The law - can you sell photos you have taken of peoples' belongings?

Discussion in 'Presentation & Marketing' started by ted_smith, Feb 2, 2009.

  1. ted_smith

    ted_smith Member

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    Hi

    On a regular basis I attend dog related fund raising events to raise money for dog shelters - I photograph people's dogs and sell the prints to their owners, donating the profits to the charity.

    I often use the best shots on my portfolio to show what I can do and obviously the owners usually buy a print or two for themselves.

    So what is the position with regards to me selling those images to other people who do not own the dogs? As long as they do not contain people, and as long as they were created in a public place, I thought I could sell them but one customer has just sent me a particular irate e-mail saying how she did not give permission to sell photos of her dog, which I have not done yet, but I was hoping to.

    I thought, as a photographer, I own the copyright, and I'm able to sell any prints as long as they do not contain people. I realise for stock libraries you usually have to have a 'property release'.

    Thanks

    Ted
     
  2. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Property release is needed if sold for commercial purposes, ie advertising, book cover, etc. No release needed if sold as art. Keep in mind that is for here in the US, YMMV in the UK.
     
  3. Ian Cooper

    Ian Cooper Member

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    Even with people you'd probably be OK so long as they weren't being 'misrepresented', ie. the photograph used in an advertising campaign for such-and-such dog food which the person actually wouldn't be seen dead buying... or used alongside an editorial piece decrying aledged creulty to pets - where it might be assumed the subject of the photograph was cruel to animals. If the photo just showed people at a dog show, and was used on that basis then a model release wouldn't be needed (neither would a location release). The problem is without release forms you would need to be careful about how the photograph gets used so neither people nor locations get distorted in the way they are depicted - hence why generally speaking it's easier to get release forms filled in automatically even in situations where they might not be needed, and why stock agencies want them as a matter of course - in that way it doesn't matter how the end photo gets used.

    As for needing permission to sell photos of someone's dog... I think this website gives fairly clear advice for those in the UK. As usual, treat the value of advice as being worth what you pay for it!

    On the basis that in the UK you could take a photo of the woman herself and sell it without asking her permission or getting a signed release form from her, I think you'd be pretty safe with her pet dog! In practice the woman herself may not be aware of the 'legal' position, and believe you MUST ask her permission before selling a photo (probably before even taking the photo as well!)
     
  4. Ian Cooper

    Ian Cooper Member

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    This PDF also summarises the UK law (as of a couple of years ago). No matter how attached the owner may be to the dog, it is basically an item of her property and as such there is no legal requirement for you to ask her permission to photograph it (as for a moral requirement that's up to you to decide). Once you've taken the photograph you may do with it what you like.

    I have a funny feeling cats are viewed slightly differently in law and aren't seen as the property of the owner in quite the same simplistic way as dogs are.


    Disclaimer: I ain't no lawyer! :D


    Edit: Checked on cats - they are viewed as the property of their owners, but their owners do not have the same duty of care to keep them under control as owners of dogs/livestock do. (Road Traffic, Highways and Dangerous Dogs Acts etc)
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 2, 2009
  5. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    I don't know the answer Ted, and with all due respect to my fellow APUGers you will probably get almost as many opinions as we have members on this matter, I would recommend you take some professional legal advice from a lawyer who knows this field .
     
  6. Ian Cooper

    Ian Cooper Member

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    I agree! :smile:

    As I say, treat the value of legal advice you receive as being directly proportional to how much you pay for it!

    ...and if it comes from the internet, then it hasn't cost much at all! :wink:
     
  7. PhotoJim

    PhotoJim Member

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    Beyond the legal duty, one has to consider the expectations of the public. While you might have a legal right to sell photos or publish photos, if you create ill will about your business that will affect your ability to make a living at this.
     
  8. HarryRosen

    HarryRosen Member

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    isn't that what richard prince has been doing forever?
     
  9. 23mjm

    23mjm Member

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    I agree the owner is more the property of the cat!!!!!
     
  10. ted_smith

    ted_smith Member

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    Thanks everyone, so far. What you have said is what I read to be the case. Her e-mail threw me though and made me question what I was hoping to do. However, I fully and entriely agree with PhotoJim :
    . I think unfortunately people are not going to take kindly to my selling photos of their 'beloved dogs' to people they don't know, so it does not make good business sense for me to do so without prior permission. I'd get a bad reputation I think, which is not what I want at all. It makes earning a living a bit harder though!

    Ted
     
  11. ted_smith

    ted_smith Member

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    Accidental double post.
     
  12. Ian Cooper

    Ian Cooper Member

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    Without knowing the type of photographs you're talking about, I'd have thought they wouldn't have too much appeal beyond the dog's owners themselves. On that basis you're better off trying to pacify this owner rather than wind them up further. I suspect if I were in your position I'd craft a reply to her saying something along the lines of, I'm sorry she isn't happy about the photograph of her dog being made available to other people, as result I'd offer her a free print and offer to donate the 'cost' to the charity yourself.

    I wouldn't apologise for taking the photo, not asking her permission, or for advertising the print for sale, at the same time I'd also avoid pointing out that you don't actually need her consent - which will probably just aggravate the situation further. Finally, I'd remove the picture of her pooch from the website so she can't then come back a second time moaning that it's still on offer! In practice you probably aren't limiting your sales too much by removing 'her' pet pooch, and for the cost of a complimentary print you'll hopefully have a content pet owner who won't take the matter further. You're unlikely to convince her that you didn't need her permission in the first place, so there's not much point trying!
     
  13. viridari

    viridari Member

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    Original poster is in the UK and I see some Americans are trying to apply interpretation of US law. Be careful.
     
  14. pauliej

    pauliej Member

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    Be sure to check with the dog's agent...

    paulie
     
  15. PHOTOTONE

    PHOTOTONE Member

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    I have a weekend cottage in a small picturesque Arkansas town. There was a movie being filmed on the street my house is on. The producer insisted on getting a release from me, even though they were not actually going to use my house, rather it "might" be seen in the distance if they shot down the street. I found it odd that they needed a release for this, since all that would be seen was what was publically visible.
     
  16. k_jupiter

    k_jupiter Member

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    Amazing. If you can sell pictures of other peoples dogs to someone not related, you are in the wrong business. You are a SALESMAN my boy.

    Don't get me wrong, I have three dogs, (three cats, two parrots, and five tanks of fish) but I could give a damn less about a picture of someone elses canine, even if it was a Westminster champion.

    tim in san jose
     
  17. mgb74

    mgb74 Subscriber

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    First, very good of you to donate the profits to charity.

    Second, it's hard for me to think that someone would want a "portrait" of someone else's dog. I can understand, perhaps, a photo that depicts the breed doing what the breed is designed to do, but not an individually recognizable dog.

    Regardless, I can understand the owner's reaction. They come in for a sitting (I'm inferring a bit from your original post) and you sell a portrait of their dog to someone else. It's not quite the same as displaying photos as part of your portfolio or capturing their pet's image as part of a scene (say as part of a group of dogs).

    But you might find that if people have the opportunity to "opt in" they may be quite willing. A statement to the effect that these charity efforts are supported by sales of dog portraits to owners and others, with the ability to give permission to do so, will garner a fair number of approvals. Adding that a portion of your profits will be donated to the dog charity (following through of course) will probably improve the approval rate. As well as possible sales.