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School photographs

by rising_phoenix / October 16, 2007 10:06 AM PDT

I just received the order form for my son's school picture day. It had various pricing packages for different size and numbers of prints. Now, this may just be that I wasn't paying attention before, but I noticed that I could pay $3 less than the listed price if I didn't want the "copyright" option. This option was listed as being the legal right to scan and copy the pictures. Now, shouldn't I, after having paid both for the service of taking the photo and for the goods of the prints, not to mention being the parent and legal guardian of the child in the picture, have the right to reproduce those prints for my own use? And if not, shouldn't the "copyright" option mean that I get the negatives?

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by briandude246 / October 16, 2007 2:25 PM PDT
In reply to: School photographs

What has the world come to!?!?!?!
A 'copyright' on your son's pictures!??!!?
Anyways.........who knows if you DO copy and scan it (fight the man!).
I'm just here to laugh at the suckers that got outed THREE 'DOLLAZ'

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consider the current Virgin Mobile // Flickr issue...
by shawnlin / October 16, 2007 11:54 PM PDT
In reply to: School photographs

it reminds me of this lawsuits over using the Flickr photo in a Virgin Mobile Campaign:

I don't know enough about copyright law...but just playing devil's advocate here, the only way I can see this $3 fee is for a *transfer* of the copyright.

As an amateur photographer myself, if someone made a picture of a postcard I had on sale and started distributing it as their own or to make their own profits, I *think* I could, if I chose to, sue for use that is unintended by the author of the photograph - me.

...But copyright is going to be extinct and all information will be opened in ~10-20 years some say so maybe this is part of that evolution...


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It sucks but...
by three_toed_frog / October 17, 2007 12:36 AM PDT
In reply to: School photographs

This is atually pretty common.

The idea is that it's an artistic work, so that means the photographer or company that took your child's picture owns the copyright to that "work".

If you look on the back of the photo, you'd find a copyright/unauthorized reproduction message there.

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But the pictures are so overpriced
by Vance14 / October 17, 2007 1:36 AM PDT
In reply to: It sucks but...

I figured that the right to do as I wished with the prints was built in since the mark-up was horrendous. As a result, we always just buy the smallest package, immediately scan it and use the scans for everything from then on. I assumed that the price had gotten so outrageous exactly because they were only able to sell the smallest package nowadays.

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outrageously priced; supply vs. demand...
by shawnlin / October 17, 2007 3:15 AM PDT

yeah, I've seen some pricing packages and I think it may be part of the starving artist issue - they gotta eat, pay their ever increasing bills, insurance, supplies, etc. of course - so do you! Happy

But if you don't like the prices, honestly, don't buy 'em in the first place and let the supply/demand dynamics work in concert with your financial conscience. You are the customer, you are right. ya know?


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I agree with that entirely, but
by Vance14 / October 17, 2007 5:51 AM PDT

really the pictures do have SOME value, just not as much as they want to charge. The cheapest package is basically what the "art" contribution on their part is worth to us.

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So has the subject signed a release to the copyright holder?
by punterjoe / October 18, 2007 8:35 AM PDT
In reply to: It sucks but...

Does any of the paperwork involved in getting this photo taken include some sort of general release of the subject? If not, wouldn't it ba a stalemate, with the photographer being able to prevent any unauthorized use of the photo, and the subject being able to prevent any unauthorized use by the photographer?
$3 seems a small price to pay to make all this ambiguity go away.

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Copyright & pricing
by trappedlight / October 17, 2007 6:18 AM PDT
In reply to: School photographs

Paying for a photographer's services and for prints does not give you the copyright of a photo. You are literally paying for the photographer to take the photo with a high quality camera, lights etc. When you order prints, you are paying for paper with ink on it. When you buy a copyright you are paying for a right. A copyright gives you the license to use the photo as you see fit including selling, distributing, licensing & printing of the work.

Being a parent doesn't give you copyright of a photograph unless you took the photo. You do control the right of publicity of your child but that's about it. You couldn't for instance sell a photograph taken by a professional photographer of your child to Oscar Meyer for their next commercial campaign.

Purchasing the copyright does not entitle you to a the negative either. I'm sure you could negotiate for the purchase of the negative (probably a digital file) but it isn't mandatory. The $3 option is probably there to legalize action that parents were doing illegally.

Regarding the several comments on the ridiculous pricing (which I agree is quite high), please consider that your child's school (or district) is almost certainly taking a large percentage of the revenue of these photos as a "fundraiser". From my understanding this kickback is often a condition of being hired by the district and the photographer actually has less control over the pricing than you think. This isn't always the case, but it seems to be more prevalent than not. The best person to talk to about the price gouging would be the principal or school district office.

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This really has been true
by milkky / October 17, 2007 6:23 AM PDT
In reply to: School photographs

for a long time. Long before scanners etc. were common you ran into this issue. Just a few days ago my wife went to one of those DIY kiosk things at a drug store, copying a bunch of pictures, for an album she was doing for someone's funeral. One of the staff came out and had her sign something that said she had the permission of the copyright holder to make the copies. These did not haveanything on the back and some were easily 50 years old. But the guy said they LOOKED professional, so they had to have her signature!

Bottom line is like Shalin said--only other technically legal choice is to vote with your feet and wallet--either take the pictures yourself or go somewhere else with rates you can live with (but then they will amost certainly be copyright again).

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Ok, let me get this out of the way...
by rising_phoenix / October 17, 2007 7:01 AM PDT
In reply to: School photographs

On the subject of the overpriced packages ? you?re all right. But I?m going to buy them. Maybe it?s a guilt thing, but they?re pictures of my kid. At his school. And it will help the school financially with their ?kickback.? And at the end of the day, I will pay the $3. Why? Because I will be scanning the picture to email to friends and family who, horrible as it sounds, I?m not close enough to justify the exorbitant price these people want me to pay for prints. So they get emailed jpegs.



And now that there is an explicit charge for scanning the pictures, I cannot in good conscience not pay it and still scan the picture. And I do want (some of) the prints. But like Vance14 pointed out, I?m just going to go for the cheapest package and do the rest myself.

My biggest issue is that I am not hiring an artist, and I?m not commissioning an artistic work. I am hiring a serviceman to perform a job and give me the result. Yes, he may have a higher quality camera than I do, and probably some other backgrounds and lighting equipment that I have no need for. That can?t possibly be the qualifications for an artist. My plumber has tools and equipment I have no daily need for, and he likes to think there?s an artistic quality to how he welds the pipes. That doesn?t mean I don?t own the plumbing in my house. If I hire a guy to paint the walls in my living room and he does that sponge effect, I still own the walls. I can take pictures of them and with them in the background and do whatever I want with the pictures. I could even paint over them. I?m paying a guy to operate a camera and give me the result. Not to create an original work of art, but to record an image of a person. In this case, my son.

Yes, I agree with trappedlight that it would be wrong to sell the picture to Oscar Meyer for their commercial campaign. But, when did it become illegal for me to make my own copies of pictures I paid for of people in my own family? If I give the stranger on the corner in London a pound to take a picture of my girlfriend and me, does he own the copyright of the photo? Or do I?

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You make some good points, but...
by aubrey_q / October 17, 2007 7:35 AM PDT

...analogies don't work very well when discussing copyright. On the example of the person taking your picture in London, is it your camera or is it his/hers?

You have your opinion on what an artist is or isn't, but that has nothing to do with copyright law. What matters is that the photographer was the one who took told your child how to pose, used the right lighting, backdrop, camera, etc. His equipment, his camera, his studio, his "work".

You say you are paying for a result, but that doesn't necessarily mean you have the "right" to it. I'm sure the document you most likely signed to approve the picture session has some fine print explaining it.

I?m guessing that the law was passed to prevent the extreme scenarios, like in the example of Oscar Meyer using the school picture that you gave them and technically making money of someone else's work.

At the end of the day, you can scan and e-mail all you want because the photographer may never find out that you did, but if you somehow get sued for illegal distribution of copyrighted work don't start whining like Jammie Thomas.

It doesn't sound right or fair, but that is copyright law for you and I don?t think it?s going to change anytime soon.

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Where does "fair use" come in?
by Vance14 / October 17, 2007 8:55 AM PDT

I can see copyright preventing me from making any money off the pictures, but I would think that making copies for myself, or sending them to relatives via email, would fall easily into "fair use" of the product.

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Fair use normally refers to the purchaser
by aubrey_q / October 17, 2007 10:39 AM PDT

I can see where you might want to scan or copy the pictures, FOR YOURSELF. It gets murkier once you start e-mailing the pictures, or using them on a website.

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Clarification of rights
by trappedlight / October 18, 2007 9:13 AM PDT

While one may think the photographer is the same as a plumber, the law recognizes them separately and gives them different rights. The law sees the photographer as an artist and copyright law protects the photographer.

I think what may be confusing some people is that the subject of the photo is the son of rising_phoenix. If it wasn't someone's son in the photo, I think it would be easier to understand.

Lets say a photographer took an image of a flower and then sold you a print of that image. You pay for the print and take it home. Now if you scanned that image of the flower at home and emailed it to your family, that would be copyright infringement on the basis of copying and distributing copyrighted material. If you scanned & made additional prints of the flower it would be the same thing. For purposes of copyright the law doesn't care who owns the flower, just who creates the photo. The photographer retains copyright of the photo until he sells or licenses it away.

Now if you do own the flower, you can deny the photographer use of the photo due to your rights of publicity over the flower. To clarify, the flower owner can deny the ability of the photographer to commercially use, sell or distribute the image of the flower. But that does not give the owner of the flower the copyright of the photo. The photographer retains rights over the photo and the flower owner retains rights to the flower.

As a parent of a child you retain the same rights as the owner of the flower. You do not have copyright over the photo. You cannot legally sell, distribute or print the photo. The only thing you can do is deny the photographer the ability to use the photo. But since the photographer is only selling you a photo, that right is useless.

I hope that helps a little.

PS. This only applies to my understanding of US law. The laws elsewhere differ. I mention this only cuz someone mentioned London.

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Re: Clarification of rights
by rising_phoenix / October 18, 2007 9:28 AM PDT

Now that metaphor doesn?t quite work for me, because I?m asking the photographer to take a picture of my son and give me the picture, in exchange for my payment, not paying for an image that he set out to create. I absolutely agree that in the case of the picture of the flower, the photographer holds the copyright. But that is the perfect example of photography as artistic expression. In my case, I am not purchasing a photograph that the photographer envisioned and then produced, but providing him the subject, dressed and coifed appropriately, and asking him to provide me with his expertise to give me a better resulting image than I can get myself.

I guess I just believe that just because it?s a photograph doesn?t mean it?s art, let alone any kind of intellectual or creative property.

P.S. Yeah, the London thing kinda screwed with things more than I intended.

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by JasonBaldwin / October 19, 2007 5:24 AM PDT

"I guess I just believe that just because it?s a photograph doesn?t mean it?s art, let alone any kind of intellectual or creative property."

But it is, according to U.S. copyright law. The photography business model is changing, but -- disclaimer: I am a serious hobbyist who has been employed in a professional capacity as a photographer -- as technology improves and more consumers get high quality equipment, what you pay for as a customer is a photographer's technical expertise and artistic expression. If you think you can do a better job (or even get close enough), don't buy the prints. If you value photography as a craft -- and don't want to spend hundreds of dollars on a backdrop, lighting, retouching, etc. -- what else are you going to do?

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Like it or not, the photographer does own the photos...
by indy1333 / October 18, 2007 9:14 AM PDT

I am a wedding videographer. When someone hires me to video a wedding, part of the agreement is that I own the footage and images. My clients are simply purchasing a copy of the final project, which is my property. While they own the right to the use of their image, they have given me the right to use their image in my video. I still have to get special permission to use the footage or images publicly, but they still belong to me.

By the way, whenever you hire someone to do photos, video, or music for you, you are hiring an artist. Just cause he's not a portrait photographer doesn't change the fact that he produces art. And while I agree that the prices suck sometimes, since when do we have the right to steal something just becuase we don't like the price?

Hope this helped clear up the issue.

Very Best,

JP the Drummer

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It's a point of negotiation
by Renegade Knight / October 19, 2007 5:06 AM PDT
In reply to: School photographs

You as the person making the order can negotiate that you are in fact the copyright holder. The standard contract will normally say the photographer is. (and then they charge you out the wazoo for reprints, and enter their photo in the fair or sell it as art if thye like the photograph enough).

This photographer is either offering to ether transfer the copyrght, or the right of reproduction.

Negatives have nothing to do with the copyrght. That's another point of negotation.

The best photo's we ever got from a photographyer was from one who we hired for an hour. They gave us the film when they were done. We hired their skill and expertise in taking shots, but by default we got the copyrights and photos.

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