This may be seen as demeaning, but I think there is a lot of valuable lessons to be learned for anyone starting out, and a few good laughs for those a bit more seasoned.
I have a long story to tell and a couple of questions for those who are more knowledgeable about professional photography copyright laws and course of action to take on this matter.
My former client booked my service as packaged deal for her wedding, signed a contract and paid the retainer to keep the date. My contract stated that her balance is due two weeks before the wedding and copyrights to the photos are transfered to the client only after full payment is recieved. Her package included a bridal session which we spent over 7 hours and I shot over 1200 12megapixel RAW images. I spent another 25 hours or so in post processing, adjusting RAW files and simple editing, and burned her a DVD disc with all the high resolution JPEG files. They both were excited with the result. We went back and forth on a set of 30 selected files for advanced editing and of which she will pick one for the 24x30 canvas enlargement and framed. Upon giving her the preliminary edited files for the large print, she later called me on the phone and cancelled, saying she didn't like my editing. I calmly said Okay thats fine then. I ate up the loss because she was a co-worker's referral and I don't want to create a fuss about it.
About a month later on her wedding day, I decided to put my tux and swing by the reception venue near the end of reception night to say hi and congratulate them in person. What I saw right after entering the door was a large 24x30 art board enlargement on a nice frame of one of my bridal photo, fully retouched by someone else and no credit were given to me. I was in complete shock. Calmly, I went out to my car and came back with a 5D and immediately took RAW pictures of the offending work and some of the reception as evidence. I also spoke to another former co-worker at the door who attended the reception with other co-workers about the reason I came and what I found and that I took photos for evidence of copyright infringement. I left without talking to the ex-clients.
I called her up near midnight when she was finally home. I congratulated them and then asked her about the photo on display I saw at her reception and inquired as to who printed the picture. She said that she did it herself at Costco. I told her that she can't legally do that because she cancelled on me and did not pay for the work that I have done and that I was cool about it until I saw her using my copyrighted work at her reception. She said she already paid and I replied that she only paid the retainer required for me to block out and guarantee her the wedding date. She asked me to talk about this more when she return from a month vacation. I calmly said okay and hung up.
What upset me most is that my work is being displayed at the reception venue and the photographers whom they hired after cancelling me is taking credit for my work and no credit is given to me or at least my name or website on the artwork. I feel so violated.
Now the questions:
The ex-clients knowingly infringed on my work and did not pay for my extensive work on her bridal photos after cancelling on me a month prior. Isn't this a federal felony that warrant prison time with statutory and punitive damages? What is their minimum penalty for this?
I'm pretty sure Costco doesn't offer 24x30 enlargement on some art board. I like to believe that some Asian lab or the one affiliated with the hired photographer printed the image without the original author's authorization. Can I come after them and how much are they liable for under current copyright laws?
If you were in my place and you caught them red-handed with evidence, what course of legal actions would you take?
I want to give my sincere thanks for everyone taking the time to read into my frustration and offers to help with knowledge and advice. Kudos to my fellow pros in the business because I know how hard we work for the quality of service we provide for our clients. Thanks and have a great day.
guy books wedding
shoots 7 hour bridal session
girl doesn't like images (though its probably more him for taking 7 hours) and cancels
he crashes her wedding to find his image there
he calls her at midnight on her wedding night
he wants her to go to jail/sue her and the lab she used