Can I stop my wedding photographer from using my photos?

Hi. I recently bought the full copyright of my wedding photos from my photographer. She said that she gets to keep one photo from the ones she took of her choosing as a shared rights release. When she was being nice to me, I told her she could keep the photos she posted on her portfolio. But now she has caused us to get legal help and now I do not want to let her use the photos that I said before she could keep. Can I still only let her have the one photo?

Lynn on June 25, 2012

Hi Lynn. For a specific answer please consult a local lawyer. I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice. There seem to be several issues here, such as: transfer of copyright, fair use, and breach of contract. You “bought” the copyright only if you have a written agreement stating that the copyrights were transferred to you, and this is signed by the photographer. According to the U.S. Copyright Office, “… the transfer of exclusive rights is not valid unless that transfer is in writing and signed by the owner of the rights conveyed …” Assuming that this is the case, she may or may not have a verbal contract with you to use a photo, that would presumably be a local law. She can use the photos for “fair use” which might include display in a portfolio as examples of her work. You should ask your “legal help” for specific advice.

copyright transfer, fair use


Reply by L.Tom Carubie

October 24, 2012

Is placing a copyright statement in the properties of a digital photograph just as valid as a visible copyright watermark seen by the viewer?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

October 26, 2012


Hi L.Tom:

Both count as “CMI” — Copyright Management Information, which is protected under the DMCA addition to copyright law. Legally, CMI (the copyright statement, the watermark) cannot be removed without permission from you, the photographer. “Placing a copyright statement in the properties of a digital photograph” is a good idea as such “metadata” usually stays with a photograph when it is copied, requiring someone to specifically remove it which, in a copyright dispute, can count as an illegal act.

Including a copyright statement AND a watermark maximizes your defense.


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