Monday, December 9, 2013

A Funny Thing Happened on Our Way to Pick Up Photo Prints…

This is not a studio photograph,
it was taken by a proud father who sneaked into the Bride's room before the ceremony

Our daughter was married a few months ago.  This is the season to start thinking about using some of the wedding photographs for gifts, Christmas Cards and calendars.  Usually we print photos at home on our home printer with premium photography paper, but when there is a large number of prints we send them to a local store to be picked up.  Sometimes we send photographs via an online service to family in Spain or Puerto Rico to be picked up at their local discount store or pharmacy.  (I’m not going to use store names here)
 
Before I go on with my story, I just want to mention that my husband is not a professional photographer, but he is a prize winning amateur. 

We hired a professional photographer for our daughter’s wedding.  Many people do, and nowadays they are given a disk with all the images instead of the old fashioned wedding album of photographs like we received at our own wedding thirty years ago.  This is standard procedure today.  In the contract and at our meetings with the photographer she told us we could do whatever we wanted with the images. 

A few days ago we sent 25 photographs taken by both Vincent and the professional photographer to a local chain pharmacy.  They called to tell me the photos were ready, but also warned that we could not pick them up until we brought in the copyright release. 

This was strange.  We had picked up some photographs months ago at another pharmacy chain store without being asked for the copyright release.  I didn’t have the paperwork or the original disk, they are with my daughter.  I immediately contacted her and asked her for a copy of the release.  She found it as a PDF on the disk, and forwarded it to me, and I printed it out to bring to the pharmacy.

Vincent checked the images our daughter had shared with us on a memory stick.  None of the professional images had any metadata that identified them as from a studio.  None of his images from his pocket digital camera had any metadata that identified them as copyrighted.  How did the pharmacy photo clerk know which was which?  How did they know that any of them were from a studio?

When Vincent picked up the prints at the pharmacy, with the printed release, he asked the clerk why she had called.  She stated that the store policy was to ask for a copyright release only if the photos “appeared” professional.  When he asked about his own “home” photos, the store demanded to see the memory card on his camera to see that he had taken them himself, in the correct sequence.  This was standard procedure- to make a decision on releasing the photographs based on the clerk’s personal opinion on the photo’s perceived professionalism.

I checked online and found that this was the standard procedure at Walmart, CVS, Walgreens, Rite-Aid, Kmart and other chain stores with photo services.  You can check for yourself.

Lessons learned:

1.  When sharing digital images from a professional photographer, always include the image of the copyright release.  It should be the first image on the studio disk.  If not, pass out paper copies of the contract or release to all the family members and friends who may want to print those images.

2.       Be prepared to show this release to store clerks.

3.  Be prepared to defend your own photographs.  Clerks are making judgment calls on personal photography if it appears “too professional”.  Have your original memory cards with you, showing the sequence of photographs as they were originally taken.  A memory stick with an assortment of images out of sequence will be seen as suspect.

4. If you send photographs out of town, out of state, out of the country to be picked up at a store in a relative or friend’s hometown, keep in mind that they might not be able to pick up photo prints that appear “professional” without the release.  If they are from your own camera and appear to be “too professional” you may be out of luck.  I have no idea how you would proceed to prove they are from a home camera in these cases.

5. These same problems may occur if you are using Shutterfly, Blurb, or any other photo book publisher, or any other photo gift product such as magnets, mugs, Christmas tree ornaments, etc.  Be prepared to defend your right to use the images whether they are from a studio or your own camera.

I certainly understand that professional photographers want to protect their images, but I do not defend the rights of store clerks to use their opinions on what constitutes a professional image or not.  If the images are copyrighted, that would be included in the metadata.  Photographs released to the customer on studio disks under contracts do not appear to have copyrighted information  in their metadata.  At least that was our experience.

You can find many horror stories online about folks having problems picking up their prints at stores.  Just Google “[insert name of store] photo copyright”. 

----------------------------
The URL for this post is
http://nutfieldgenealogy.blogspot.com/2013/12/a-funny-thing-happened-on-our-way-to.html 

Copyright (c) 2013, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

20 comments:

  1. Nice blog and place inside this blog looking gorgeous.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wal-Mart refused to print one our pictures that 'looked' professional but was not. We even had the picture on our camera card. They also wouldn't print one of my 70 year old family pictures that was taken professionally, but there was no way to obtain a release from a studio that no longer exists. It's ridiculous.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I have never had a problem using Snapfish (with professional wedding photographs). I do this by mail. This issue is a good one for people to know. Applying this to older photos - as the commenter mentioned - is just ridiculous.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I used Blurb and Shutterfly (in the past) for older studio photos and for new ones, too, with no problem, but I suppose it is in within their rights to ask for a copyright release. Be sure you know how to find the release (paperwork or electronic versions) just in case this issue comes up in the future.

      Delete
    2. Thanks for warning. I always take photos off my memory card and save them to my hard drives usually on the day or day after I take them. Thankfully my pictures don't look professional!

      Delete
    3. Thanks for warning. I always take photos off my memory card and save them to my hard drives usually on the day or day after I take them. Thankfully my pictures don't look professional!

      Delete
  4. I have had this happen to me. I wore out one photo printer that I bought and am now on another one.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Wow! Who knew? This seems an entirely too subjective standard to survive a legal challenge. The clerk's individual opinion of what "looks" professional -- really? The problem is the cost and inconvenience of challenging something like this. A personal laser printer might be a less expensive and more convenient option in the long run. Great post! Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Great Post! Hope I don't run into that problem. Some of those studios that Parents pictures are on are long gone now. I have the originals. I don't like their discrepancy policy.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Wow! Good to know especially since I like to do "photography."

    ReplyDelete
  8. I haven't run across that yet. Having photographs printed shouldn't be this complicated!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Interesting post. I've had the same thing happen when trying to print wedding photos from the disk we were given by our daughter-in-law's parents. We ended up being able to print just a few pictures at a time. In the future, if I have a release, I'm going to print and keep it in the folder with the disk.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Heather, thanks for posting about this and making me aware... I would never have considered this at all. I agree completely, too-- I certainly agree that professionals should be able to protect their photos, but I don't think clerks should be making this determination of what constitutes a "professional" photo based on opinion. Frankly, that's not their job.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I've had problems with this, also. I wanted to have a photo printed of a family member that was around 100 years old, and yes.. a professional photo. Because it was a professional photo and I didn't have the approval from the actual photographer (who I can guarantee has been dead for decades), they wouldn't let me buy the copy. I tried explaining it to them about how old it was and they didn't care.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I've had problems with this, also. I wanted to have a photo printed of a family member that was around 100 years old, and yes.. a professional photo. Because it was a professional photo and I didn't have the approval from the actual photographer (who I can guarantee has been dead for decades), they wouldn't let me buy the copy. I tried explaining it to them about how old it was and they didn't care.

    ReplyDelete
  13. One thing everyone -- and I mean everyone -- needs to understand is that ALL photos are copyrighted unless they're old enough to have passed into the public domain. You could argue that those taken by a professional photographer that you've hired are "works for hire" and that you own the copyright, but you still need paperwork to prove that circumstance.

    I'll be the first to agree that copyright law is ridiculous in terms of length of copyright (life of the producer plus 70 or 100 years, as the case may be, is not my idea of a "limited time"), but the simple fact is that as soon as something is committed to a physical medium it is copyrighted. No registration is required, no notice is required; it's automatic.

    Dave L

    ReplyDelete
  14. Dave L. sums it up pretty nicely. I'm a hobby genealogist and a professional photographer so I can see both sides of this issue. To make a long story short let's just say that the store owner has made it clear to their clerks that they do not want and cannot afford to be sued for copyright infringement by photographers whose livelihood may depend on their copyrighted works. The solution is as stated. Get a release from the copyright owner and bring it to the lab when you are having prints made.

    As far as metadata goes it is way too easy to modify, so the labs can't rely on it. But refusing to print 100 year old photos? Crazy. But some lawsuits are not only crazy but very expensive so the labs are going to err on the side of caution.

    Michael

    ReplyDelete
  15. As a pro photog and genealogist, I think there is one thing that needs to be added to the conversation. Lesson Number 1 notes sharing the print release with family and friends. I'd like to caution against this. Often, the release names the individual who has the print rights to the image, usually the person who has paid for the wedding or those who benefitted (bride and groom). This means that if a family member attempts to use the same release, and their name isn't on it, they can also be turned down for printing. I get questioned about my own images and have had to sign a release on the spot corroborating that they were in fact my images. I'll also post this comment on your blog for those that read there. To add, the laws are in place for cases like this, where the Walton family believes it owns the negatives and rights to images taken of their family by a local photographer and has sued the photographer's widow claiming they are their property. Naw, SO not the case. http://www.ppa.com/.../walmart-files-suit-against-pho.php

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Nicka, for your comments. It's good to hear from someone who is BOTH a professional photographer and a genealogist. You have a good point about the photo release.

      Delete