Kodak’s terms screw over 4,000 photographers by stripping them of copyright to their own work

Feb 25, 2019

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

Kodak’s terms screw over 4,000 photographers by stripping them of copyright to their own work

Feb 25, 2019

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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In early 2017, Kodak introduced its on-demand photography service Kodakit. While it may have sounded like a good idea, it turns out that the service is not on photographers’ side at all. All participating photographers are asked to give up all copyrights to the photos they take. The photo assignment agency also requires them to give up the moral rights and assume all legal risks of their assignments. And as if that weren’t enough: there’s also the possibility that photographers might not get paid if clients don’t like the photos.

Kodakit is a Singapore-based company, connecting photographers with potential clients in 92 cities in 37 countries. In a way, it’s similar to Uber, and it functions through an app. Since it was launched, it has worked “with three to four thousand photographers across the globe,” PDN reports. But the rights-grabby terms of the company have apparently screwed over all of these photographers.

First of all, the agreement strips every participating photographer of her or his copyright to the images they produce. This includes even the outtakes. In legal language, it looks like this:

Photographer agrees that Client shall own all Work Product resulting from the photographic services performed by a Photographer and that all copyrightable works that constitute Work Product (including the Commissioned Photos) shall be deemed to have been specially ordered or commissioned by Client and Photographer hereby perpetually and irrevocably assigns to the Client upon creation the entire copyright, including all rental and lending rights whether vested, contingent or future in the Work Product (including any associated intellectual property rights), and all rights, title and interest (including a right of action) in the Work Product upon its creation whether now known or hereinafter created to which the Photographer is now or may be in the future entitled by virtue of, or pursuant to, any of the laws in force in any part of the world and to hold the same to Client, its successors, assignees and licensees absolutely, for the whole period of such rights for the time being capable of being assigned by the Photographer together with any and all renewals, revivals, reversions and extensions throughout the world.

Personally, I think that this is outrageous. But it isn’t all. Additionally, photographers are also required to give up their moral rights. According to the contract, “moral rights” are “any rights to claim authorship of a work, to object to or prevent the modification or destruction of a work, to withdraw from circulation or control the publication or distribution of a work, and any similar right […]”

Photographers are not only required to give up their copyrights and moral rights, but they also bear all the risks. According to the agreement, all services will be performed entirely at the photographer’s risk, “and Photographer assumes all responsibility for the condition of tools and equipment used in performing such services.” There’s also the risk that they won’t get paid if the client doesn’t like the work. And as for the photographer’s expenses: the client isn’t obliged to cover them.

So, all in all, you risk not getting paid for your work, but you need to give up all the rights you have over the images you produce. Lovely.

PDN contacted Kodakit’s chief marketing officer Natasha Adams. She said that “these are high volume transactions that are supporting new business models, and unfortunately the traditional way of supporting photography cannot scale to those business models.” She added that photographers gladly do these gigs despite the risks, apparently. According to Adams, a lot of them are amateurs just getting out of school, so this is “a chance for them to learn the trade.”

On the other hand, PDN reports the words of Mickey Osterreicher, general counsel of the National Press Photographers Association. He said that “it is extremely disappointing that a company whose name was once synonymous with photography would promote a program that strips photographers of copyright and so unilaterally favors the client that it resembles a contract of adhesion.” And this is something I agree with.

Adams said to PDN that not all photographers agree to these terms, but the company is transparent about them. Still, whether it’s “learning the trade,” “working for exposure,” or whatever, I think that these terms are utterly unfair. Although in the digital era it’s not so easy to prevent people from stealing your photos, copyright still protects you and gives you the grounds for legal action. Not to mention that these “amateurs just getting out of school” will bear some other great risks if they agree to these terms.

[via PDN]

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Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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37 responses to “Kodak’s terms screw over 4,000 photographers by stripping them of copyright to their own work”

  1. Adrian J Nyaoi Avatar
    Adrian J Nyaoi

    That is what happen to people too lazy to read. They deserved to be screwed.

    1. Victor Utama Avatar
      Victor Utama

      Adrian J Nyaoi I was gonna say the same.

    2. Alexander L. Harris Avatar
      Alexander L. Harris

      I’m not surprised by the copyright aspect, I mean if you were under contract to do a product shoot for Coke, coke owns that picture and the copyright for it, that makes sense, doesn’t it? This service is an intermediary between photographers and clients, so of course the client is going to want the copyright for commissioned work, right?
      the second part sounds like you can’t even say “yeah, I shot that picture for that company” without being open for lawsuit.

  2. Ying Tong Avatar
    Ying Tong

    Just say no.

  3. Johnny Griffin Avatar
    Johnny Griffin

    It’s not a screwing if you give someone something then you decide you want it back. If they didn’t like the agreement, they shouldn’t have confirmed it and if they didn’t understand it well, only an idiot agrees to something they don’t understand.

  4. Mark Turner Avatar
    Mark Turner

    Boycott 100% of all Kodak goods.

    1. Rick Avatar

      Just what exactly are “Kodak goods” when it’s become a name for hire by anyone who pays the fee….

    2. aleroe Avatar

      I don’t think I’ve bought anything from Kodak in 20 years. If I boycotted them, they wouldn’t even notice.

      1. 7765 Avatar

        yeah they invent stuff… refuse to listen to marketing people… can’t see into the future more than 90 days… dump the useless product onto another company who makes a fortune from it and eventually kodak fails, goes bankrupt and disappears… ditto xerox… ditto ibm, wang, burroughs, general electric and any number of other american companies who had crooks or idiots for management…

        1. aleroe Avatar

          Wow, that’s harsh. Most companies that go out of business do not have “crooks” for management. They just made decisions that seemed like the right thing to do at the time, but in retrospect turned out to be wrong.

          1. 7765 Avatar

            Those were the idiots… like the guys running xerox electro optical systems… They kept their eye on their own personal wallets and not the company’s well being.

          2. aleroe Avatar

            Idiots, eh? Do you believe it’s possible for a smart person to make a mistake? Or is anyone who is not successful an “idiot”? Am I an idiot because I’m not as successful as Jeff Bezos? Is the guy standing by the road with a “Homeless, please help” sign an idiot because he’s not as successful as I am?

  • Douglas Smith Avatar
    Douglas Smith

    So assume all the risk, lose all the rewards. Awesome

  • aleroe Avatar

    I’m a software engineer. I write programs for my employer, they pay me, and they own the programs. Even if I were a contractor – not an employee – that’s how it would work.

    Artists are outraged when they’re faced with the same deal I’ve accepted all my career. Who’s right? Should they be accepting it, like I do? Or should I be outraged at my situation, like the artists would be?

    I don’t know. But I find it hard to be sympathetic to the artists who are demanding something I’ve never had.

    1. Cupertino Avatar

      If you are employed with a salary you take the terms you can negotiate. Your employer provides a market and working environment. Your salary and benefits reduces your personal risk. You can focus on your work. A free lance or an artist faces more risk. They must operate more like a business, which may take time and energy from your creativity. Ownership and rights should be one of their business decisions. You might quit your salaried position and become a consultant. Then the pros and cons would be clear.

      1. aleroe Avatar

        Software engineers who are consultants also do not own the programs they are paid to write for others.

        You’re right that this is a business decision. An artist who wants to own the copyright has to bargain over that point in the contract. Maybe he’ll get it and maybe he won’t. Maybe he’ll feel outraged if he doesn’t get it. But he should know that the vast majority of workers do not own what they create. An automobile worker doesn’t own the car he builds. Neither does the engineer who designed it. The artist is asking for someone unusual, and I hope he appreciates that.

        1. Lisa Avatar

          Clearly you aren’t grasping the difference between working for a wage, and selling a product.

          1. aleroe Avatar

            No, that’s not the problem. If I sell a product, I lose all control over it. Selling art is a special case thanks to the copyright laws. The Constitution authorizes copyright laws but it’s notable that it doesn’t make a moral argument for them. It makes a practical argument: copyrights are justified “to promote the progress of science and useful arts”.

            If an artist decides to sell his copyright, that’s his prerogative. If a buyer makes an offer to buy the copyright, that’s his prerogative too. The artist is free to accept or reject the offer. But getting huffy that the offer was even made, is just silly.

    2. 7765 Avatar

      Microsoft and many other companies who do this are just plain downright crooks. Their whole plan is to skirt labor law to screw people. Now that they have made billions they spend a fortune on lobbyists to queer labor laws into allowing work for hire, with no employer responsibilities, yet not allowing the worker to shop his services around… and of course getting rid of anyone who makes noise or reaches the age of 40. Nothing but slave / master economics. I hope they go out of business.

      1. aleroe Avatar

        “Skirt labor law”? How? Are you accusing them of breaking the law, or simply choosing to follow the law in the way that best suits them? If it’s the latter, everyone does that, including you and me in our personal lives. There’s nothing illegal or immoral about it.

        Labor unions try to get laws changed to help labor unions. Corporations try to get laws changed to help corporations. Individual citizens try to get laws changed to help themselves. It’s a friggin’ free-for-all fueled by our political system. If you want to critique the system, we may find areas of agreement. But I don’t think it’s fair to single out one of the players for unique opprobrium.

  • Chase Lacombe Avatar
    Chase Lacombe

    I was a Navy photojournalist. We owned no copyright to any images we produced, even the unreleased or discarded photos. MANY times our photos would be stolen by news and media outlets the world over and sometimes claim that someone else shot it. We had ZERO recourse against this. Same went for our written stories. Also, if we photographed something off limits or of a classified nature such as the inside of a submarine or something as simple as access badges of a guy in the background, we could and would face potentially severe consequences. I signed a contract for this, and so did they. Live with it.

    1. Ed Selby Avatar
      Ed Selby

      Chase Lacombe the media didn’t “steal” those photos. All photos taken by agents of the US Government are, by law, public domain. The misattributed credit is another matter, however.

    2. Trevor Olner Avatar
      Trevor Olner

      Being in the military is a different matter where nearly all photography is classified apart from publicity and news photographs. This Kodak thing is different and Kodak should know better for a company that produced products that photographers bought and made Kodak and its shareholders very rich. Kodak should be promoting photographers rights to hold the copyright of all their photography and intellectual rights for that work. Even the BBC are at it in the UK wanting to use photographers work with no payment only a credit! After all, a builder gets paid for building a house they don’t do it for nothing.

    3. 7765 Avatar

      The public paid for the photos… the public owns them. There is no such thing as a photojournalist in the military or any government job. You are there to produce propaganda not journalism.
      The whole idea that you are there as an impartial witness is just corrupt.

  • Tom Connor Avatar
    Tom Connor

    Kodak isn’t the client, so no, they don’t get the copyright. It still belongs to the photographer until someone buys the usage.
    The client is the person buying the images to use in a publication. If they don’t like them and don’t use them, and therefore don’t pay for them (fair enough), the copyright still belongs to the photographer.

  • Kryn Sporry Avatar
    Kryn Sporry

    Yes. Very disappointing. I’m not impressed.

  • Roman Alurkoff Avatar
    Roman Alurkoff

    I’m very disappointed. Not for photographers. Maybe someone with an iPhone camera.

  • Cupertino Avatar

    Crowdsourcing, disintermediation, mining value, scale. These are some of the things VCs look at when evaluating an investment prospect. These may be the business models that a Kodak needs to remain a profitable company? Maybe. Consider the person who owned their own taxi and had a badge from their city. How do they compete with Uber, a company that may offer good terms at first, but will be responsible to their stockholders to use their scale and vast information resources to extract as much value as possible from their driver “entrepreneurs.” Why shouldn’t it work the same in photography? The world is changing. I see some upside for casual photographers. No effect on very good pros. Probably a negative for people in between. This may happen for every profession.

  • Jeffrey Friedl Avatar
    Jeffrey Friedl

    Hey, would you be the second shooter for me on this project? In exchange for taking the shots and transferring all copyright to me, I’ll pay you XXX. Sound okay?

    Sure, let’s do it.

    So, does the author of the article think the other person was screwed when I made the offer, or when the other person made the decision to accept it?

  • Carter Tune Avatar
    Carter Tune

    Was I the only one who read the contract and wouldn’t sign it?

  • Nathan Tsukroff Avatar
    Nathan Tsukroff

    This is expected in a work-for-hire agreement. When I provide work-for-hire, I lose any rights to the images, since they belong to the client.
    Not a big deal.
    I get paid, and I move on to the next assignment.
    PLUS – this is specified up front, so it is not a “surprise”.

    1. Kaouthia Avatar

      Except, it’s not a work-for-hire agreement. Not every location in the world even acknowledges the concept of “work-for-hire”. :)

  • 7765 Avatar

    typical big business… work for nothing because basically we like this slavery economy thing and we can’t stand that the wrong side won the civil war….

    1. aleroe Avatar

      Pfft! “Slavery economy”?! Tell me, if we have a “slavery economy” what would you call the old USSR, or North Korea, or Cuba? What would you call the antebellum South?

      What’s your idea of of a free economy?

      1. CP Avatar

        Check out the profile, nothing but boilerplate ranting!

    2. jonas everaert Avatar
      jonas everaert

      Well, just don’t use the service.

    3. CP Avatar

      A bit ridiculous, aren’t you being?