Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Growing Pains: Client can't print their senior portraits!

This week my business had to deal with an issue I've never confronted before as a growing professional photographer: copyright and reprint permissions. When the mother of one of my recent senior portrait clients tried to get several images printed at a local Walgreens from a CD I had given her, the photo clerk refused to let her make the prints!

This has never happened to me before. In the past, numerous clients have received CDs/DVDs of photos taken during their session with me as part of our contract agreement and have had no issues printing the photos. The contract clearly states that I and the client have dual ownership of the images allowing them to reproduce them on a limited basis (ie for personal use only).

Now it seems to me as if there are two concerns here: Walgreen's attempt to protect my creative rights as a photographer and my client's ability to have convenient access to products she has purchased from me. Here is a link to the Walgreen's copyright policy. Note this statement: "If we believe a photo order includes images that do not belong to the person ordering them, or that may have been taken by a professional photographer, we will not make prints or other products from them until we have written permission or other evidence confirming their ownership in our files."

While, I completely understand and appreciate Walgreen's stand to not reproduce photos without expressed permission from a photographer, I think the way they currently have things set up is problematic for clients. Not only was my verbal confirmation not accepted over the phone, but the store did not have a fax machine or an email address where I could send written permission (other than to drive more than minutes to take the signed note myself). The photo clerk explained to me that she herself had ordered senior portraits from a photographer, but the photographer gave her the prints instead. This reply is meaningless for today's savvy photography client who often want access to printing their own images at their leisure. While many of my clients ask for me to make prints for them, others want the convenience of keeping a disk for themselves for future use. I can only imagine the disappointment my client must have felt when she left the store, and I hope that this situation doesn't prevent her from working with me in the future.

To prevent this issue from happening in the future, I will be implementing some new changes to my workflow based on suggestions from other photographers who have dealt with this problem:

1) I will make a jpg and pdf version of a permission to print release and include it on the disk so it's easily available to anyone. Thanks for this idea Jenn LeBlanc!

2) Here is sample wording of the print release form that I have added to both my photography agreement and as a separate form on the disk as well as a .pdf or .doc file on disc. Thanks for this information Sean Donnelly:

To Whom It May Concern:

The bearer of this notice (“Bearer”) has purchased high-resolution digital files from his/her photography session with YOUR COMPANY NAME. Bearer is hereby granted permission by to reproduce the images and make an unlimited number of prints, for personal use only. This permission applies worldwide.

Bearer agrees that he/she may not use any YOUR COMPANY NAME images for commercial or editorial purposes, or enter any YOUR COMPANY NAME images into competition without the express written permission of YOUR COMPANY NAME.

YOUR COMPANY NAME retains the copyright to all images, per USC Title 17 (US Copyright Law).

Sean also suggested that I print this on the DVD face using Lightscribe or InkJet printable CD/DVD media. My client hasn't tried to get the photos reprinted at the Walgreens again. But I will report back the details of what happened when she does.

Do you have any other suggestions? If so, please share because I appreciate the help.


Dizzle said...

The only other thing I have done other than what you are implementing is to give the client a printed version of the release as well when I deliver the CD. This way not only do they have the digital version on the CD, but they have an original to show the printing store as well.

I had this issue pop up early on when I started doing CDs for clients and while I was happy the store was protecting my rights, like you I was more concerned about the client.

Sheba Wheeler said...

Thanks Tiffany. I think giving the client something they can hold in their hand when they go into the store is a great idea too.

HS said...

Though I feel for your predicament, I am glad to hear a discussion of it. I haven't encountered this yet...but, I expect to and was thinking intently about adding a form to the digital discs in hopes of avoiding this problem. So, I am glad to hear you will be adding that to your discs and I appreciate the sample wording provided! I think it's a brilliant idea and I really dislike having to work with paper, a digital copy of a release is ideal for me and I hope to institute it! Thanks!

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