Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Till Copyright Do Us Part

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).