Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Can I Prevent My Photos From Being Modified?

Photo Week #3
Dear Rich: I sold some Italian street photos to an ad agency and they Photoshopped two of the streets together in one photo for an ad. What can I do to prevent things like that? It all depends on the sales agreement. If you sold (assigned) the copyright with no strings attached, the new owners (the ad agency) can do whatever to the photos. If you want to prevent those types of modifications, your agreement would prohibit any modified (or derivative) versions unless approved by you. Alternatively, if your agreement provides for a photo credit, you can also request the right to remove your credit if you don't like the result.
Bargaining Power. Asking for approval and removing credit sounds fine but practically we doubt whether many photographers have the bargaining power to get these provisions. Of course, it doesn't hurt to ask. But in a world in which companies want to own everything, photographers usually have to give up on approvals, etc. (That's not always the case outside the U.S. where artists have moral rights.) By the way it's easier to prohibit modifications if you license the photos -- this article explains the difference between assignments and licensing.
Today's public domain photo: by Ansel Adams, a 1943 image  of children at Sunday school class at the Manzanar Relocation Center in California. (You can see more of these Ansel Adams photos here and here.)