Wal-Mart sues widow over old family photos

A photography organization is siding with the woman, and describes the company's tactics as 'bullying.'

By InvestorPlace May 23, 2014 1:46PM

Credit: © Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Caption: Grocery items sit inside a cart at a Wal-Mart store in Alexandria, Va.By Christopher Freeburn

Wal-Mart's (WMT) founding family is involved in a lawsuit against the widow of a small-town photographer over Walton family photos taken decades ago.

Hundreds of photographs of the Walton family were taken by Robert Huff, the proprietor of Fayetteville, Ark.-based Bob's Studio of Photography, and his son David, between 1950 and 1994.

Robert and David are now deceased, but the Walton family is suing Helen Huff, David's widow, demanding the return of any photos and negatives that remain, The Washington Post reports.

The Waltons say the Huffs kept the prints and negatives as a courtesy to the family and that the photos are the Waltons' property. Huff's widow contends that she owns the copyright to the images and is counter-suing the Walton family and The Walmart Museum to block their use of the images.

Huff reportedly turned down a $2,000 offer from Wal-Mart for the images. The Walton family is suing Huff under the name Crystal Lands LLC, and the Walmart Museum filed the suit under the Wal-Mart Stores name, The Post reports.

Part of the issue stems from how the photographers were classified. If they were "work-for-hire," as the Walton family contends they are, the Walton family would have rights to the copyright. If they were independent contractors, the photographers would have the rights.

Citing prior celebrity photo lawsuits, the Professional Photographers of America (PPA) sides with Huff's widow. On its website, the PPA points out that photographers typically own the copyright to images they take, and says Wal-Mart's tactics are "bullying."

The case will go before a U.S. District Court judge in early July.

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Tags: WMT
May 23, 2014 2:18PM
Once again, Walmart is being  STUPID.  The negative publicity over these old pictures and by suing an old lady will far outweigh the value of the images.   Just pay the lady what she wants and move along.
May 23, 2014 3:11PM
Why is there a Wal-Mart museum and who goes to such a dump?
May 23, 2014 2:55PM
Looks like the Walton Family thinks they are entitled to everything.
May 23, 2014 3:11PM
BIG surprise WALMART bullies there employees why not a little old lady...
May 23, 2014 3:00PM

The Waltons have no standing in this case.

I've dealt with photographers in these small shops for years. They always own the negatives, and can use them in any type of promotion or to sell.  It's their creative and copyrighted work.  You have to PAY THEM specifically for the negatives and that copyright.  Then they give them to you along with your photos, and it's explicitly stated as such that it was a 'work-for-hire' setup.

If it's not stated then it's always contract work and the photographer gets it.  That's why I always pay the extra 20 bucks or so for the negatives and to make sure I have ALL copies of images and all rights that go along with them.  I don't want my family or kid showing up in their window front two years down the line because they thought it looked good to highlight their work.  Or worse yet, get famous, or infamous, and then they make a killing splaying family photos all over the place.

May 23, 2014 3:08PM
Sounds like the Walton's are control freaks...but I think most of us already knew that.
May 23, 2014 3:10PM
A $2,000 settlement is all.  I guess those photos aren't worth much to the Waltons.  I'd put them up for auction.
May 23, 2014 3:03PM
In most cases the photographer owns the photos and negatives unless the client has paid for full rights.
May 23, 2014 3:14PM
Bullies vs. Little Old Widow Lady, pathetic
May 23, 2014 3:19PM
Why would the Walton family want them since they were not manufactured in China?
May 23, 2014 3:13PM
I guess being rich doesn't equate with being smart !!
May 23, 2014 2:58PM
Are they worth a Billion..If so Pay her:
May 23, 2014 3:09PM
If the woman's husband and father in law took the pictures then she is the owner not Walmart.
May 23, 2014 3:15PM
Another reason why Walmart will die even quicker!
May 23, 2014 3:11PM
They way I have always understood it is, the profession photography business who takes the photo's has legal right and possession to the negatives.  When you hire a business to take photo's, you expect photo's in return, not the negatives and if you want more prints you go to the legal owners of the negatives, the photography company, and order more.   I may be wrong, but this is the way I have always understood it to be.
May 23, 2014 2:49PM
the lady should post them all online and make thousands of copies of the negs to sell to whomever. after they do belong to her not to wallmart. just like school pictures are the property of the people who took them or the studio and copies even after you own them are against copyright laws.
May 23, 2014 3:07PM
May 23, 2014 3:25PM
I was expecting to see some type of suit against the humorous "People of Wal-Mart".
May 23, 2014 2:27PM
@daddizen It's actually both. See this in the article: "The Walton family is suing Huff under the name Crystal Lands LLC, and the Walmart Museum filed the suit under the Wal-Mart Stores name, The Post reports."
May 23, 2014 2:22PM
It's not WalMart silly MSN, it's the Walton family.
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