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Photography Copyright – Employee/Employer

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Viewing 13 posts - 1 through 13 (of 13 total)
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  • #2238
    choo
    Participant

    Hello there, fellow Farktographers!

    I don’t see a specific forum for this nor do I want to go into much detail, but I’m having some labor relation problems with my current employer and that’s entirely besides the point.

    I work as a drafter at my company. Since I’m a hobbyist farktographer, I’ve been taking pictures of all the stuff we design and manufacture, with permission from the powers that be. Recently, I was chewed out and threatened for not “taking enough photos” of the last system we built and as per that conversation, I am all of a sudden charged with and responsible for taking photographs at the company that rise to the president’s level of “perfection.”

    I’ve never signed any authorization for giving the rights to my photos away, and the company has used them for advertising and publishing without even blinking twice about compensating me for this work. This was not in my job description, all the photos were taken with my equipment by myself and for my own purposes(to make my job easier.) I was more or less being kind enough to let them use my photos for whatever their purposes may be. After that last conversation, I feel my goodwill has run out.

    I’m curious if I still have the rights to my photos, as in can I seek unauthorized use and possible restitution?

    Thanks for reading and I like hearing from GED lawyers! 🙂

    #38203
    CauseISaidSo
    Participant

    Did you sign a contract when you first started? If so, you might want to read the fine print there. In the software industry, usually your employer can claim rights to any software you write while under their employ. So for example, even if you write a game on your own time on your own machine, they can claim it unless you can clearly prove that it was started before your hire date. I’ve never had an employer be enough of an ass to try to pull something like that, though, unless the software was directly related to their line of business.

    If there’s no specific statement in the contract claiming rights to employees’ creations, then I would guess that you’d both be able to claim equal rights, meaning that they can use the photos for whatever purpose but so can you. The reason for their claim would be that you created them on their time (i.e. while on the clock) and your claim would be that you used your own equipment and it isn’t part of your job description.

    That said, if this is something they want you to do and expect to be part of your job, I’d definitely make them provide the equipment or at least otherwise compensate you for the use of yours. And if they’re using them for promotional purposes, they must be good enough for you to be able to demand more compensation because going outside for that kind of work would be expensive.

    But that’s all just my opinion. I don’t have any explicit experience in the legal or photographic rights areas, so don’t interpret it as legal advice. 😉

    #38204
    ennuipoet
    Participant

    Long and short of the answer is this: it depends.

    Different states have different laws regarding this sort of thing. On the veneer, you retain full rights to your photographs. Unless you signed a derivative works contract that is worded in such a way that your employer retains those rights. Since you are photographing proprietary information and technology of the company, they could stop publication based on that. If for some reason you were looking to publish, this would be most likely venue to block it.

    You should definitely negotiate a separate agreement for your photography, clearly defining the rules and compensation of any and all photo work you do for your company. Whether or not you are considering publishing or just looking to be compensated for your time and energy, this is a must.

    #38205
    choo
    Participant

    Did you sign a contract when you first started? If so, you might want to read the fine print there. <

    That’s a negative, no contract was signed at all. The only thing in my file is my application with my signature and I also signed a non-compete for working with competitors.

    Part of my beef is that the president hired her own professional photographer for a few days before this system shipped. He charged $100/hour + she would have had to pay for image rights. After she realized her mistake she took this out on me for not getting enough photos. The VP actually tasked me with video-ing the event with a camera he purchased, but I’ve taken over 1000 photos for them over the past 2.5 years. I’m salary so I wasn’t even compensated for my overtime hours which are usually for that purpose. Free work for them.

    #38206
    Uranus
    Participant

    check your common law as well.

    Both in South Africa and the Netherlands (and in both countries for US-based firms), anything you create relating to the business is property of the employer. You don’t necessarily have had to sign away anything. This is standard.

    On a related note: why in the name of all that’s wonderful do you not have an employment contract? With one, you could have avoided some of this nastiness. Get one.

    #38207
    Kestrana
    Participant

    What you’ve already done for them might wind up being moot but definitely for anything further you are asked to do you should have them sign a contract spelling out exactly what kind of rights and compensation both parties deserve. There are some handy legal forms you can use at: http://www.brighthub.com/multimedia/photography/articles/14258.aspx
    or search around on the web, there are many variations and you can alter them to fit your needs.

    #38208
    choo
    Participant

    You should definitely negotiate a separate agreement for your photography, clearly defining the rules and compensation of any and all photo work you do for your company. Whether or not you are considering publishing or just looking to be compensated for your time and energy, this is a must.

    Thanks ennui, that’s great advice. As of that conversation, the President tacked on another job that I’m not being compensated for and have strict undefined goals in a global sense. I recorded the conversation because she’s a threatening boss who is condescending to all her employees.

    I’ve filed a labor complaint on behalf of my coworkers and myself. I’m certain they are 100% in violation of FLSA wage laws for multiple employees here. That’s really the nicest thing I could do for them.

    I’m not thinking of publishing these photos as they’re mostly for archival and research and for building more systems related to this company. Almost entirely useless except for people in this industry, which that non-compete shuts me out of anyway.

    #38209
    choo
    Participant

    Thanks Kestrana and Uranus!

    I was doing this out of the kindness of my heart. The boss has used what I was doing for free for them, and turned it around into a job requirement that she threatened my job with in a roundabout way. I shouldn’t *have* to take photos for them, but if I refuse now I will be fired.

    #38210
    Kestrana
    Participant

    If it’s getting that nasty I would definitely consult a legal expert and make a report to your company’s HR department if there is one. Or go to your boss’ boss, or another lateral supervisor with your concerns.

    #38211
    choo
    Participant

    Kes – They fired HR lady after she started trying to clean up the place. The original owner passed away and he would not have wanted his family to run this business. All I’m really doing is looking for a new horizon and trying get out of this insane hostile workplace. If I had a new job tomorrow, I wouldn’t even care about this, but I’m forced to do this out of a desire to see things right.

    There’s a lot of sociopaths out there.

    #38212
    caradoc
    Participant

    It may be worth your while to talk to an attorney who specializes in intellectual property, but I doubt it.

    In your shoes, I think my camera would be “broken” until I found a new job.

    #38213
    choo
    Participant

    https://www.mibank.com/mibank/Small%20Business/Business%20Resource%20Center/Library/copyrightstrademarksandpatents

    If you were paid to create the work, whether as an employee or under a work-for-hire agreement, you then do not own the copyright and are not granted legal rights to what you created.

    One exception is photography; even if you were hired to take photographs, you retain the rights to those photographs unless your work-for-hire agreement specifically assigns the rights to the hiring party. For example, a wedding photographer hired by a couple to photograph their wedding retains ownership and rights to those images, even though he or she was hired to create those photographs.

    In the U.S., copyright is granted for the lifetime of the creator plus fifty years.

    As a result you are not required to register a copyright, but doing so can help you insure your claim is valid and enforceable, especially if you are forced to sue due to copyright infringement. You can register material you wish to protect by copyright at the U.S. Copyright Office

    #38214
    Zero_Exponent
    Participant

    “even if you were hired to take photographs, you retain the rights to those photographs unless your work-for-hire agreement specifically assigns the rights to the hiring party”

    Since you have no contract, this GED lawyer says you have an iron clad case to seek compensation for the photos that were used without your permission. Best of luck with this stressful situation, choo.

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