Ad Agency Guide To Photography Usage Terms

Posted by Jerry Avenaim on February 9, 2010 – 2:11 am

My portrait of actress Halle Berry chosen as Picture of the Year by People Magazine

From simple image syndication, to editorial and advertising, it’s important to review in detail the scope of photo usage permissions as stated in any contract. Last year,  American Greetings used my cover photograph of Halle Berry as a greeting card without permission. While my attorney battles with my syndication agency for the rights to the case (yes, my syndication agency has the right to sue before I do) that’s another story. Be very careful what you sign, and don’t sign anything before you’ve read it in its entirety. Indeed, a photographer friend of mine was shooting a celebrity portrait just last week. During the photo shoot, he was presented a contract that attempted to grab all the rights and ownership of the images. My friend caught the offending paragraph, let the talent’s manager know that that’s a nonstarter, and struck it from the contract. Had they been inflexible on that one point, the shoot would have ended right then. So if necessary, never hesitate to have your own legal council review any contract presented to you.

Remember I said my issue with American Greetings took place exactly this time last year? Well guess what? I was notified by a friend that my image is out on every rack of every CVS and Wal-Mart at this very moment as part of the card company’s line celebrating Black History month. This is a blatant infringement of my intellectual property. One which could have been caused by any series of events ranging from Ebony to American Greetings. And adding insult to injury, they credited another photographer my image! This case (if handled properly) could result in some serious damages.

Halle card on display at Walmart photographed by who?

It has been a long time coming that all these terms be described and explained. I’ve been asked these questions over the years, and they were always situation specific. Recently Rob Haggert the author of aphotoeditor.com put the terminology together in one fantastic article.

BASIC INFORMATION

“With the current US copyright laws as they are applied now, artists own all rights to their created images and sell/transfer rights to agencies and their clients. All questionable negotiations have historically defaulted in favor of the artist. Technically, even minor modification of the art requires the artists’ permission. You are RENTING, not buying an image unless explicitly stated on the contract.

Generally, think of usage costs reflecting the amount of exposure a particular image may receive. The more exposure, the higher the price. Exact terminology may differ, but the semantics remain the same if all of the information is included in each negotiation. You can phrase it any way you want, but be clear about the INTENT by including information from all categories outline below. Talent usage is similar, but there are differences in how each medium is priced out: talent usage tends to be much more specific. Again, it is based on exposure. European terminology will differ from US terminology, particularly in the “Print” category. In Europe, “Print” includes anything that is not broadcast.”

If you want to learn more about billing language and the business of photography, check out his article! Click here to read on.

Happy Shooting,

Jerry Avenaim

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  1. 1. Brian Tremblay Said:

    Jerry, were you always able to keep the rights to your celebrity images or did that come with time as your work and reputation grew?

    Have you ever photographed a celebrity who did not allow you to retain the rights to your work? If so, why did you go ahead with the shoot any way?

    Have you ever walked away from a celebrity photography session because they would not allow you to keep the rights to your work?

    [Reply]

  2. 2. Aliciataylor Said:

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  3. 3. VS Said:

    wow, that is just a shame! How could they do that. I am so happy your rep caught sight of this type of infringement and that you shared your experience regarding the matter.

    [Reply]

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