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  • copyright laws

    HI, Looked over all the forums and chose this one to vent about my AM experience at WalMart. Took some photos I have been restoring to be printed and was informed that they could not sell them to me as they were copyrighted (sp?) . The young lady made a judgement call because there was a backdrop in the photo. When I got home I doublechecked and there is no copyright symbol of any kind on the photo.
    Another one was a studio photo made in 1932 and I was told the photo was copyrighted and not 75 years old.
    1. Wal mart should post these rules in large print all over the photo lab . When I asked to see the rules I was directed to the Kodak scan/print machine where they were taped to the cover. I was not using this machine.
    2. Why should a backdrop construe copyright?

    I do not wish to break copyright rules but there must be a more logical way to interpret them. Some photos are taken outdoors by professional photographers who might copyright. (Background rule does not apply)

    Who do I contact at WM about there "rules" and their enforcement.

    Sadly I must now print on my home printer and be concerned about archival paper and archival ink(which I can not afford)
    And that brings up other questions which hopefullly I can find answers to in a different thread.

    Does anyone know what the copyright laws are concerning photos???

  • #2
    Thanks, Read that and am still wondering. In both cases the people in the photo are deceased so would not be able to tell me who the photographer was. I am the caretaker of these family photos . There are no marks or identifying names on the photos to indicate who took them so I can ask for a release (photographers are probably deceased also)
    Sometimes I have taken photos of people in front of "backdrops" i.e. my drapes. Should I consider these photos to be copyrighted now???? I think not.
    Will search the web tonite.


    • #3
      I will check out that link tonite. Thanks. ( I can click around the web quickly in the middle of the nite.)


      • #4
        cinderella, I moved this to the "Work" forum since it falls a bit more into the legal/business category.

        I'm not sure I can answer your seems like a photo from 1932 would have become public domain by now with or without a copyright, but I am no expert.

        In my own effort to avoid all things Walmart ...I would follow spinnnz's advice and have them printed elsewhere. Or, you could take them back to Walmart when the employee in question is not working!
        Last edited by G. Couch; 06-11-2003, 09:02 PM.


        • #5
          I'm certainly no expert on this subject either. But if there is no way possible to know where (by who) the original photograph was taken, and you have made a sincere effort to find out, I doubt very much if there's a court in the country that would find you liable for breaking copyright laws. If that's the case, I would find another processing lab. The fact that a backdrop was used does not necessarily make the image a commercially made image, any more than using a view camera makes it commercial. Of course anyone can have a copyright on an image, even uncle John Doe. Being ethical is the only thing you have to worry about in my opinion (which sometimes isn't very good).



          • #6
            Ahh copyright!

            As one who owns a portrait studio, bless those who will not copy our work . But that does not help you.

            I would not jump to hard on Walmarts back for this, for they have been hit hard and often by all sorts of us screaming about protecting our copyrights. To the "highly trained photographic techs" they employ, a background drape means a studio, a studio means copyrighted, and a person trying to get them to reprint such an image may very well be a plant who will then turn it into a federal case costing the company many big $'s and them their job.

            Some labs have a form they will ask you to sign, that will place any and all blame for a copyright infringment on you. If they do not you might suggest such a thing (offer to write it up?) and see what they say.

            As a studio owner, I say great job by Walmart, as a person who has been in your shoes, bummer!



            • #7
              So Mike, How would I know your work is copyrighted.? Do you have an identifying logo or something on each print?
              In my case there isn't anything on these old photos. So there is no way I can get a release . Your idea about "Some labs have a form they will ask you to sign, that will place any and all blame for a copyright infringment on you. If they do not you might suggest such a thing (offer to write it up?) and see what they say. " Is a good one but the overzealous person at WalMart is probably not in a position to handle this. If I can find out who the higher up person in charge of photo labs would be at WalMart I would be willing to discuss this with them. In the meantime WM has lost my business including grocery shopping. (which I do while waiting for photos)

              I am so glad my thread was moved as I have read most of the other threads here about the copyright problem. And can see there is no easy solution.

              Must get back to the NBA finals game. GO SPURS


              • #8

                If I remember right, one does not have to place an actual mark on a print to claim copyright. All work is copyrighted by who ever produces the work. Of course there are all kinds of exceptions such as work for hire, etc. But the basic thing to remember is that the author of the work automaticily holds the copyright to the work. If you are trying to make a living by selling copies of it thats kind of important, if you are not making a living in that manner, then maybe not so important. The work does not have to be registered to be considered copyrighted (but it helps a lot to have it registered if you are sueing someone about infringing).

                I would talk to the store manager, that person should have a whole better take of the problem than the clerk, or would know who you might be able to chat with to get your problem solved.

                Some of these old laws (like the copyright is good for the lifetime of the author plus 75 years) can be a real pain. Common sense would seem to say go for it, no one is left to complain. I have never found too much room for common sense when talking with those who practice the law. Which leads me to ask, have you ever found anyone who ever got done practicing the law and did it for real? (come to think of it, doctors are in the same boat).



                • #9
                  Lots of threads have covered this for one angle or another here but this one is not too difficult. If all you are trying to do is get something printed at a Walmart or Kinko's - just make up a form for a signed release from your customer stating that they own all rights and are giving you permission to do the work for them.

                  Perhaps that's not the type of thing I'd take to court but it should be enough to satisfy the people you are dealing with. After all, all they want to do is protect the store on their watch so your "proof" doesn't have to be a long legal document, just a signed release

                  And Mike, as far as old laws and common sense, it could be that the law makers got it right on this one! The basic idea is that if YOU didn't create it - somebody must have, so it's up to you to prove you have some rights in it rather than the other way around. From the creators side, copyright notices are not necessary but they will help in court (if you end up there) to at least show that you were trying to protect your work.

                  Hope some of this is helpful.

                  Jim Conway


                  • #10
                    Well, I thought I'd chime in on this one since I am a Wal-Mart Photo Center Manager....

                    (Oh, great - now Greg's going to avoid me....)

                    Federal copyright laws protect all intellectual creations from the moment of their creation whether they are stamped or not and no matter whether they are registered or not.

                    Our basic mission at Wal-Mart with respect to this issue is to protect the photographer and obey Federal Copyright Laws. If anyone could go and have a portrait done, purchase one copy, and then go to Wal-Mart and have inexpensive copies made, photographers would soon go out of business. Most photographers make the bulk of their profit on print sales, not sitting fees.

                    If it appears to be a professional photograph, we are not allowed to copy it in any way without a written copyright release from the photographer (unless it is more than 75 years old, in which case it will pass into public domain).

                    This is the issue I get the most grief over, and the one people are the least understanding about. Believe me, they get furious over this one. I've been threatened, cursed at, called names, and even had one woman grab the phone from my counter and start calling her lawyer...

                    On this issue, at work, I am completely inflexible and I also expect everyone working for me to be. The first reason is that Wal-Mart is one of the most sued companies over violation of Federal Copyright Law. The second reason is that if any one of us violate this policy, we can be terminated. If anyone working for me violates this, I am obligated to suspend them for a day at the very least, and possibly terminate them depending on the circumstances.

                    Jim is correct. A written statement from your customer stating that they are the copyright owner and that you have permission to do the work will probably work since it puts the responsibility onto your customer if any question arises. If we copy or print a professional photograph, we're required to keep these written releases on file for 5 years.

                    Another solution is to contact the PPA (Professional Photographers of America). They have an entire division dedicated to helping people track down photographers and obtain copyright releases.

                    If you want to contact someone higher up at Wal-Mart, the number is 1-800-Wal-Mart. But in my experience, since it's based on Federal Law, this policy is backed up by upper management no matter how high up you go. Also, the Store Manager doesn't have the final authority on this within the store. That decision falls to the Photo Center Manager (me). I am required to make sure that all store management understands and follows this policy.

                    Although admittedly a lot of Wal-Mart employees are not rocket scientists, many of us are not completely brain dead either... I have been working in the photography field for a long time, both as a photographer and as a photo lab technician/manager. Most of my experience is with high end professional photographers. I can usually look at a photograph (the lighting, the composition, the posing, etc.) and make a very accurate educated guess as to whether it is a professional photograph or not - with or without a backdrop. And, if there is a question in my mind or any of my employees minds whether is is a snapshot or a pro shot, we will err on the side of caution and decline to copy or print it without a release.

                    I know this often makes us VERY unpopular, but it is a rule we have no choice but to live with and obey if we want to continue to be employed....
                    Last edited by Jakaleena; 06-12-2003, 08:41 PM.


                    • #11
                      Jak - great info...straight from the source no less! (...don't worry, I won't avoid you...I'm just a bit suspect of their labor practices...but that's an issue for another thread)

                      The reasoning behind the policy seems to make a lot of sense, but it's unfortunate that it's not flexible enough to adapt to situations like this one. How on earth is she supposed to find and obtain a release for a photo made in 1932? ...the policy does make a great deal of sense though and I run into these sorts of situations from time to time in my own job. I'm a graphic artist and production manager for a sign company and I occasionally have people bring in magazine photos that they want scanned and placed on their sign or displays. It takes some real patience to explain the concept of copyright, so I do not envy your position where you must run into it on an almost daily basis!


                      • #12
                        The reasoning behind the policy seems to make a lot of sense, but it's unfortunate that it's not flexible enough to adapt to situations like this one.
                        I completely agree, Greg. I too am a victim of our own policies at times. But, because it is the law and as such is inflexable, we must be just as inflexable. It's a "rock and a hard place" situation...


                        • #13
                          I almost forgot...

                          Yes, Cinderella, the photos you took in front of your drapes are indeed copyrighted and you are the copyright holder. In fact, every photograph anyone takes is technically copyrighted, although most people do not concern themselves with copyright issues on what are obviously family snapshots...


                          • #14
                            We have a sign up that states simply "Copyright is a matter of livelihood".

                            No one is AGAINST copying - what we should all be against is theft! If you want the right to reproduce someone else's work, pay the creator for that use. Again, a release from the present owner should suffice and, if you have a record of paying for use rights rather than just taking them, no lawyer is going to cause you any problems.

                            I'll agree with Ed, its a matter of the ethics that your business operates under - and the legal system will only go after you if you are a consistent big time violator. Unfortunately some of the major chains were (past tense) in that league - so things have changed, and, in my opinion, all for the better.

                            For one that has been hurt on the other side of this Jak - I'm glad to see that your policy is total inflexibility. It should be because if it wasn't , Walmart could openly advertise and put thousands of photographers out of business. I actually had that happen in Burns Oregon a number of years ago. The day we sent out our Senior Proofs, a major grocery chain store there advertised that they would copy "Senior Proofs" and print them at one tenth the "standard cost" . It was a real heart breaker and a financial loss for us at the time that almost put us out of business,. Now, many many years later I'm reaping the benefits of laws that are actually a lot easier to enforce and very few will risk copying a Bruno photo without permission. Yes, it's a studio founded in 1905 so we do get complaints like "why should we have to pay you anything?" from a few but in my experience, most people truly understand the justification for the law and see nothing unreasonable about it.

                            Jim Conway


                            • #15
                              I am not sure if I don't clearly understand this or what, but I have never seen the point in making a huge issue of someone making copies of a portrait. I can see it if you take art photos or landscape photos for artwork purposes which you sell at an art show or in a gallery. If you are taking a shot of a person - charge them for the service what you wish - and then they should have the right to reproduce that photo that THEY have purchased for their own personal use. Even with a CD you are technically allowed one copy for your own use. To me, when a photographer hangs on to the negs of a portrait they have taken just so they can overcharge for reprints, it is a rape of the customer and I happen to think it is disgusting. Why not just charge for the service of taking/framing the shot and let the customer go on their merry way instead of screwing them every time they want a copy? You then force them to come back to you and pay huge prices. I think this is going to be a dying practice anyway in the future and I will be very happy to see it go. Anyone who is getting married or needs a portrait taken should deal with someone who is willing to give them what they need to make prints in the future.

                              Just my opinion. flame away if you must.


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