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Using photos without owners' permission

34 replies

MirandaGoshawk · 04/04/2012 15:33

I'm posting in PC because I know all you editor types lurk here & you may have some knowledge wrt this.

What's happened is that a couple of years ago I took an unusual photo of a local church, & subsequently offered it to the church fund-raisng committee to use on their Christmas cards, sold locally. It had my name as the photographer.

Now someone has knocked on the door flogging a local history book, and lo and behold, my photo is on the cover and also inside!

I asked the man selling the book to investigate, & he said that the author got a load of photos, diaries, letters etc from a local family & one of the Christmas cards was included, so she used it. She passes on her apologies for using it without an acknowledgement & hopes I'll still buy the book!

Would it be out of order for me to ask for a free copy?

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tricot39 · 04/04/2012 23:00

If she is selling to profit she should be giving you a share of the royalty or a photo fee. you might generously waive this for a free copy if that's what you wanted to do though!

HarrietSchulenberg · 04/04/2012 23:17

I suppose it depends on whether you stipulated to the fundraising committee that the photo was only to be used on their Christmas cards and for their fundraising. If you just gave them the photo, it is up to them what they do with it. Is the book being sold for personal profit or for church fundraising?

Is your photo the main cover picture? If the book is being sold for personal profit I would say you might have an issue as your artwork is being used for promotion without your consent.

MirandaGoshawk · 05/04/2012 12:01

Thanks for your replies. I gave it to the lady at the church & said I was happy for her to use it for fundraising but that I would keep the copyright.

The book is on local history. It's deffo for profit (the man selling it told me that because he has invested in producing it) & has no connection to the church. The photo is one of four on the back cover -sorry it sounded as if it's the main photo.

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PigeonPie · 05/04/2012 22:16

As it's for profit, I think it would be reasonable to ask for a donation to the Church.

I think it's wrong to use photos without the owners' permission. Certainly when I was helping to produce a book I had to write lots of letters to people asking for permission, both for our photographer to take pictures of items and of images already available. Most people, because of the specialist subject of my book (ecclesiastical embroidery) were happy to let us have the images free, but with an acknowledgment which worked well for us.

This is different and feels like it's just cost cutting and quite rude.

MirandaGoshawk · 06/04/2012 19:29

I think she's a novice author & either didn't bother to check or didn't have a clue that she was supposed to ask permission. It's annoying as I have a copy of the card & it has my details on it & I only live a couple of miles away from her.

I found a website called by accident & posted some pics up there - people buy rights to use photos (cost £12 for 10 pics IIRC) and the owner gets 30p each time. I bought some from them to illustrate a website & asked them if my dd could use one on leaflets for a charity fashion show she was involved in - they said No! No passing on to other people. So I nearly got caught out myself.

So if you are writing a newspaper/magazine article about, say, Australia & want a photo of the Harbour Bridge, you go on there & buy rights to use one. This author obviously didn't realise this is what you're supposed to do.

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PigeonPie · 06/04/2012 22:57

Ahh, well maybe it might be nice to contact her in a friendly way to just point out her error so that she doesn't make the mistake again.

NetworkGuy · 07/04/2012 14:47

"either didn't bother to check or didn't have a clue that she was supposed to
ask permission."

I think you're being extremely forgiving, because I thought almost everyone knows that photographs are copyright by the photographer, and many times there have been court cases where someone is sued for using copies.

She and the man helping fund the book should have taken it on themselves to seek permission for EVERY photograph used. You cannot just grab photos willy nilly and use them as you want, as you found when asking the site regarding your DD being able to use a single photo.

"It's annoying as I have a copy of the card & it has my details on it & I only live a couple of miles away from her."

They have no excuse then, and you could ask them to cease selling this book until they have removed your photograph from inside the book and off the cover, as you could sue if they continue to sell the book.

Depends on how harsh you want to be of course, but it sounds like flagrant commercial exploitation, just ripping off works by others and "arranging" some photos into some sort of order, then printing and selling it as if one had taken those photos oneself.

Yes, there's a cost in printing, but there seems like no appreciation of the copyright position, and both funder and 'author' need a clear message they did wrong ! You could request say 20% of all money taken from the sales of the books (10% for being inside, 10% for being on the cover) and not PROFIT but SALES (because they could claim printing ate 80% of sales costs and you'd get peanuts, and ask for the amounts to be based on their accountants figures, as that is likely to mean you'd get an honest figure, not something dreamed up.

Of course, if they scrap plans to sell the books, they will have at least learned their lesson, and think twice before such methods are used again in future (or they will pray they don't knock on the door of a photographer!).

nickelhasababy · 07/04/2012 14:49

if she had a card, she knew you were the photographer, and copyright law says you should make every effort to trace the owner for permission

normally if you can't trace the person, an acknowledgement in the book is enough.

she did neither, evidently, so is massively at fault.

it does depend what you want to do. you have the right to request the book be withdrawn from sale, or to seek reasonable compensation.

MirandaGoshawk · 07/04/2012 23:22

Thanks all. I was a bit worried that you would say IABU Blush. Golly,will you lot ring her for me? I wouldn't have the front to demand they stop selling the book! I am very quite flattered that they chose my photo, which coupled with feeling that someone has stolen something of mine is a very odd feeling.

Yes she did have my name but she would've had to wade through hundreds in the phonebook. I do think it's a bloody cheek, though, to end the email with (quote) 'I hope you won't be put off buying the book' instead of - 'sorry, have a free copy'. I wouldn't have bought one anyway!

And Nickel - I'm going to quote you in my email to the bloke - 'I've had a look on the internet and am advised that...' re tracing the owner & being at fault & wanting reasonable compensation.

Thanks Smile

I'll let you know what happens. (Will wait until after Easter. Seems a bit crass to start being unpleasant on Easter Sunday when we are all in bed eating choc and having sex Hmm)

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MirandaGoshawk · 07/04/2012 23:26

Thanks to you all for your thoughts and advice - and Happy Easter!

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ThatGhastlyWoman · 07/04/2012 23:42

I cannot believe the cheek of these people. I seriously doubt she could have been so ignorant as to not know she ought to (at the very least) ask for permission, or so stupid she couldn't have traced you.

You've had all the relevant advice, but I would just caution you to take a little more time to think before just firing off an email. I think it would actually be better to write a letter, and first seek advice on a professional photographers' forum re: the relevant laws/wording.

I wonder if it's worth trying to find out if anyone else has been ripped off. Is there a local photographic society?

I have been both a photographer and a graphic designer. It just is NOT okay to do this, legally or morally. Grrrrrr! Angry

edam · 07/04/2012 23:49

Outrageous. How dare she try to rip you off like this? DO write to them in very strong terms indeed and insist they stop selling the book until and unless they come to an acceptable agreement with you. Networkguy has given you some good advice here. Forums for professional photographers might be useful, also the Periodical Publishers Assocation has a briefing document on copyright - download it and have a look at the sections on photography.

edam · 07/04/2012 23:51

(And bollocks to her not being able to find you - presumably the church is named on the card so she could have asked there if she had had any intention of obeying the law.)

MirandaGoshawk · 09/04/2012 11:11

Thanks for your advice. Thatghastly yes, I'll do a bit more digging. It's a shame that their email was so dismissive - I am still sure that she is 'innocent' but that she/they have no idea how pissed off I might be feeling. She is a retired lady, the book is a 'hobby' book, and I have twigged that the bloke who is a good customer where I work is her husband, (But he doesn't know that I'm the photographer) and it's a small town, so I don't want to cause too many ructions. I've had a (not very sincere) apology and would be happy with an acknowledgement that she was lax, and a free copy of the book.

I have to admit that until this happened I wouldn't have understood either. DH has taken lots of photos and given them over to illustrate brochures for the company he works for, and he has seen them make their way into other publications, all without any credit to him. It's a small field and if you google the subject you will find his photos in use by other people. Some of them were even taken at his parents' house! Now I understand his frustration.

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AgentProvocateur · 09/04/2012 11:27

I think you're being very forgiving, and possibly overestimating her naivety. You would be well within your rights to invoice her. However, given that you live in a small community and don't want to rock the boat, I would:

Ask the sellers to print an erratum slip to be given out with future copies of the book, crediting you as photographer. I'd also contact the publisher and make it clear that the photo has not to be used again (even on a reprint of the same book) without your permission and credits. I'd also make sure that any copies of the photo that are held by the church have a sticker with your details on the reverse so that this can't happen again.

For the sake of all the amateur/ professional photographers out there (including my best friend) please don't let people steal your work with no repercussions.

ThatGhastlyWoman · 09/04/2012 11:37

That's excellent advice, AgentProvocateur. Sounds like the OP's husband could use it, too!

MirandaGoshawk · 09/04/2012 17:30

Thanks. When I get my free copy I'll contact the publisher.

In fact if I don't get a free copy I might contact them & ask for one! Smile

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MirandaGoshawk · 09/04/2012 18:42

Actually, for future reference I've just found something that sets out the legal position very clearly - a factsheet on the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

Relevant bit defines what's covered, and includes:

"photography, painting, sculptures ..." (also plays, logos etc)

It goes on to say:

"Copyright is an automatic right and arises whenever an individual or company creates a work... [They are] referred to as the ?first owner of copyright? under the 1988 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act."

Under "Restrictions" it says:

"It is an offence to perform any of the following acts without the consent of the owner:

Copy the work.

Rent, lend or issue copies of the work to the public.

Show the work in public.

The author of a work may also have certain moral rights:

The right to be identified as the author."

So, very interesting Smile

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nickelhasababy · 10/04/2012 10:57

the publisher also might find it a good idea to put in all remaining copies, a sticker stating that you are the photographer. you know, at the back where acknowledgements go

nickelhasababy · 10/04/2012 11:00

I would actually be inclined to ask for a whole box of free copies (usually about 40 in a box) and distribute them to friends and family.
that'd be worth about £300.

namechangingagain · 10/04/2012 11:02

there is loads of stuff about this on a forum I am on hang on Ill post some stuff.

maybenow · 10/04/2012 11:03

I work in a role which involves a high risk of contravening other people's copyright (working with old archives). We try our best to find the photographer (she has no excuse) but if we absolutely cannot find the photographer and then they appear later we usually offer a fee to the photographer and any re-print/marketing/website has their name added. We generally try to avoid pulling something entirely and reprinting as this is actually unaffordable (we're not a publisher) and so the reprint would just not happen and sales/profits doesn't apply to us either as our stuff is free to the public.
We pay about £150-£350 for educational use of an image like you've described and i'd expect commercial use to be more.

namechangingagain · 10/04/2012 11:08

I cant find what I am looking for, but basically there are some standard letters out there people send looking for payment as its breech of copyright

Ill take a look later when Im not with DCs and copy and paste it for you

PigletJohn · 10/04/2012 11:35

If you don't want to have a go at the author, have a go at the publisher.

Point out in a very short and businesslike letter that it is a breach of copyright and ask what they propose to do about it.

You might or might not accept their proposal.

MirandaGoshawk · 10/04/2012 13:15

Namechanging OK, thanks, that's very kind. I'll hang fire on doing anything for a bit.

Piglet Good point re publisher - but no doubt she assured them that she had permission to use all the photos. Silly woman. Normal people don't assume that they have the right to print a Christmas card in a book. I'm probably going to write to her first & perhaps indicate threaten that I'll contact the publisher if necessary.

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