Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Using Photo For Wedding Gown Preservation Company

Dear Rich: A newly formed wedding gown preservation company has used one of my bridal portraits in their advertising. I did buy the rights to the picture from the photographer that took them. They have used it as the main photo on their web page, on brochures and handouts, and are wanting to make an 8 foot by 10 foot poster of it as a display at the Bridal Extravaganza. They are willing to compensate me for my picture, but I need general idea of how much to request. And do I request more each time they use the picture for something different? Wow, we had no idea that there was an entire industry devoted to preserving wedding dresses (hey, and you new brides better watch out forscams and the unromantic-sounding "anti-sugar treatment.")
Right, you had a question. Okay, it sounds as if you have two distinct claims: one for reproduction of the copyrighted image which you acquired from the photographer, and the other because somebody is using your image to sell a service (that's known as your right of publicity). What the company needs is for you to sign a photo release that covers the company's uses for the these activities and more. You can find a sample release in our Getting Permission book or you can prepare a basic release yourself. The big issue is whether you want to sign off on all uses -- in which case the company would never have to return for any permissions -- or whether you want to spell out specific uses (web use, poster, brochures). You would be compensated for those uses and the company would then seek additional payment for subsequent uses. Most companies prefer to acquire all uses for obvious reasons.
The world of stock photography? Start with the idea that the world of photo rights has gone all crazy in the past five years. That's due to the microstock explosion in which amateurs post photos for cheap prices and offer all rights. So the old days of determining "standard" rates  is fading fast. The preservation company has already been using the photo without your permission so you are in a better bargaining position. If the company had not yet begun using the photo and were asking for permission in advance, the company could weigh your request against the cost of buying a microstock photo (anywhere from $50 or less) or paying for a high end stock photo (several hundred dollars or more). 
Negotiating guidelines. There are no guidelines for your situation and like any contract negotiation, you have to weigh a number of factors like (1) what can the company afford? Are they part of a big conglomerate or are they a small mom and pop entity? (2) what compensation would satisfy you? Would you be happy, for example, to pay off the cost of the dress or your wedding photographer? (3) what would it cost to chase the company for payment for unauthorized use (an unappealing prospect, for sure, and one that could end up possibly losing money for you), and (4) how do all these numbers reflect on you personally and do you care? -- for example, are the people in the company friends of yours and do you want to cooperate with them and not appear greedy? 
Just guessing dept. You're always better off starting out by asking what the company is willing to pay so you're not bidding against yourself. The betting pool amongst the Dear Rich Staff thinks that an "all rights" release could be worth perhaps $500 to $1000. A limited rights use is probably worth under $500.