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DPChallenge Forums >> Business of Photography >> Copyright and ownership . . .
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03/25/2017 07:35:45 PM · #1
By day, I am a sheriffs sergeant and a hobby photographer in my spare time. Last month we had a major crisis with the emergency spillway at the lake. On day one of the evacuations I grabbed my camera and started documenting the event. On day two, I was assigned to the war room at the center of operations and that would be my assignment for the next 18 days.

The sheriff became a pivotal player in the entire thing and saw me with my camera, clicking away . . . Not only did he approve of me photo-documenting the Sheriff's perspective through this, he paid me for my after hours editing to supply our PIOs with a steady stream of photos. I have amassed an awesome and unique collection of photos that I am now crafting into a photo-book that the sheriff would like to make publicly available. My behind the scenes access was made possible by my position - no access allowed to the public or press....

With that background, where do I stand as far as ownership and copyright? Thanks a ton for your input!

Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_1195850.jpg
03/25/2017 07:50:33 PM · #2
Unless you were making the photos as part of your official duties as assigned by your superiors or job description you should "own" or retain the copyright to the photos. You might want to execute an official (ex post facto) royalty-free license to the Department allowing them to use the photos (without payment) to make it clear(er) that you retain the copyrights.

If the Department/County want to claim "ownership" you might need to consult an attorney or check out a book on IP law (Bert Krages has been a pioneer in this field) ...

I'm not a lawyer but my mom worked on L.A. LAW ... ;-)
03/25/2017 07:53:38 PM · #3
The term “Copyright” is often misunderstood. Especially when it comes to art and photography.

The first and most obvious question would therefore be; What is Copyright?In simple terms, copyright for photographers means owning property. With ownership, you get certain exclusive rights to that property. For photographic copyrights, the ownership rights include:
(1) to reproduce the photograph;
(2) to prepare derivative works based upon the photograph;
(3) to distribute copies of the photograph to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;
(4) to display the photograph publicly;

Who owns the copyright in a photograph once it is taken?
In general, when the shutter is released, the photographer who pressed the button owns the copyright. An exception is when the image falls into the “work-made-for-hire”(also known as “work for hire”) category. A work-made-for-hire relationship is created in two situations: (1) the photographer is an employee hired to take photographs for the employer—an example would be a photojournalist who is an employee of a newspaper but not a wedding or portrait photographer who is hired for one event; or (2) the photographer is hired to provide photographs for collective works or compilations and signs a written agreement that specifically states that the work is to be considered a work made for hire. Therefore, freelance photographers are subjected to work-for-hire status only when they agree to it contractually.

As you didn't have a work for hire agreement or contract for the pictures, then you retain the copyright and none of the above (1-4) can be done without your prior permission.
03/25/2017 08:55:08 PM · #4
Also, the copyright law itself and many useful publications and forms are available at the US Copyright Office ...

If you are going to publish a book I recommend go ahead and register the photos right now -- you should be able to submit them as a "collection" under a single title (and for a single registration fee).
03/25/2017 09:27:39 PM · #5
I'm wondering... If you were working... for pay... for a company... or an entitiy... while you were shooting... I think that THEY own your images.

Much like if you were working in a lab... and discovered something awesome while being paid. They'd own your ... uhh... "awesomeness", I think.

03/25/2017 10:50:47 PM · #6
I suspect that because you were paid and/or working when you took the pictures, at least some of them are owned by your employee, even if you did not take them directly for them.

You might Google a case of a fire fighter or Forest Ranger, who took a picture of a deer in the middle of a stream that was surrounded by a forest fire. He used his camera but he was working at the time and if I remember right, it was determined that he did not own the image. If any state is going to come down on the opposite side of the photographer, it will be California.

You will want to discuss this with a IP lawyer. Many give the first 15 minutes as a free consultation and you might be able to get your answer that quick.

Mike
03/25/2017 10:51:55 PM · #7
I'm having a little deja vu here. Didn't we already have this discussion about this very dam and these photographs? With quite a few sample photographs linked? Just wondering why we aren't continuing the initial discussion.

Edited to add: I don't remember the op of the other thread at all - but this is very similar. The one I recall was about the dam in Central California that was threatened (and continues to be compromised, I think). Can anyone find that thread?

Message edited by author 2017-03-26 00:49:26.
03/26/2017 12:54:28 AM · #8
Thanks for the great discussion, here. I am grateful of the different opinions and perspectives here that come from a wide range of experience.

I did post before: Previous thread but it was a different question in a different topic. I thought this new question would be better asked here, though.

Message edited by author 2017-03-26 08:44:21.
03/26/2017 01:29:31 AM · #9
Originally posted by aircooledguy:

Thanks for the great discussion, here. I am grateful of the different opinions and perspectives here that come from a wide range of experience.

I did post before: http://www.dpchallenge.com/forum.php?action=read&FORUM_THREAD_ID=1341405 but it was a different question in a different topic. I thought this new question would be better asked here, though.


Thanks - I thought I was losing it LOL And I see that the discussion there never did go in this direction, so I can certainly see why you asked this in a new thread. I hadn't really followed the original thread - just checked in early on because I found your experience interesting - so I wondered whether anything relevant had been said.
03/26/2017 08:42:10 AM · #10
Originally posted by MikeJ:

You might Google a case of a fire fighter or Forest Ranger, who took a picture of a deer in the middle of a stream that was surrounded by a forest fire. He used his camera but he was working at the time and if I remember right, it was determined that he did not own the image.


This is what I was looking for - thanks, Mike! I had always "heard" and known that profiting from my photos taken while I worked was either an ethical or legal no-no and until now, have never felt like I needed a solid answer. I wasn't sure where to start looking for it, but knew if anyone could help, it would be a photographers community like DPC.

I did a google search based on your suggestion and found the iphoto and some discussion. The image you are referring to is "Elk Bath" taken in August of 2000 by John McColgan, a Department of Agriculture employee and fire behavior expert. When the photographer of Elk Bath was discovered, he acknowledged that he could not profit from the image since he was employed in public service at the time he took the photo.

This is a great place to start my definitive search for the right answer - thank you!
03/26/2017 07:04:28 PM · #11
If you doodle during a phone call or meeting- and you sell it-you owe your company? No. Make sure you take pictures on your break. ;)
03/27/2017 06:45:54 AM · #12
Originally posted by QuickClickMick:

The term “Copyright” is often misunderstood. Especially when it comes to art and photography.

The first and most obvious question would therefore be; What is Copyright?In simple terms, copyright for photographers means owning property. With ownership, you get certain exclusive rights to that property. For photographic copyrights, the ownership rights include:
(1) to reproduce the photograph;
(2) to prepare derivative works based upon the photograph;
(3) to distribute copies of the photograph to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;
(4) to display the photograph publicly;

Who owns the copyright in a photograph once it is taken?
In general, when the shutter is released, the photographer who pressed the button owns the copyright. An exception is when the image falls into the “work-made-for-hire”(also known as “work for hire”) category. A work-made-for-hire relationship is created in two situations: (1) the photographer is an employee hired to take photographs for the employer—an example would be a photojournalist who is an employee of a newspaper but not a wedding or portrait photographer who is hired for one event; or (2) the photographer is hired to provide photographs for collective works or compilations and signs a written agreement that specifically states that the work is to be considered a work made for hire. Therefore, freelance photographers are subjected to work-for-hire status only when they agree to it contractually.

As you didn't have a work for hire agreement or contract for the pictures, then you retain the copyright and none of the above (1-4) can be done without your prior permission.

I am totally agree with all of the points you have mentioned here on copyright.
03/27/2017 11:01:57 PM · #13
I'm glad you found the image. I knew it was a while ago (boy how time flies when you are getting old :D) but I remember it was a outstanding picture during a very tragic situation and the case of the photographer.

Mike
07/06/2017 06:21:42 PM · #14
Originally posted by blindjustice:

If you doodle during a phone call or meeting- and you sell it-you owe your company? No. Make sure you take pictures on your break. ;)

this is so true.

about 20-some years ago i knew some software developers that worked on a business management system for their employer (a rather large company). they kept suggesting improvements, but their boss kept dismissing them. so they started working on their own version on their own time. then they started selling it. and then they started picking up customization and consulting work, finally enough to formalize a company and give notice.

of course, their boss freaked out and threatened all types of litigation (and probably could have crushed these guys). however, he soon realized that he had painted himself into a corner by allowing them to be the only developers on what had evolved into a mission critical system that only they could support until someone else could be brought up to speed...so they came to an "understanding". i don't know whatever happened to the boss, but both of those guys retired way early.

as for the photography stuff, yeah, if you're on someone's clock, they probably own your stuff...unless you get something in writing ahead of time that specifically spells out ownership.
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