Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Dear Rich: I have a question. A very good friend of mine had senior pictures taken of her daughter (we'll call her "D") with a professional photographer. He took some pictures of D that are not tasteful and do not portray D in a light that she wants on public display. My friend has expressed this to the photographer multiple times. The photographer bought a yearbook advertisement and it had one of the unflattering pictures in the ad. My friend and her family are upset and concerned that the photographer will use these pictures in other forms of advertising such as newspapers or in a mall display. Do they have any legal recourse if the photographer refuses to honor their wishes? I'm so glad you asked. The short answer to your question is, "Possibly, but it depends on the paperwork."
Dear Rich: I have a question. I was at my bank to deposit a check from a mutual fund. I requested the bank make a photocopy of the check for my personal records. They refused, saying that it would be a copyright violation. Is that correct? If that is true, are they in violation of copyright laws by providing images of my canceled checks with my statements? I'm so glad you asked. The short answer to both your questions is, "No." The Dear Rich staff was upset to learn of your treatment. Copyright law (37 C.F.R. Sec 202.1(c)) does not protect blank forms, a rule that's consistently enforced by the courts. The underlying principle -- according to the Supreme Court -- is that these forms do not convey information but merely serve as "repositories to structure the recording of information." It's possible that some blank checks may include copyrighted imagery -- for example, photos of sunsets or animals. In that case, the image may qualify for protection but a bank employee's copying of a specific check for a customer would definitely fall within the category of fair use. That's because the purpose is purely transformative -- the copy is being made to record the financial information, not to duplicate the imagery.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Dear Rich: I have a question. My business partner and I have acquired trademark registration for the name of our business. We bought the domain name (.com), as well as about nine different extensions (.net, .org, etc.), and plural versions in nine extensions as well. We also have registered copyright protection on the name. I was going to use the name for a blog at the Blogspot domain -- but it is already taken. (The person who had it is no longer using it and has started a different blog.) Do we have any legal rights to the name when it is used as part of the domain name at Blogspot. If so, can we ask a confusingly similar website/blog to cease and desist? I'm so glad you asked. The short answer to your questions is, "Probably."
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Dear Rich: For my daughter's wedding this past August we hired a photographer that relinquishes all copyrights to the photos. The package deal that we chose gave us a DVD album of the some 300+ photos that he took of the bride and groom with an additional 40+ photos of friends and family as we left the church. As parents of the bride we chose the photographer and package deal for the wedding and paid for it. I feel that we now own the pictures and do not have an obligation, moral or otherwise, to make a copy of the DVDs to hand over to the groom's parents. Nor should I feel bad that we did not hire the photographer to do extended family sittings - we paid only for an extended bride and groom photo shoot. The photographer has posted all the pictures he gave us on his web site and his prices for printing up the photos is very reasonable. My question is an etiquette question. Is it wrong to ask the groom's parents to pay for a copy of the DVDs that the photographer delivered to us? I would like to ask the groom's parents to pay about 20% of the total cost of the photographer. The Dear Rich Staff is thrilled to have been asked an etiquette question. On the other hand, we're a bit distressed to note that somebody's marriage is starting out with the in-laws bickering over photo reproduction rights.
We're hung up about who owns the copyright in the wedding photos. You say the photographer "relinquished" the copyright. Did he assign the rights to you? If so, why is he posting the photos and selling prints? We have a feeling he didn't assign copyright and that's why he can still post and sell the pictures. If we're right and the photographer still owns the copyright, then you have the perfect (and most pathetic) excuse for not duplicating the DVD -- you could be sued for copyright infringement.
For the sake of the happy couple. We're not sure how you arrived at the 20% figure but we wish this matter had been discussed before hostage negotiations were commenced over the wedding DVD. Regardless of who owns the copyright, we hope you follow Dr. Phil's advice (See #4) and we also suggest that you consult with the bride and groom before making any decisions (as they are the ones who will suffer the most from any resulting squabbles).
Monday, January 12, 2009
Hey Rich: I have a question. I just moved to California from Arizona and notice lots of decals on cars that say NOR CAL -- NOR CAL with a star or other object in between NOR and CAL. Can you trademark NOR CAL? Would you have to trademark every design with NOR CAL? I'm so glad you asked. The short answers to your questions are "Yes," and "No." However, we will need to qualify these answers (and segue into the "long answer"): (1) As has been pointed out to the Dear Rich staff, "trademark" is not a verb. You cannot trademark anything; you can only acquire and assert trademark rights. (2) You can only acquire trademark rights if you are the first to use a mark in connection with the goods or services in commerce. So if someone is already using the mark in connection with goods or services, you're probably out of luck.