Photo Attorney

Apr 28, 2009

Dealing With Online Negative Customer Reviews

Many photographers, such as those in the wedding and portrait business, provide their service directly to the public. With the Internet, reviews of your work are easily available to potential clients. But what do you do when a bitter client or enemy gives you a bad review? Do you have a claim for defamation?

In sum, defamatory statements are false statements that adversely affect your reputation and are "published" (told or written) to another. If the statements are another's opinion, then they must appear to be based on facts. If the statements are not defamatory on their face, then you must show innuendo to win a defamation lawsuit.

Generally, libel is a written defamatory statement and slander is a spoken defamatory statement. If the defamation is libel or "slander per se," then your damages are assumed. Slander per se are false statements about your having a loathsome disease, business or profession, being guilty of moral turpitude, or being unchaste woman. Thus, defamatory statements about your photography business would constitute slander per se and you would not have to prove that you have been injured by the defamation to be awarded damages in a lawsuit.

But short of filing a defamation lawsuit, you have other options to deal with bad online reviews. Adrianos Facchetti is an Internet defamation attorney in Los Angeles, CA, and publishes the Defamation Law Blog. He has several blog posts, along with a video, to explain online defamation basics and give you several creative and great strategies to deal with this problem.

The Internet is a powerful tool. Use its good resources to protect your work and your business.

Apr 23, 2009

Photographers Protest Rights-Grabbing Contracts

The British Journal of Photography reports that one of Germany's largest publishing houses is requiring that photographers sign a contract that gives their copyrights to the company. You may sign the petition protesting the contracts.

Thanks to John Goldsmith for submitting this topic.

Apr 22, 2009

Photography Not Allowed - 30

A CNN video shows KVIA-TV reporter and camera man were arrested on charges of interfering with police.

Thanks to John Williams and Brian Keathley for submitting this topic.

Apr 21, 2009

Oprah's Photo Request Grabs Exclusive Rights to Submissions

Most everyone loves Oprah, but most photographers may not love her request for photos for her "Breathing Space Gallery." There, the terms and conditions provide (you have to register for an account to see the page):

All . . . Submissions may be used . . . for broadcast or other publication by Harpo, Inc. or any of its affiliated companies or entities, including, but not limited to, The Oprah Winfrey Show, Harpo Productions, Inc. and Oprah & Friends, Inc. (collectively "Harpo") or its related companies or entities . . . .

By submitting the above, you acknowledge and agree [that] . . .

Harpo shall exclusively own all known or later existing rights to the Submissions worldwide and shall be entitled to the unrestricted use of the Submissions for any purpose in all media now known or hereafter discovered without compensation to the provider of such Submissions.

Instead of submitting an entry to her contest, it may be best to just sit back and enjoy her show.

Thanks to Jeremy Hinegardner for submitting this topic he discovered from Trey Ratcliff.

Apr 19, 2009

18 USC 2257 Concerns for Photographers

Some photographers shoot nudes, sexually explicit, and/or erotic photographs. If so, your work may come under the purview of a law known as "section 2257." This law imposes some strict obligations that must be followed to avoid fines and penalties, including prison.

Officially known as 18 U.S.C. Section 2257, this federal law imposes name and age verification, recordkeeping, and labeling requirements on producers of visual depictions of actual human beings engaged in actual sexually explicit conduct. Likewise, 18 U.S.C. Section 2257A, which went into effect on March 18, 2009, imposes name and age verification, recordkeeping, and labeling requirements on producers of visual depictions of actual human beings engaged in simulated sexually explicit conduct.

In sum, these statutes require photographers to ascertain, by examining identification documents, that performers (models) are of legal age, as well as to record and maintain this information. With respect to depictions of actual sexually explicit conduct, failure to do so is a criminal offense punishable by imprisonment of not more than five years for a first offense and not more than 10 years for subsequent offenses. With respect to depictions of simulated explicit conduct, failure to do so is a misdemeanor punishable with up to a year in prison and a fine. Matter containing such visual depictions must be labeled with a statement indicating where the records are located, and those records are subject to inspection by the government.

To help photographers decifer what this law means to them, the US Department of Justice has prepared a "Small Business Compliance Guide" that provides explanations of the law and commonly-asked questions. Additionally, Stephen Haynes has published a book entitled, "A Photographer's Guide to Section 2257." Haynes is a retired attorney and photographs nudes. In his book, Haynes does a good job of examining the law as it applies to photographers and helps to explain in everyday language what photographers need to do to comply with the law. Note that Haynes' language in the book is raw and his political views are clear. But if you're a photographer whose work may come under section 2257, then both of these resources are worth your study.

Unfortunately, even when good intentions are present, the laws that result affect others that were not supposed to caught in the net. Thus, it's your job to make sure that you stay clear of any problems.

Photography Not Allowed - 29

The hassle continues:

The reports that Austrians were asked by police to delete their tourist photos of London.

A video shows a photographer being asked by police why he is filming so the photographer investigates the law on the right to shoot in public in the United Kingdom.

And then there are the economists that say that copyright and patent laws are "stifling innovation and threatening the global economy." "From a public policy view, we'd ideally like to eliminate patent and copyright laws altogether," reports one of the economists. Of course, their book is for sale on Amazon. Is it ok with them to copy it? UPDATE: Apparently, yes. You may view the book chapters online. Thanks to Karl Dubost for the update.

Thanks to Tobias Weisserth and Ken Lobias for submitting these topics.

Apr 18, 2009

Bob Krist and Blog Readers Fight Piracy

As a follow up to my last post, seems as though USA Today was getting hit from all sides when Bob Krist, a judge for the USA Today's Picture America Contest, complained about the terms. Bob reports on his blog that one of his readers alerted him to the onerous rules for the contest so he told USA Today that he "couldn't be a judge if the rules stayed put."

Because of Marcelo's (Bob's reader), Peter's (this blog's reader), Bob's, and perhaps others' complaints, the rules were changed. As Bob says, the rules still aren't perfect, but they're better.

Congrats to all photographers who protect their rights!

Apr 16, 2009

When the Fine Print Isn't

It's fun to enter a photo contest. It's not fun to read the fine print. But because the "fine print" sometimes means that you lose more rights than you expected, you may want to stop to read those boring terms and conditions before hitting the "upload" button for these contests: Photo Contest

Rules: By entering the contest, entrants grant Smithsonian Institution a royalty-free, world-wide, perpetual, non-exclusive license to display, distribute, reproduce, and create derivative works of the entries, in whole or in part, in any media now existing or subsequently developed, for any Smithsonian Institution purpose, including, but not limited to advertising and promotion of the magazine and its Web site, exhibition, and commercial products, including but not limited to Smithsonian Institution publications. Photographs may appear on the Smithsonian Journeys Web site as well as in Journeys publications. Any photograph reproduced will include a photographer credit. [Editor's note: Hooray!] The Smithsonian Institution will not be required to pay any additional consideration or seek any additional approval in connection with such uses.

Scion Photo Contest

Official Rules: All Entrants submitting photography as part of the Contest will be non-exclusively licensing (with the unlimited right to sublicense) to Sponsor and Producer the right to use such photographs, and the images related thereto, for any purpose (including any and all commercial purposes) with the right to modify the photography and make derivative works thereof.

Peter Nicholls read the fine print and contacted the USA Today about its Picture America Contest. The rules were revised from:

Copyright. By entering the Contest, each contestant grants to Sponsor an exclusive, royalty-free and irrevocable right and license to publish, print, edit or otherwise use the contestant's submitted entry, in whole or in part, for any purpose and in any manner or media (including, without limitation, the Internet) throughout the world in perpetuity, and to license others to do so, all without limitation or further compensation. Each contestant further agrees that if his/her entry is selected by Sponsor as the winning entry, he/she will sign any additional license or release that Sponsors may require, and will not publicly display his or her photo submission without the express permission of Sponsor.


Copyright. Each contestant retains the copyright to the photograph entered but grants to Sponsor the royalty-free right to publish the entry in USA TODAY and online at and in connection with the Contest. Each contestant further acknowledges that he/she may be asked to sign an additional release in connection with Sponsor's use or publication of the photograph.

Way to go, Peter!

Thanks to Bill Jones and Kathy Rueckl for submitting these alerts.

Apr 14, 2009

Infringements - Strike Three!

Maciej Dakowicz, an accomplished street photographer based in Wales, reports that in the last few weeks his photos have been used without his permission by the Daily Telegraph, the Sunday Daily Sport, and His claim against the Telegraph has been resolved, but the other two remain.

Thanks to Steve Ford for submitting this topic.

Apr 13, 2009

Photography Not Allowed - 28

Justin Grindal, a photographer in Texas, recently experienced what it's like to be hassled for taking photos in public. Justin has given permission to reproduce his story in his words and photographs here under the "Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic Creative Commons" License:

Today I was waiting on my wife to finish work before we could go to the rodeo. I had some time to kill, it was approximately 6pm (I know, we were running late) and I was near Transco (Williams Tower) so I thought I would take some photos with the waning light on the tower. I saw red and blues and thought I would go investigate, maybe practice some photojournalism style photography.

When I arrived on the scene 3 police cars had pulled over a blue Mustang and had arrested the driver and the car was being towed. I was on the sidewalk, out of the way of the action, snapping a few shots. See scene below:

After arresting the driver of a blue Mustang, Houston Police Officer Johnson questions his detainee in the back of the police car.

Houston Police Officers Johnson and Ruiz collect information on the driver of the blue Mustang.

Houston Police Officer Ruiz makes arrangements with tow truck to have the blue mustang impounded.

Then things got interesting. as I tried a few new angles, a third police officer (Officer Hudson) became agitated and told me I was not allowed to take photos. I noted to him that I was in a public place and was simply photographing the scene, that if I was in any way impeding his work, I would be glad to comply with his orders, but otherwise I would continue about my business. He insisted that I was disrupting his work by taking photos as he "doesn't want his picture taken." He noted that the scene was an active police investigation and that I would have to 1) stop taking photos and 2) delete the photos which I had taken. I politely refused, stating that I was in my full rights to take the photos, and that I intended to keep them, noting that there probably wouldn't be any good ones anyway.

Houston Police Officer Hudson attempting to disrupt my picture taking.

Upon noting my refusal, Officer Hudson reached for my camera, as if to take it out of my hands. I pulled back and again reiterated my point that I was in my rights to take the photos. He stated that I could either delete my photos or he would arrest me for obstruction of justice. Appalled, I informed Officer Hudson that arresting me and getting a warrant for the photos would be the only way to get me to delete them and that I wanted his full name and badge number. He refused to give it to me. He told me that he was in a "generous mood" and would give me a chance to walk away. Noting that the situation could not end well for me, I noted that I intended to file a complaint against him, and headed on about my way.

Photogs, please note that you have rights and don't let police bully you around. Obey the rules, but remember that PHOTOGRAPHY IS NOT A CRIME!

Well done, Justin!

Apr 9, 2009

In Memoriam - Barbara Ringer

Barbara Ringer, 83, principal architect of the 1976 Copyright Act, Register of Copyrights from 1973-1980, and Acting Register from 1993-1994, died today in Lexington, VA.

In 1995, Ms. Ringer was given the "Library of Congress' Distinguished Service Award" for her lifetime contributions to the field of copyright, both nationally and intentionally, and for her contributions to the Library of Congress over a period of 40 years. In addition to her positions held (noted above), she was instrumental in the establishment of the Rome Convention of 1961, an international treaty for the protection of performers, broadcasters, and record producers, and the 1971 revisions of the Berne Convention and the Universal Copyright Convention. Throughout her distinguished career, Ms. Ringer was known for her brilliance as a drafter of legislation, her authorship of works on copyright, and her ability to harmonize divergent points of view. The Copyright Office has prepared a remembrance of Ms. Ringer.

Ms. Ringer called the 1976 Copyright Act, "a balanced compromise that comes down on the authors' and creators' side in almost every instance." The Act certainly has helped photographers. William Patry, while paying homage to Waldo Moore, said of Moore, Abraham Kaminstein, and Ms. Ringer:

Those who are not familiar with this era or who have come to copyright in the post-DMCA world, will find it difficult to fully appreciate the greatness of these figures. Their knowledge, institutional memory, commitment to copyright as a balancing of proprietary rights and the public interest, love of the arts, and devoted public service were taken for granted, although they shouldn't have been.

We all benefit from Ms. Ringer's leadership and she will be missed. Contributions in Ms. Ringer's memory may be made to Bath Animal Foundation, PO Box 716, Warm Springs, VA 24445.

Apr 7, 2009

More Photo Contest Rules to Contest

Winning a photo contest is a thrill but you can't win if you don't play. Unfortunately, just by entering some photo contests means that you will lose some rights to your photos. Following are some examples of photo contests where you need to check just what rights you'll lose by playing.

National Natural Landmarks Program Photo Contest -

6. General Conditions: . . . All entries become the property of the National Park Service and will not be returned to the entrant. Submission of an entry shall constitute the grant of a non-exclusive, royalty free license to the National Park Service, and its' sublicensees, to reproduce, display, prepare derivative works, distribute to the public by sale or other transfer, and to utilize the photograph submitted for any governmental purpose, including but not limited to publication on the World Wide Web, interpretive publications, and commercial uses.

The Block Main Street Photo Contest -

13. Entrants agree to grant to Sponsor and Organizer an everlasting, royalty-free, assignable, exclusive license to use, utilize, replicate, alter, adapt, modify, publish, broadcast, translate, produce derivative works from, distribute, present, play, sublicense and exercise all copyright and other intellectual property rights with respect to your contribution worldwide and/or to include your contribution in other works in any media now known or later created forever.

The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department's 2009 Photo Contest -

OPRD reserves the right to edit, adapt, and publish any or all of the photos submitted and may use them in any media without attribution or compensation to the contestant. Submission of an entry gives OPRD unrestricted rights to use photographs without compensation. -

3. Intellectual Property Rights
. . . you grant to Zivity a perpetual, world-wide, royalty free, non-exclusive, irrevocable and fully sublicensable license to use, distribute, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, publicly perform and publicly display any or all Content you submit to the Site and to incorporate such Content into other works.

Thanks to Tom Dills, Mary Ann Melton, Aaron Hockley, and Gregg Zivney, for submitting these alerts.

Apr 5, 2009

Photography Not Allowed - 27 - Speedlinks

The Times Online reports on the United Kingdom Village that prevented Google's Street View Car from its area.

PDN explains that photographer Stephen Mallon has succumbed to AIG and US Airways' request that he remove his Flight 1549 Recovery Photos from his website.

The WorldNetDaily tells of a man who was jailed for refusing to remove his hands from his face when being photographed by the police.

The NPPA explains that Amtrak has new photo guidelines that should result in an improvement of relations between Amtrak officers and photographers.

Thanks to Neal Reiter, Bill Millios, Rob Greer, Dave Trayers, Mary Ann Melton, Steve Griffin, and Sean Lamb for submitting these topics.

Apr 4, 2009

Fees for Copyright Registration By Paper May Increase August 1

The US Copyright Office has requested increased fees for copyright registrations by paper, currently $45. The registrations that most effect photographers are Form CO and the tradional paper form.

The proposed filing fee for Form CO is $50. Form CO is completed online and prints with several barcodes that contain the information from the application. When the form is scanned by the Copyright Office, the eCO system reads the barcodes and populates the fields of an electronic application with the captured data.

Traditional paper forms without barcodes will continue to be accepted for registration. To process these forms, the Office must digitize, manually enter and verify the information provided in the form, and process the accompanying check or money order even before the substantive review of the claim begins. This is a labor-intensive process resulting in increased processing costs. The Office proposes a higher fee of $65 to recover the greater cost. This fee will apply as well to paper filings of applications for group registration for database updates, contributions to periodicals, and published photographs.

The Office believes that the $65 fee is appropriate for photographers to pay in the interim period between the fee increase and the offering of group registrations via eCO. Photographers can submit an application for group registration encompassing hundreds of photographs. Electronic filing has not yet been developed in eCO for group registrations, but when it is available, claimants will be able to register groups of published photographs for the $35 fee. Until that time, the fee of $65 is appropriate in that it reflects more accurately the cost of providing registration for paper filings.

The Copyright Office will maintain the current fee of $35 to register your photographs using the eCO system. Note that the issue of uploading photographs using public Internet sources is expected to be mitigated by the recent increase in uploading time permitted in the eCO system to one hour.

For more information on the proposal for increased fees, you may review the Copyright Office's report. If Congress does not reject the schedule within 120 days, the new fees will take effect pursuant to regulations to be published by the Register of Copyrights.

Registering your copyrights is one of the best ways to protect your work. Check my article on how to register your photographs using the eCO system.