove who took what.

    Mike
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  3. #3
    Kentucky Wildlife
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    Re: Who owns the shot?

    That's a pretty far fetched hypothetical, but after thinking about it, I've been faced with similar scenarios in my business. It's only happened a few time during more than 30 years, but there have been a few occasions when I've been forced to come from behind the camera to pose as the model and have someone else press the shutter button, and I've wondered who should really get credit.
    It was my idea, I set up the scene and the camera settings and instructed them about when to press the button, but I wasn't really the one who "took" the picture. Finally I decided that all the creativity, the equipment and everything but a mechanical move belonged to me. I probably could have done the same thing with a time-release shot, but having him press the shutter at an exact time was easier. Does a studio photographer give photo credits to his assistant because he moved the lighting in a way that created a great shot?
    Then I figured that possession is 9/10 of the law, but still wondered about it when I submitted the image for publication, expecting payment for that image. I decided to put "Photo by Ron Kruger." Everything about it was mine, except for a robotic operation. That happened decades ago, and since then, and because of that, I've been very reluctant to come out from behind the camera, except when my wife is helping me.
    I did, however, have a circumstance last year where I used a couple of images that a friend supplied. I didn't have good illustrations for the story I was writing, and my friend not only happened to be an avid photographer, but a factory rep for the product in question. I gave him photo credits, but I kept the money, which was actually a package price for story and pictures. He was happy to get something published and knows that I don't make much in the first place and the company he reps for was extremely pleased with both of us--everybody was happy.

  4. #4
    project forum co-moderator Frog's Avatar
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    Re: Who owns the shot?

    I think the shooter owns them.
    Suppose the camera is rented.....the renter wouldn't own the shots.
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  5. #5
    Learning more with every "click" mjs1973's Avatar
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    Re: Who owns the shot?

    My first thought after reading your post was that without a dought, the person who took the photo, owns the rights to that photo. It's pretty standard practice to leave disposable cameras out for the guests at a wedding reception to be used by the guests to document the reception. I suppose if someone wanted to, they could lay claim to the images they took, but like others have said, how would you prove who took the photo? I guess it's just kind of implied in that situation that the bride/groom are going to have the film developed and keep the prints. Not that that is the "legal" thing to do, but that's just the way it is.

    Ron's situation is a bit different. After reading it, it reminded me of an interview I saw with Gregory Crewdson. If you're not familiar with his work, here it is in a nutshell. He stages him images on a very large scale, and then captures the image on a LF camera. In the interview, I could swear I saw an assistant trip the shutter on the camera, while Crewson stood next to him. Nobody questions that the photo belongs to Crewdson. He directed and set everything up the way he wanted it. Here is the video, see for yourself. The tripping of the shutter happens at 4:15 into the video.

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  6. #6
    Senior Member brmill26's Avatar
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    Re: Who owns the shot?

    Copyright has nothing to do with who owns the physical thing - whether we mean the thing that makes the picture (camera) or the picture itself. It's 100% an intellectual property right. That means it's totally an intangible thing; an idea.

    So the person who owns the shot is the person who shoots it - that shot was the shooter's idea. If you hand someone else your camera, he owns ALL rights to any photo he shoots with it - unless he is working for you, such as a photo assistant/grip. Your purposes, Opus, do not effect that; it's for all purposes.

    But as with anything there is a reality check. Take the wedding example as easiest - the disposable camera set out for the guests to use. Is anyone really going to want those photos other than the bride/groom? No. Is there any use for them beyond sentiment? Hardly ever. So the reality is, in most cases, it does not come up.

    Ron's case (mechanically triggering the button) brings up an interesting and complex point. If you do ALL of the creative work and a monkey (real or otherwise) presses the button, you own the copyright b/c copyright vests in the creativity, not the mechanical action. Regarding assistants, if they are working for you, you own the rights. There are complex and simple ways to go at that, but that's almost always the way it is.

    EXCEPTION: Work for hire. This is a bit of pitfall, so working photographers should be very aware of this. If, for example, a rich businessman commissions you to do a portrait of himself for X amount of dollars, this is a work for hire, and HE owns the Copyrights, NOT you! This is again a fairly complex thing, but any time you do work under a contract, ALWAYS state that it is NOT a work for hire somewhere in there! The courts will tend to take your side on this issue, but it's much better for you to be aware of it in the first place, so do some reading on that issue.


    Edit: Mike posted while I was typing, but that's exactly right. Crewson did all of the creative work, while the assistant merely mechanically tripped the shutter. So Crewson owns the rights via that reasoning as well as by the photographic employee reasoning.
    Brad

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  7. #7
    News & Rum-or-ator opus's Avatar
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    Re: Who owns the shot?

    Basically what happened in my situation is that I directed a play, and my actors brought their cameras and wanted pictures of themselves taken. My stage manager took some shots, and I took some shots. One shot captures a precious moment where all three faces tell a different story, which work together to tell a greater story. I think I took that shot. I want to keep a copy of that picture for myself and put it in my portfolio. But I can't prove that I actually took that shot because I can't remember, precisely, if my hands were on the camera at that moment. I think I did, but the whole day was a blur and I didn't keep track of individual moments. And while this isn't an issue of whether the "camera owner" owns the shot ... he is obviously IN the picture, so he couldn't have taken it ... it got me to thinking about the hypothetical question.

    And what if I claim the shot as mine, but if I went back in time found out I didn't really take it? Am I crossing some ethical line? My stage manager couldn't care less because she has no use for the photo. I am the only one who cares about ownership, although the owner of the camera, the subject IN the picture, obviously cares about the photo because it is a depiction of HIM doing his creative work. My photo is merely a documentation of a moment that he (and the others) created in their bodies.

    Do I let the photo disappear into obscurity because I can't prove (or disprove) that I took it?
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  8. #8
    Senior Shooter Greg McCary's Avatar
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    Re: Who owns the shot?

    What an interesting question. I thought about something similar. I wanted a traditional print of one of my shots, so I sent the negative to Aaron, he made several prints on different papers. He could have dodged and burned and all sorts of things, I am not sure what all he done, but who owns the prints? I framed and matted one of them and it is stunning. But if I enter the picture in a contest, who owns the rights to the print?
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  9. #9
    Kentucky Wildlife
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    Re: Who owns the shot?

    Hey Brmill,
    While we're at it, as you know I'm headed down your way to shoot a week-long event. I had a not so interesting conversation with the guy who runs the thing, and it took me a long time to pin him down to what he wants to do with the photos. He hemmed and hawed and dropped his voice often to where it was hard to hear.
    Like most everyone, he wanted my professional photos for nothing, and even said things like, "what if we throw in room and board."
    He kept talking about a flat fee (the work for hire thing), but I don't really trust this guy.
    Finally I got him to commit to a use, which sounded like much less that he implied at the beginning, and instead of a working fee, I offered him access to all shots, and a set charge for each one he chooses.
    Normally I don't do this, but I'm going to write a simple contract designating rights and usage and include spaces for a list with discription of each image he selects.
    If he balks at that, I won't show him a thing and just shoot for myself. That alone will be worth the trip, and the outfitter I'm going with thinks I can sell a lot of pix of contestant's dog. These dogs are worth thousands of dollars each, and this is a very expensive sport, so I'll bet his is right.
    By the way, I got my camera back this afternoon.

  10. #10
    Senior Member brmill26's Avatar
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    Re: Who owns the shot?

    Wow, lots of intriguing stuff in here! See what I mean about this Copyright stuff? Such a mess isn't? I mean it's the entire basis of our ability to make money doing photography, but on the other hand, it can really tie your brain in knots some times!

    Opus - It sounds like that's really your call. If you were shooting images just like that, and simply didn't capture that moment (or maybe you did), then ethically I wouldn't think it'd be a problem including it in your portfolio, because whether you actually snapped that one shot or not, it just as well could have been you since you were shooting in the same style. But if it really bothers you that you can't be sure, I'd say it's best left out, just so you can always be sure you're presenting to the client exactly what is yours.

    Greg - That's a fantastic question with a lot of layers. The prints themselves are a physical thing, so their owner is whomever has paid for them, just the same as any other piece of property. You still own the copyright in the images, however (ie, the right to reproduce that print).

    But what you are also asking is whether Aaron gains anything from the creativity he put into developing your film. And the answer isn't straight forward; it depends. If Aaron merely developed your film and made the usual adjustments for exposure, color, minor corrects, then he hasn't done enough to gain anything. But what if, as you say, he does a lot of dodge and burn, significant retouching, etc.? He has created a derivative work. If he did this with your permission, then it was done under license. If he did it w/o your permission, and he tries to or does sell it, you can sue him. ;) Not that you would, of course, but that would be a violation of your copyrights. See this link for a little elaboration: http://www.artslaw.org/DERIV.HTM

    So to answer your final question, if you enter the print in a competition, you own the rights. You created the thing upon which all else was based; without your original (photo), the derivative work (if it is one) is nothing.


    Ron - I didn't mean to unnecessary concern you (or anyone else) about the works for hire provision. It's rare that it happens, but it is *very* important to be aware of it just in case you ever come across a sly client. This link will help you out, and even gives a suggested provision for you to add into your contract: http://www.artslaw.org/WFHIRE.HTM

    As for everything else, unfortunately that's the way it goes so often for us all. Many people don't appreciate the value of our work. And for us it's always a battle between controlling the (mis)use of our work vs. making a sale or not.

    For any sizable job, it is my preference to always operate under a written agreement. I don't always do a single formal document (though this is best) b/c I work over the internet so much, but I always get the main terms in writing. That way, the client knows what he's getting and I know what I have to do. If there's any dispute, you simply pull up the document and look at what it says. It also helps eliminate the hem-haw you described above - you have in writing, each shot will cost X; if you buy 10, then a ___ discount applies, and so on. No dodging around on the phone, no accusations over who owes what. That's why I prefer a contract.

    Judging by that guy's reactions, I think you're dead on. I wouldn't trust him either. I think it'd be a great idea to get something in writing first, that way you all know where you stand.
    Brad

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  11. #11
    Senior Member jetrim's Avatar
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    Re: Who owns the shot?

    Quote Originally Posted by brmill26

    Opus - It sounds like that's really your call. If you were shooting images just like that, and simply didn't capture that moment (or maybe you did), then ethically I wouldn't think it'd be a problem including it in your portfolio, because whether you actually snapped that one shot or not, it just as well could have been you since you were shooting in the same style. But if it really bothers you that you can't be sure, I'd say it's best left out, just so you can always be sure you're presenting to the client exactly what is yours.
    After reading through all this, I think if it were me, I would consult with everyone else who had their hands on the camera that day and simply ask if anyone else has a problem with including it in your portfolio. If there is no dissension, then there's no ethical dilemma in my mind, as long as you are *reasonably* sure you took it, and have followed up with due diligence.

  12. #12
    Kentucky Wildlife
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    Re: Who owns the shot?

    Brmil--it is very kind of you to offer your expertise here. I went to the link you provided and copied that catch-all sentence about work-for-hire to include in this and any other contract.
    I've already had a bitter-sweet brush with work-for-hire. I worked for a few years as the editor of a slick magazine, and I shot a great number of pictures for the magazine, some of which were used on the inside and on a few covers. When I quit, I left behind hundreds of good images that would have served me well, but because I was an employee, they belonged to the publisher, and he was firm about that fact.
    The magazine went out of business a few months after I left, and all those good images have been left stored in a filing cabnet somewhere, of no use to anyone. To me it was like losing them in a fire or something.
    In my freelance business, I quit selling "all rights" to anything decades ago, and I consider work-for-hire the same thing.

  13. #13
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    Re: Who owns the shot?

    Hey everyone,
    I'm in a similar situation and I'm really doubting what to do. I was doing a shoot for a typography book I'm working on. The theme is falling inlove and since noone wanted to go stark infront of the camera I ended up doing it myself.

    I asked a friend to stand behind the camera and help me out. I set everything up. Set the aparature size and shutterspeed, did a couple of testshots to show him exactly what I was after. We're in school together doing shootings almost on a daily basis so normally this wouldn't be a problem. We just help eachother out. No credit needed.

    But this time it turned out different, the pictures turned out amazing and he wants "the ones he took" for his portfolio. I don't really know what to say to him. In my mind there's no doubt that this is my creative property since it's my concept my setting my lighting my camera etc.

    But the fact still remains, he held the camera, he might have given us some friendly advice about what poses that looked good. Can I refuse him these photos?

    HELP!

  14. #14
    Captain of the Ship Photo-John's Avatar
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    New Thread?

    Johanna-
    Maybe you should start a new thread for this. You're in a different country and I think there are a few other key differences with your case.
    Photo-John

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  15. #15
    Stop Or I'll Shoot Photography Lori11's Avatar
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    Re: Who owns the shot?

    What great information here. I have read it twice, and the confusion is lessening lol
    I had someone shoot some paddock shots for me while I was shooting on the track. The understanding was, those photos would be used by me, and sold to the riders/drivers with the shots I took of them. I did give him his shots (he is so new he still squeeks) with the request that if he uses them to use his name and "shot for" my business name. because this was SO SO minor, it was fine with me. I have to keep things simple and not over complicated this as to take the fun out of it lol.....that being said, Im off to read this whole thread again. (Brad is not as confusing in person I might add LOL)

  16. #16
    COEXIST DGK*CRONE's Avatar
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    Re: Who owns the shot?

    possession is 9/10 of the law?
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  17. #17
    Formerly Michael Fanelli, mwfanelli, mfa mwfanelli2's Avatar
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    Re: Who owns the shot?

    Two Thoughts...

    If I ask someone on the street to "take our picture" do I now cede the rights to the image to that stranger? I think not.

    If there is a group camera available and you are worried about owning your particular shots, DON"T USE IT! Use your own camera or refrain from photography.

    Years ago, I took a bunch of wedding shots for a friend that the bride liked better than the pro. At no time did I wonder whether I owned the images. You do someone a favor you don't expect to be paid for it. All legalities aside, that's just tacky.
    “Men never do evil so cheerfully and completely as when they do so from religious conviction.” — Blaise Pascal

  18. #18
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    Re: Who owns the shot?

    Quote Originally Posted by opus
    Who owns the individual shots? For purposes of:

    ...bragging rights? (awwww, this captures the perfect moment!)
    ...obstruction of use? (I don't want that picture of my cousin on the internet! I took the shot just as he was about to sneeze.)
    ...potential fame and profit? (Hey! Is that the Loch Ness Monster in the background?)
    ...business? (I'm sure I took this photo, and I want to use it in my portfolio!)
    ?
    Unless George Clooney, Julia Roberts, or Madonna is your cousin, and he/she gets drunk and urinates on the cake or in a cup and serves it to a 5 year old, no one would care about any shots at a family get together.
    Trust me.
    Not even my cousins care to look at any photos 5 years after a wedding or a birthday.
    All people want is to eat free food, not to look at shots of grandpa whose sister's granddaughter got married... and then ifcourse divorced 3 years later. Who in turn disposed of the wedding album, video, and all shots of her in-laws.

  19. #19
    COEXIST DGK*CRONE's Avatar
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    Re: Who owns the shot?

    Quote Originally Posted by Romphotog
    Unless George Clooney, Julia Roberts, or Madonna is your cousin, and he/she gets drunk and urinates on the cake or in a cup and serves it to a 5 year old, no one would care about any shots at a family get together.
    Trust me.
    Not even my cousins care to look at any photos 5 years after a wedding or a birthday.
    All people want is to eat free food, not to look at shots of grandpa whose sister's granddaughter got married... and then ifcourse divorced 3 years later. Who in turn disposed of the wedding album, video, and all shots of her in-laws.

    lol! too funny
    Marco Arreguin

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