Who owns my work, and who's responsible for it?
February 21, 2013 8:35 AM   Subscribe

I'm not a professional photographer, but I did some photography work (unpaid) for my company... is that work for hire or is it something else?

YANAL; YANML, etc. (FWIW I'm trying to find an IP lawyer that will give me advice on this for not much money).

I work for a medium-sized company as a mid-level manager. On the side, earning enough to pay some of the bills, I work as a photographer, with portraiture being one of my specialities.

I travel a lot for work and decided to do a portrait project based around the colleagues I was always travelling with. This go me noticed by people in the marketing department of the company, who asked me to come to the head office and shoot some headshots of top-level managers for use on a new company blog that they were putting together. I did so, happily, for expenses only, since it got me more portraits for my portfolio.

A couple of weeks ago the company launched a new range of products, and I was pleased to see that the portraits I'd made months ago were being used as part of the advertisements (in small, but obvious ways). However, the more I think about this, the more I wonder what kind of legal grey area I'm in at the moment. My questions to you NAL-ers out there are:

* My employment contract with the company is not as a photographer, but as a manager. Can this be considered "work for hire" (thus making the copyright of the images the company's) or is this a freebie that I happened to do for the company for which I work?
* Assuming that it isn't work for hire, am I right to assume that I'm therefore liable if any of the people whose likenesses are shown in the marketing images claim that their image was used without permission (unlikely, but possible).

This is within the realms of UK law, so if you have UK-specific knowledge it'd be a help.
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (6 answers total)
You were given an assignment by your employer. While it was outside of your normal duties, you accepted no pay (nor were you offered any outside of your normal salary) and you were reimbursed only for expenses.

Sounds like a classic work for hire scenario to my untrained eyes.
posted by inturnaround at 8:42 AM on February 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

You say "unpaid", but my interpretation of this is if you did it as part of your work - within a clear definition of your work. You were on site, I guess, and during working hours and doing it at the instruction of your company (i.e. you didn't do this at home on the weekend off your own bat) you definitely were paid for it in your salary. That you are a manager not a photographer isn't really the point.

I don't think you're in a grey area legally. If you're worried about liability and I don't think you should be, then confirm in writing with the relevant manager that you assign them ownership of the pictures but also that you have the right to use the photographs as part of online and offline portfolios.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:49 AM on February 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

You might like to have a look at your employment contract; lots of UK contracts have a clause that purports to give copyright over anything you do to your employer - even if you do it on your own time.

As I understand it, in the UK it's not a matter of "work for hire", so whether or not your photos are "work for hire" is irrelevant. If your contract doesn't mention copyright, then the question is whether you took the photos "in course of employment". I have no idea whether this would be the case for the circumstances you describe.
posted by emilyw at 8:50 AM on February 21, 2013

I think you should have charged them the first time, but since you didn't--draft some sort of license so that the company can use the photos but cannot re-sell them to anyone else. And next time, tell them you need to get paid.
posted by Ideefixe at 2:39 PM on February 21, 2013

I have no idea about UK employment law. However you want to think about how handling this is going to affect your job and your relationship with your company. Even if you are right and they owe you lots of money, it's often worth it to chalk it up to a lesson learned and not bring it up (or bring it up gently in a non-demanding way) because it would cause tension or affect your job.
posted by radioamy at 2:55 PM on February 21, 2013

You will not be liable (as far as I understand it), because you are not the person distributing the photo's, and permission was given to you to take those photo's at the time. If someone had a problem with their photo being used, they would take their complaint to whomever posted them or put them in the advertising.
posted by markblasco at 9:58 PM on February 21, 2013

« Older One beard enkemptening, please.   |   Possible to Repair Dress Shirt Sleeve? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.