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Am I entitled to revoke permission on photo use?

Eric Bauer , Sep 22, 2010; 07:42 p.m.

Hello all,

I've run into a bit of a problem with an interior designer who's using my work and I don't want them to anymore. What started out as a "you scratch my back & I'll scratch yours" type of deal has gotten ugly.
I provided framed work to be displayed in an interior designer's staged condo as well as some architectural shots of a place that I did. In return they were to promote my work, (try) to put me in touch with a local magazine as well as let me do some architectural shoots for free for the purpose of building my portfolio. I delivered on the art as well as 2 sets of architectural shots (which they used for mass mailings to clients) and they did nothing in return, the lady told me she doesn't even know anyone from that magazine.
I had asked them to either rectify the situation and deliver on some of the things they said they'd do or take the photos off of their website and facebook fan page. The reply I got in return was less then pleasant and the bottom line is that she refuses to take down my photos, claiming that it's shots of her interior design work that she'll not be able to retake as the place sold and removing the photos would be detracting from her portfolio. One important note; she told me my work was juvenile and amateur. She took my name away from the credits but forgot to photoshop out my signature on the bottom. As well, to top it off, I was threatened physically by her partner in the business; "I'll spilt your head open". I have all the RAW and edited masters, they only have emailed jpgs, as well I have all the emails from the very first contact with them right up to where she openly admits they are my photos but is refusing to take them down.
From what I've been reading on copyright laws, I gathered that I am well within my right to tell her she cannot use the photos anymore regardless of any past permission I granted. She already stated that she'd see me in court before she took those photos down.
What are my rights here? Can I take her to court and win? Really all I wanted was for them to stop using my photos but now after the vulgarities she blasted me with and the physical threats from her partner, I really want to sue big time!
Do I have a leg to stand on is my ultimate question?
Thank you to any and all that may be able to offer some advice on how to handle this, I would appreciate it greatly



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Jeff Spirer , Sep 22, 2010; 07:45 p.m.

Find out who is hosting the site and send a DMCA takedown notice.

James Cook , Sep 22, 2010; 08:46 p.m.

There's a lot that your paperwork may or may not do to support your case. If you have any suggestion in writing that they have agreed to some degree of compensation to you that would certainly help. The fact that they're continuing to use the images implies that they see value in them, especially if you've asked for them to be removed. Your best option is probably to take them to small clams court for the value of the usage plus a generous amount for your trouble.

Most US cities have Lawyers for the Arts organizations that provide free advice to people such as yourself. You'd do well to contact them, or a similar group for some advice. It'll always be more valuable than the advice of the jailhouse lawyers here - that includes me.

Jeff Spirer , Sep 22, 2010; 09:33 p.m.

DMCA takedown will be much quicker. I've done it. ISPs don't want to deal with a lot of trouble, so they are quick to respond. Dealing with court is a major time sink for something that may not have much value. If it was Coca-Cola, it would be worth court, no question. But if the photos are worth that much to them, they will negotiate after the ISP gets a takedown notice and you won't have to deal with much more complex situations requiring your time and money.

Physical threats should be reported to the police.

Jerry Litynski , Sep 22, 2010; 11:40 p.m.

...one suggestion. Make up a CD with small images of all the photos in question, and spend the $45-something to register the images with the US Copyright Office.

That makes for a more concise way to settle the issue if you end up in a lawyer-sponsored free-for-all....

Eric Bauer , Sep 23, 2010; 12:24 a.m.

Thank you all for the advice, very much appreciated.
Well, she made it a point to stress how successful she is and how I was a nothing. I'm feeling that a law suit is in order, if only to knock her off her high horse. Funny thing, I just read a posting from a past client of theirs and this lady went off on them as well when they complained about the poor work; I'm thinking she's got a few screws loose in the head.
I will copyright all my photos (I hear it's 45 bucks for as many as you can fit on disc) and proceed with the lawsuit, I feel she deserves it as it is a clear case of the big guy picking on the little one. As you might have guessed I'm still new to the business side.
Thanks again everyone!

Josh Root , Sep 23, 2010; 12:25 a.m.

Another good example of why everything in business, even "scratch my back I'll scratch yours" type trades need to be spelled out in writing with a signed contract. EVERYTHING.

Eric Bauer , Sep 23, 2010; 12:51 a.m.

Believe me, this taught me that lesson the hard way. I do have email correspondence that loosely defines the terms.
What can I say, I was wet behind the ears, out of work and excited that an interior designer wanted to use my work. This will certainly not happen again!

Josh Root , Sep 23, 2010; 01:48 a.m.

Believe me, this taught me that lesson the hard way. I do have email correspondence that loosely defines the terms.
What can I say, I was wet behind the ears, out of work and excited that an interior designer wanted to use my work. This will certainly not happen again!

Don't feel bad, we've all been there. Some version of this happens to most every professional photographer at least once. Well, once if you are smart and learn from mistakes. More than once if you are not.

John MacPherson , Sep 23, 2010; 04:56 a.m.

In the eventual pissing match that may result in a court action it might be 'better' for you to be seen to be 'reasonable'.

First - send a polite professional letter ordering them to remove your work from their website, clearly and objectively stating the reasons why they must do so. Give a reasonable time frame for this to occur. Point out that failure to do so will result in DMCA action followed by court action. Send by Recorded Delivery.

Second - prepare ALL the DMCA stuff - for all the reasons Jeff Spirer has already noted - and if no response from the other side, send it off. Thats going to be their first real wake-up call - they will be confronted with both their ISP and Google demanding they remove the work or their site goes down the pan. This DMCA action involves some work on your part to get it right, but its worth it. (I've used it with great success and got action taken against an infinger within two weeks).

Third - if they're not in contact trying to forestall the court action, or are being aggressive and threatening, keep records of communications, phone call recordings, etc and proceed with court action.

Its important to be methodical, and to remain reasonable as all of this is going to be to your advantage.

EDIT: the DMCA take down is based on you providing incontrovertible proof of ownership of copyright, and the infinger having to show full written/legal permission from you to use the work. Of course in the absence of such 'proof' the infringer has a problem. It may be the case legally (other more legally savvy commentators may wish to advise) that in any resulting legal action the fact they voluntarily removed the work on demand from their ISP, is a tacit admission of 'guilt' (if having no right to reproduce the work in this instance is a matter of 'guilt'). I'm being circumspect in my words here because there is a history to this, various he said/she said stuff, and probably lots of emails, all of which might muddy the water.

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