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Old Jun 7, 2009, 9:38 PM   #1
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A while ago I was on a business trip - actually on a Navy ship at sea for 2 weeks. Of course, I took my camera along to take pictures while on board, when not busy with work. Long story, but the short version, the company (Fortune 100) heard about the photos and informed me that as an engineer, I had, as a condition of employment assigned all of my work to the company (items that are patentable performed in the course of work), thus they own the copyright. Overall, I am not that concerned - if they wish to use them for what ever, that is fine. However, there are a couple of the images that I would say - are some of the best images I have ever taken, and I would at least like secondary rights to them.

Has anyone ever run into this before? What was the outcome?
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Old Jun 8, 2009, 12:26 AM   #2
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You really need an attorney to answer this question, but patents are not copyrights, and photos not related to your work, taken on your own time, are probably not the property of your employer. The real question is: "How much time and money are you willing to spend to enforce your rights?".

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Old Jun 8, 2009, 1:53 AM   #3
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A while ago I was on a business trip - actually on a Navy ship at sea for 2 weeks. Of course, I took my camera along to take pictures while on board, when not busy with work. Long story, but the short version, the company (Fortune 100) heard about the photos and informed me that as an engineer, I had, as a condition of employment assigned all of my work to the company (items that are patentable performed in the course of work), thus they own the copyright. Overall, I am not that concerned - if they wish to use them for what ever, that is fine. However, there are a couple of the images that I would say - are some of the best images I have ever taken, and I would at least like secondary rights to them.

Has anyone ever run into this before? What was the outcome?
IANAL.... but have run into similar issues with cameras on job sites.

You were assigned to the ship to perform a task. Where you instructed to take photos of the task as part of that assignment? If yes, then even though you used your own camera the photos of that task clearly belong to the employer, especially because of your employment contract, but even without an employment contract the employer instructions to the employee to take photos of the assigned task results in the employer retaining control of those specific photos.

(ie you were there to install a weapon system and took photos of the weapon system in use at the bequest of the employer, the photos belong to the employer)

If you were instructed to take photos of the task, the photos not related to the task will fall into a grey area of legal limbo. You are going to have the upper hand with the issue, but some photos (let's say a photo of the ship's captain on the bridge) would not be possible if you had not been assigned to the ship.


IF your employer did not instruct you to take photos of the task, but you did so for your own personal records?

(ie you are installing/repairing a weapon system and your photos involve said weapon system or showed the weapon system in use)

Then yes, those photos of the task may be the property of the employer. It is the employer's system. You are there as an employee. Most likely you would loose the court battle on these photos.

However, if you were not instructed to take photos and took photos of items not related to the task (ie photos were of dolphins swimming along side of the ship) then the photos (and all financial awards generated by those photos) are yours. The employer can TRY to gain control of those photos stipulating that you only had the opportunity to take those photos because of your assignment to the ship. Weak arguement, it can be made and others have made it, but they will lose the case in court.
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Old Jun 8, 2009, 10:09 AM   #4
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... Weak arguement, it can be made and others have made it, but they will lose the case in court.
I am not a lawyer, but what Stevie says makes sense. You won't get a solid answer unless it goes to court, and an good attorney can tell you what your chances are there.

If you know how, you could try looking for court precedents. That would likely cut your costs even if you hire a lawyer.
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Old Jun 8, 2009, 11:33 AM   #5
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Morning All, One of the points that I was making, is that you never know what type of situation you will wind up in, when taking pictures. I am not trying to make a big deal of this, however what I am wanting to retain is at least secondary use rights. The images have nothing to do with my professional activities on board for work (nor was I asked to take them), but images of various shipboard evolutions - flight deck operations, helicopters taking off / landing, etc., underway replenishment (along side another ship), landing craft operations, FOG walk (walking the flight deck looking for foreign objects that can be ingested into an engine, or blown into some one, etc.). Essentially activities very few really have an opportunity to see or watch, and thus never get an opportunity to take pictures of.

Not going to court over this, and hiring a lawyer is not in the cards, either. However, I am asking for a secondary use release.

I would like to submit one or two of the images to a special aviation site. This just happened to be a helicopter carrier, with the last F14 to fly. Essentially the first, last and only time that a F14 was on board, and it just happened to be the "last Navy fighter flown". It turned out to be the ship's hood ordainment on its way to a museum at Pearl Harbor.
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Old Jun 8, 2009, 12:11 PM   #6
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Morning All, One of the points that I was making, is that you never know what type of situation you will wind up in, when taking pictures. I am not trying to make a big deal of this, however what I am wanting to retain is at least secondary use rights. The images have nothing to do with my professional activities on board for work (nor was I asked to take them), but images of various shipboard evolutions - flight deck operations, helicopters taking off / landing, etc., underway replenishment (along side another ship), landing craft operations, FOG walk (walking the flight deck looking for foreign objects that can be ingested into an engine, or blown into some one, etc.). Essentially activities very few really have an opportunity to see or watch, and thus never get an opportunity to take pictures of.

Not going to court over this, and hiring a lawyer is not in the cards, either. However, I am asking for a secondary use release.

I would like to submit one or two of the images to a special aviation site. This just happened to be a helicopter carrier, with the last F14 to fly. Essentially the first, last and only time that a F14 was on board, and it just happened to be the "last Navy fighter flown". It turned out to be the ship's hood ordainment on its way to a museum at Pearl Harbor.
The question that is at issue is did the employer KNOW you had a camera (as part of your employment tasks)? IF yes, they can make a claim for the pics (not related to the employment task). Didn't say they will win, but they can make the claim.

This issue is much like US Military personnel taking photos of military activities. When you join the Military your arse and everything else belongs to them.... except your free time is generally your free time and your pictures taken during your free time are generally your pictures.... especially if the pictures fall far outside our your job assignment.

Personal note... Dad was not US Navy, but he had to go visit a Battleship as part of his assignment. He took his camera. He got some great shots of the Battleship in action during shore bombardment. The AF wanted his photos (to reflect the activities of AF personnel) for publication in their magazine/newspaper. Command ruled in his favor as the pics he took were not part of his AF assignment and taken during his free time... he could share the photos if he desired, but the photos belonged to him.
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Old Jun 8, 2009, 12:33 PM   #7
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Another consideration is that many components on US Navy vessels are classified in some way. I remember that at one time taking a photo of the air search radar antenna on top of every warship in the Navy was prohibitted. I believe it's still illegal to take photos of the CIWS from certain angles. Your employer may just be protecting its position as a military contractor, and copyrights and patents have nothing to do with it.
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Old Jun 10, 2009, 10:41 AM   #8
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The OP might want to peruse this site: http://www.krages.com/phoright.htm

A. C.
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