Nicola (on the West Coast of the US) asked the following:
I was hired by a local newspaper to photograph a real estate piece for a high profile house sale that used to belong to a celebrity politician in the old days but was owned and redone by another owner. The house looked completely different apart from some feature which I do not think appears in the photo in question.
A publishing company is interested in licensing one of the images from this set. I am wondering if I need property release, if I own the copyright – or if I was hired by a company to provide the photos for a newspaper article if they own the rights?
First of all, I and most of the commenters on this blog are not attorneys (except Joel Rothman
) so all most of us can do is give you is our opinion based on discussions and personal experiences. The following is not legal advice.
Here is my opinion of the basics:
- In general, the person that takes a photo automatically owns the copyright for the image even though they have not registered it with the copyright office. However, it’s best to register your images that you relicense.
- To transfer the copyright to someone else the photographer must sign something that says they transfer copyright to someone else. That is, you can’t transfer copyright by just talking about it.
- Licensing (how a client is allowed to use a photo) is totally up to the written agreements you have agreed to with the client. Of course, this is done before the transaction.
Given those basics, what was your agreement if any with the newspaper you shot the photos for? Was there anything written down?
Depending on your answers to those questions you may or may not be able to license the image(s) to another publisher.
If there was nothing discussed or written down you can probably get away with it but I would ask your first client, what they think their license is. They may think they own the rights to the image(s) because you worked for them under a work for hire agreement. But again I believe that must be written down to establish the terms.
On the question of whether or not you need a property release:
I don’t know if you legally need to I would get approval from the owners to license the photo to another publisher but if it were me, I’d get written release from the current property owners whether it’s legally required or not just as a common courtesy. People can get very worked up over their personal space. And if the property owner is a celebrity politician the are more likely to be sensitive about photos like this.
In summary, I would consult with Joel Rothman
(an intellectual property attorney) to make sure you don’t create some legal problems for yourself.