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 Christopher Freeburn
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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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.
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