Please. I need to know your viewpoint.
Imagine you are going to give birth. You invite your sister to attend your birth and take photographs for you. She agrees. You offer to reimburse her for the film and developing and she declines.
Who owns the photographs and negatives?
Please, if you read this blog, leave a comment and let me know your opinion. Ask your friends, ask your neighbors. I need as much input as possible.
I will explain after you comment. Thanks.
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Thank you for sharing your information and opinions. You all rock.
You should know several things:
1) All of the negatives and photos are in my possession. I gave her copies of about 80% of the photographs and retained the ones I was not comfortable with the general public viewing. (For instance, that shot she took of my vulva while my midwife was stitching me–I had no idea she did that until I saw it–and the ten shots of me breastfeeding my baby–also, shots I did not authorize. After six hours of hard labor I looked like a prize-fighter after a fight–and my breasts were exposed–I refused to let her have those unflattering pictures, either. I’m so vain.) I wouldn’t have withheld these photographs except that she told me she wanted to show the photos to my uncle and my brother. If I wanted them to see those photographs of my naked butt with a baby’s head sticking out of it or of me walking across my bedroom with no underpants on, I would have invited them to the birth.)
2) This happened pre-digital camera and was all about film and developing.
3) The incident happened over six years ago. She told me yesterday that she believes she is the legal owner of the photos and negatives and that I “refused to give them back”–though she never asked for them back. In fact, until yesterday I had no idea that she believes herself the rightful owner of my birth photographs. It never occurred to me, in fact, that I was posing for her benefit. I thought I had graciously invited her to view my birth–I didn’t know I needed to sign a legal contract so she wouldn’t have rights to the photographs.
4) She is not a professional photographer and to my knowledge, has never been paid by anyone to take photographs. She does not have a portfolio. She does not have a website. She does not have clients.
5) The photos didn’t even turn out well. Alas.
6) I offered to pay her repeatedly and she refused, but now says that I did not pay her, even though I promised to. (I did not originally offer payment–I offered the experience of being at my homebirth. I offered to pay for the film and developing once she started acting weird after the birth and was pushing me to “choose” which photographs I wanted to have reprints of.)
Apparently, she is the legal owner of the negatives and photographs. Judge Judy says ignorance of the law is no excuse. So, I am clearly withholding her personal property. I say that I will turn over the photographs and negatives, including the image of my bloody vagina just as soon as I hear a compelling reason to do so, other than, “I took those pictures! They are mine!” I daresay you would do the same if it were your private parts exposed on film.
So there. (More opinions welcome, of course. This issue is not closed until I’m finished haranguing. That may take days.)
Oh, and for the record, I took photographs at someone’s home birth years ago at their request. I didn’t keep even one photograph because they did not belong to me. At my home birth in Michigan, a friend took photographs and video–and SURPRISE SURPRISE, didn’t keep them or even ask OR demand payment. I live in a universe where people are considerate and kind and reasonable and rational and empathetic and moral. In my world, I take photos at birthday parties and turn over all the images because I’m nice like that.
I clearly made a big mistake here and I regret it deeply. Although, sometimes something like this exposes someone like her for what she really is. And that is the kindest way I can put it.