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Photography Question 

Legal Issues: Selling Photos of Homes

I am beginning a 2006 calendar that will be composed of digital photos of the homes in my town and will include an architectural description of each home. No names or addresses will be included. I understand that it is not against the law to take such pictures as long as I am taking them from a public location and that the photographing of said structure is not specifically prohibited.
My question is: If I plan to sell these photos (as part of my calendar), does the legal issue change? That is, am I opening myself to a potential lawsuit by a home owner? I currently do not intend on asking the permission of each home owner since I don't believe that is required. If the state makes a difference, I am in Massachusetts.
I would greatly appreciate a legal reading on this. Thank you.

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10/15/2004 6:41:27 AM

Jon Close
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/18/2000
  Get thee to a real lawyer versed in copyright law. I could be wrong, but I believe you need permission. It is my understanding that while the photos themselves are yours, the right to the commercial use of the home's image is retained by the homeowner and possibly in some cases by the artist, architect, or historical society.
Last year, the local bank published a calendar with an artist's sketch (not even a photo) of various community homes, including my mother's 125+ year old home. They formally requested her permission to include the sketch of her home in the calendar.

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10/15/2004 6:50:55 AM

David Clark   While I am not a lawerrrrrr THis is a good site for information

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10/19/2004 5:01:33 AM

RoxAnne E. Franklin   Great point and information Jon and David. A similar situation is going on in my town as well. There is a huge push to promote local agriculture. There is a person in charge of a committee of three to do various promotional things to acheive this. I was asked to display some of my photos of the area farms, barns, apple orchards, etc. I was told "display your photos please in various resturants and because you're helping us, feel free to price them and sell them because when the display is over, we the committee are going to ask your permission to use them in a calendar for sale." Weeeeeeeeeelllllllll, I informed the committee they need to do some information seeking, because even though the photos are mine as long as they stay in my house, they are not considered mine if someone is trying to "earn money" on them in some way shape or form.
It's a fine line and copyright laws are so very vague and it leaves the photographer open for all types of problems if no permission to photograph was received. So, the best way to avoid a problem is to seek permission on all things you shoot and have intentions of taking outside your home, be it the web, display, or for sale.
It's a very complicated law with alot of opening for problems.
Jon's advice on contacting an attorney is the best advice anyone can give.
You wont be sorry.

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10/19/2004 5:55:46 AM

RoxAnne E. Franklin   David,
the website you referred to is wonderful! I think I found some answers to questions I had regarding the agricultural promotion situation we have in the area I live. it appears that if the photos are taken from a public, and that's the key word, vantage point, then they can be sold and displayed without permission. so, the photo I have of an old barn taken from a private road, cannot be sold without permission, however, if I take that same photo from a public well traveled road it can. i'm still going to speak with an attorney, i've been through this too many times to not have the correct info, but at least I have an idea of what the appropriate questions should be.

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10/19/2004 6:23:32 AM

David Clark   If you didn't want to go to a lawer, I would suggest using a property release. this would cover the backside in the future. Just be as nice as possible and it should work out fine, maybe offer a print as "payment"
A good site for release forms...

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10/19/2004 7:10:47 AM

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