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Employee & Image Rights

Hey All,

I work for an organization as their multimedia guy. On a number of projects I often take it upon myself to shoot on my own time things like time lapses and extra content to make projects a bit better. I’m starting to wonder about the rights of that content.

Any advice or insights that people have from past experiences of how this should work?

by Joseph Molieri at 2013-12-06 14:45:39 UTC | Bookmark | | Report spam→

“I often take it upon myself to shoot on my own time… to make projects better "

You have done work for free, voluntarily at your own discretion, and given it away – it’s a bit late to talk about your rights. That would need to be a conversation and a negotiation with them. I suggest not working for free and giving it away, if they want these projects “better”, be professional negotiate a contract for a fee and usage before the fact.

by Angela Cumberbirch | 11 Dec 2013 15:12 | New York, United States | | Report spam→
It’s probably a bit more complicated than Angela suggests, though I think she’s generally right: you’ve essentially voluntarily provided material to your organisation without charge, as a gift.

However (and this will change from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, all over the world), it is a more-or-less general rule that the creator of a “work” owns the copyright in that work and that this “intellectual property right” exists universally unless you were (specifically) commissioned, i.e. asked to do it and paid for that work. Now, if you’re given them material unasked and for free then I’d be inclined to say you have no claim against them for that work. You would, however still own the intellectual property rights – but they would argue (successfully) that you gave the works to them as a “gift.”

In practical terms, you’ve given them free use for any purpose, or a perpetual “license” to use that material in any way they like. This does not, of course, mean that you may not also use this body of work in an unrestricted way yourself in any way that you wish.

Angela and most other photographers will all say the same thing: be careful of letting your enthusiasm for your work overshadow your judgement. In future, define the boundaries and terms, preferably in writing, before you get carried away. Because I work internationally and copyright laws are different everywhere I make a (written) point of asserting my copyright before I undertake any work whatsoever. I started doing this when New Zealand copyright law changed a few years ago and the rule became, “if you are paid to do any work then the copyright belongs to the person or organisation that is commissioning the work, unless other contractual agreements are in place.”

by Dr Chris Westinghouse | 13 Dec 2013 04:12 | Melbourne, Australia | | Report spam→
Things are a bit different in the USA than Chris describes. Here the copyright for commissioned work belongs by default to the creator of the work, not the person or organization commissioning it. I understand this is different in different countries.

The exception to this is work made for hire — that is work produced by an employee within the scope of his or her employment (in this context an independent contractor is not an employee). This seems to be where you find yourself, so the question becomes how to determine if the work you have done would fall under the scope of your employment. That’s a tough question to answer. I would start by making sure you understand everything that you may have signed when you were hired and see if there’s anything like an employee manual that may apply to this situation.

Since you are a multimedia guy, you may have a tough time arguing that creating media for projects, even if on your own time, is not within the scope of your employment. But that is my opinion based on almost no information and no legal education.

by Mark Meyer | 15 Dec 2013 02:12 | Anchorage, Alaska, United States | | Report spam→
Despite the disclaimed lack of legal education, Mark is mostly right. But he is wise to point out that you have given little factual information for anybody to use.

There are other issues to look at, including whether the employer has an employee policy that prohibits your working for yourself (even on “your own time”), whether you signed some agreement that might affect this, etc.

Frankly, I would advise a client (and I don’t give out legal advice here or elsewhere – you should consult your own lawyer) that irrespective of the technical legal rights of the parties (over which there no doubt could be much argument), you just sit down with your boss and tell him what’s going on with your extra work.

You should in that discussion ask him/her (a) for additional compensation based on the extra work you are doing (the deal can be worked out on fair terms) and (b) that the copyright to the work you create (on your own time) be yours and that you be able to sell that as you wish (other than to competitors after a reasonable amount of time).

Be prepared, however, for a reaction that the work is an extension of your employment, the product belongs to your employer, and that you are being paid for this work as a part of your existing employment. Employers are like that. :-)

by Neal Jackson | 18 Dec 2013 00:12 | Washington, DC, United States | | Report spam→
Thanks for the feedback…. I have a very good relationship with my director. So I have no problem sitting down with him and talking about image rights ect. (and having something signed) for the next project. But based on this info I think I’ll generally just separate personal work from work work.

It’s not a big deal right now but I wanted to give it some thought sooner rather than later :)

Thanks all.

by Joseph Molieri | 23 Dec 2013 15:12 | Philadelphia, United States | | Report spam→

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Joseph Molieri, Photographer Joseph Molieri
Philadelphia , United States ( PHL )
Angela Cumberbirch, Photographer Angela Cumberbirch
New York , United States
Dr  Chris Westinghouse, Photojournalist Dr Chris Westinghouse
(Generalist For Hire)
Melbourne , Australia
Mark Meyer, Photographer Mark Meyer
Anchorage, Alaska , United States ( ANC )
Neal Jackson, Neal Jackson
(Flaneur, Savant and Scapegrace)
Washington, Dc , United States ( IAD )


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