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Thread: Photographer's rights to use client's images

  1. #1

    Default Photographer's rights to use client's images

    I like to find out about the rights of a photographer to use images he/she shot for a client.

    I recently shot some photos for a client's event at a restaurant. In addition, I helped to shoot some great food pictures served by the restaurant for the client's event.

    The owner of the restaurant hope to use some of my images on their website which I verbally agreed earlier on condition that they give me credit. Having briefly spoken to the client on the night, he said he paid for my service and hence the restaurant should approach him. He even said perhaps the restaurant could reduce the price of the dinner if they want to use the pictures.

    I believe a photographer owns the copyright to any images he/she shot unless he sell the images and give up the copyright.

    Since there is no money exchanged if the restaurant is to use my images it may not be much of an issue. But it will only create bad feeling for my client and affect any future business between him and myself.

    Can any professional photographers comment on this scenerio and your experiences?

    What is Singapore's law governing copyright of images?

    Regards,
    Stan

  2. #2

    Default Re: Photographer's rights to use client's images

    Hope the seniors can clarify ...

    If client hired you to shoot the event photos, client retains the right of usage of the event photos.

    Since the dinner and food was part of the client's event (and paid for by client), it sounds correct that client has say over how those photos are used.

    As such, an agreement, verbal or not, should have not been made with the other supplier (the restaurant) without first getting the go-ahead by the party who commissioned you - your client.

    Edit: But something else comes to mind - what if the food shots were taken during your break time, if such a break was agreed by your client? Does that then mean that since you were on your own time, the rights if usage of the food shots should be yours?
    Last edited by Dream Merchant; 27th October 2009 at 12:05 AM.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Photographer's rights to use client's images

    Hi Stan,

    I'm sure Vince will be able to provide a more authoritative answer, and I can only give you the situation in UK law which has many similarities but obviously is not binding.

    Also, your title is slightly misleading because your post suggests you're more interested in the client's right to use the photographer's images.

    Quote Originally Posted by dsphotography View Post
    I recently shot some photos for a client's event at a restaurant. In addition, I helped to shoot some great food pictures served by the restaurant for the client's event.
    If you were paid to shoot that event then unfortunately the default is that the client owns the copyright of those images, unless you have arranged something else.

    You could argue that the additional food pictures fell outside this remit, but there is also probably a case to be made that you were there under his commission so you were essentially working for him, and that being the case those pictures are the client's as well. What you could have done is refused to take pictures outside the remit of the commission, but this is often difficult and being a working photographer I will often just shoot extra images for a client, but I do this under the understanding that those pictures are "part of the job".

    I can't think of any case law off the top of my head that indicates which way that would go, but again a lot of this is based on your word v his (or sounds like anyway) so it's all theoretical.

    Quote Originally Posted by dsphotography View Post
    The owner of the restaurant hope to use some of my images on their website which I verbally agreed earlier on condition that they give me credit.
    Under UK law you do have a legal paternal right to be associated as the creator of an image, so if he doesn't credit you then in theory you could complain, and I suppose even take legal action, but I think the best that you would get out of it is the court would force him to credit you where applicable. So you don't stand to gain anything financially.

    Quote Originally Posted by dsphotography View Post
    I believe a photographer owns the copyright to any images he/she shot unless he sell the images and give up the copyright.
    As mentioned above, if you are commissioned by someone then the copyright by default rests with them. Most picture sales on the other hand are actually only for reproduction rights and not copyright - for example anything you buy on a stock library whether royalty free or otherwise. That's why you're paying royalties. It is of course perfectly possible to sell your copyright as well.

    Quote Originally Posted by dsphotography View Post
    Since there is no money exchanged if the restaurant is to use my images it may not be much of an issue.
    It does matter a lot as explained above.

    Well then, summary is, unless otherwise agreed, your client owns the copyright so he is right that the restaurant should go through him. You have a right to be credited as the author of the photograph.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Photographer's rights to use client's images

    You have just unknowingly gave up another paying job. The restauranteur would no doubt have paid you for another shoot since has already seen what you can do.

    In this case, all pictures taken for the client belongs to the client since they were taken while you were under his comission and credited to you. Should have just given your namecard and ask the restauranteur to call you another time as need to "check the terms of the agreement for the shoot" first.
    You wont see me much less remember me but i am the guy who makes you look good.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Photographer's rights to use client's images

    Thank you all for your valuable feedback.

    I have in fact received an email this evening from a staff of the restauranteur saying her boss is interested to take up my offer of using my photos in return for credit. She ended by saying "If she likes the photos, I'm sure we will have an occasion to use your services in the future ". I have shown them the photos during the day of the shoot and I supposed she liked what she saw.

    The past hour I have been googling and researching on copyright on photographs. I then came across some files I stored on my harddisk which I have saved a while back. I used to lived in Sydney and have just moved back to Singapore. It is based on Australia's copyright act 1968.

    If it is correct then it may apply in Singapore context too, then a client who commissioned a job owns the copyright.

    commissioned photographs: If you took a commissioned photograph before
    the 30 July 1998, your client will own the copyright.
    If the photograph was taken after 30 July 1998, you own the copyright. The only
    exception to this rule is if the photograph was commissioned for a private or
    domestic purpose (like a wedding or christening). In this case your client owns
    the copyright, unless otherwise agreed.


    Here is the link to the agency's website.
    Quote Originally Posted by Dream Merchant View Post
    Hope the seniors can clarify ...
    Edit: But something else comes to mind - what if the food shots were taken during your break time, if such a break was agreed by your client? Does that then mean that since you were on your own time, the rights if usage of the food shots should be yours?
    I kind of agree with you somehow. I spent an extra hour without charging my client.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jed View Post
    You could argue that the additional food pictures fell outside this remit, but there is also probably a case to be made that you were there under his commission so you were essentially working for him, and that being the case those pictures are the client's as well.
    I was asked to shoot some of the food pictures on the side as part of the event. But I went to the extend to bring my light strobe and setup a light tent.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jed View Post
    Under UK law you do have a legal paternal right to be associated as the creator of an image, so if he doesn't credit you then in theory you could complain, and I suppose even take legal action, but I think the best that you would get out of it is the court would force him to credit you where applicable. So you don't stand to gain anything financially.
    From that copyright note, it looks like even though a photographer has given up the copyright to the client who commissioned the work he still have the rights to be attributed as the creator of the work.

    The fees for the job wasn't great so the least I could ask for is some form of credit when they use my images on their websites.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jed View Post
    As mentioned above, if you are commissioned by someone then the copyright by default rests with them. Most picture sales on the other hand are actually only for reproduction rights and not copyright - for example anything you buy on a stock library whether royalty free or otherwise. That's why you're paying royalties. It is of course perfectly possible to sell your copyright as well.
    Perhaps I should draft up an agreement with the client before a shoot to determine who owns the copyright and for which purposes. A prior agreement could override any of the copyrights exceptions and not grant the client unlimited copyright/usage. Again the exception for us would be if it is a high priced job then of course we can grant them the full copyrights.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jed View Post
    Well then, summary is, unless otherwise agreed, your client owns the copyright so he is right that the restaurant should go through him. You have a right to be credited as the author of the photograph.
    I will have to approach my client nicely and tell him that the restauranteur is interested to use a few of the images. I would prefer to keep the relationship with my client. As for the restauranteur they can always commission me to shoot for them if they like my work.

    Quote Originally Posted by Reportage View Post
    You have just unknowingly gave up another paying job. The restauranteur would no doubt have paid you for another shoot since has already seen what you can do.

    In this case, all pictures taken for the client belongs to the client since they were taken while you were under his comission and credited to you. Should have just given your namecard and ask the restauranteur to call you another time as need to "check the terms of the agreement for the shoot" first.
    Thanks for that. Of course I have handed out all my cards to anyone I met at the restaurant : ) Hence one of the staff contacted me. She even asked me what my rate is for other events.

    The copyright thing has so many grey areas. I guess you guys do it too, i.e. keep some additional images and not give the whole lot as some are duplicates. In this case, what can you do with those images? Additional images that the client haven't seen and wouldn't know it was taken at the same event. Hmmm....

    Regards,
    Stan
    Last edited by dsphotography; 29th October 2009 at 02:21 AM.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Photographer's rights to use client's images

    Do look up on the Photo Biz segment where there is a thread on ...Clinet doesn't pay. A lot of local Singapore copyright there.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Photographer's rights to use client's images

    Quote Originally Posted by cabbySHE View Post
    Do look up on the Photo Biz segment where there is a thread on ...Clinet doesn't pay. A lot of local Singapore copyright there.
    Thanks for that. I should have posted there :_)

  8. #8
    Deregistered shaoken's Avatar
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    Default Re: Photographer's rights to use client's images

    I've not done such photography but from general knowledge, an agreement on such issue would be good.
    I'm not sure what are the industry practices.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Photographer's rights to use client's images

    See the Copyright Act Section 30.
    http://statutes.agc.gov.sg/non_versi...st&method=part

    As long as you are commissioned (employed) to take photos (Section 30(5)), the copyright resides with the person or Company who commissioned (employed) you to take the photos, unless otherwise stated in the contract (Section 30(3)).

    Vince also mentioned before that even if there is no contract existing, once you received monetary gain from the client (money, ang pow, etc), you are giving up your copyrights to the client.

  10. #10
    Moderator catchlights's Avatar
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    Default Re: Photographer's rights to use client's images

    you are hired by your client, under SG law, is work for hired, you get paid, the photos belong to your client. Unless you and your client have an agreement to supercede the default law.

    the restaurant want to use the photos, have to talk to the owner, that is your client.

    the restaurant want to pay him or give him credit for using photos (remember, the photos are your client's property now), that is between them, has nothing to do with you, cos the photos do not belong to you anymore.

    if the restaurant want to mention you are the photographer, that is very nice of them, if they don't, nothing you can do.
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  11. #11

    Default Re: Photographer's rights to use client's images

    perhaps to avoid problems, one option is to courteously inform the restaurant owner that both of you can discuss more details another day; make an appointment for discussion outside of the current event.

    i suppose it's normally not a wise thing to discuss any deals with 3rd parties while working on a shoot for someone.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Photographer's rights to use client's images

    Quote Originally Posted by palmglove View Post
    perhaps to avoid problems, one option is to courteously inform the restaurant owner that both of you can discuss more details another day; make an appointment for discussion outside of the current event.

    i suppose it's normally not a wise thing to discuss any deals with 3rd parties while working on a shoot for someone.

    You mean, secretly discuss with the restaurant a deal of using the photos he take for his client?

    If so, it is not a wise idea because if the client finds out (which is quite easy since the photos will be posted on the restaurant website), then he is subjected to being sued by the client for infringement of copyright.

    Guess the best situation for TS is for him to negotiate another shoot with the restaurant...

  13. #13

    Default Re: Photographer's rights to use client's images

    Quote Originally Posted by catchlights View Post
    you are hired by your client, under SG law, is work for hired, you get paid, the photos belong to your client. Unless you and your client have an agreement to supercede the default law.

    the restaurant want to use the photos, have to talk to the owner, that is your client.

    the restaurant want to pay him or give him credit for using photos (remember, the photos are your client's property now), that is between them, has nothing to do with you, cos the photos do not belong to you anymore.
    It seems so easy under SG law that a photographer has given up the copyright to the images when the work is for a client.

    Do anyone know of many photographers drafting up an agreement for work that let the photographer retains the copyright to the images but granting the client usage? If so, do you know where I can find a sample of such agreement?

    If the copyright is given up to the client, then by law the client can sell and make a profit out of the images. Is that right?

    When the photographer has given up on the copyright, can he still use the images for his own promotional purposes (website, brochures etc) without asking permission from the client?

  14. #14
    Moderator catchlights's Avatar
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    Default Re: Photographer's rights to use client's images

    Quote Originally Posted by dsphotography View Post
    It seems so easy under SG law that a photographer has given up the copyright to the images when the work is for a client.

    Do anyone know of many photographers drafting up an agreement for work that let the photographer retains the copyright to the images but granting the client usage? If so, do you know where I can find a sample of such agreement?

    If the copyright is given up to the client, then by law the client can sell and make a profit out of the images. Is that right?

    When the photographer has given up on the copyright, can he still use the images for his own promotional purposes (website, brochures etc) without asking permission from the client?
    it is better to pay somebody to write legal doc for you.

    since the photos is the property of the clients now, they can do whatever thing they like, selling it, or don't let you use for portfolio.
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  15. #15

    Default Re: Photographer's rights to use client's images

    next time in your contract stated that only your client and it companies under its subsidiaries are allowed to use the photos.
    .
    . blah blah .. no 3rd party is allowed yada yada
    .
    else PAY me

  16. #16
    Moderator catchlights's Avatar
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    Default Re: Photographer's rights to use client's images

    the SG law is favor customer, so from a client POV, customer see no reason for them, and have no obligation to sign such agreement with photographers.

    let say if photographer A charging $500 for a shoot and want customer has limited usage of the photos. and photographer B charging at the same rate but give exclusive rights to customers, if both photographers are same standard in term of skills, who you think customer will hire?

    without an agreement to supercede the default law, we don't own the copyrights of our photos, but on the other end, we can't enforce every photographers to sign an agreement with client before the shoot, even this is seem to be a benefit to all the photographers, but not every photographers see the same way.
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  17. #17
    Moderator catchlights's Avatar
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    Default Re: Photographer's rights to use client's images

    whether you shoot for $1000.00 or $100.00, you still will have to kiss goodbye to your photos.

    so if you really want to keep the copyrights, the most simple way is just shoot for free.
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  18. #18

    Default Re: Photographer's rights to use client's images

    If say TS reshoot with same setting, does it considered as infringement?

  19. #19

    Default Re: Photographer's rights to use client's images

    Just arrange with the restaurant for a reshoot..

  20. #20

    Default Re: Photographer's rights to use client's images

    Hope I'm not hijacking this thread, but if one does not take up the payment on offer (even in kind as opposed to cash payment), is it safe to say that the copyrights remain with the photographer under Singapore law?

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