A friend has offered to sell me prints of some of her photographs, and we were wondering if it would be wise (in principle) to have me sign something which commits me not to reproduce or resell the work as a condition of sale. She trusts me, but i was wondering if it's good practice. If so, any links to a template or boilerplate doc we could use? Thanks

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    If you clarify the country where you live will be easier to get meaningful answer. And may be this question is more about law instead of photography? – Romeo Ninov Aug 15 '18 at 7:40
  • When you buy a book or CD at the store do you have to sign anything? – whatsisname Aug 15 '18 at 19:10
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    Prints produced in US, sold in Australia. – Tigersofwrath Aug 15 '18 at 20:10

In most countries you can resell the object (ie, the print) because a "sale" is a transfer of property. This is true also for art works: successful painters see their works resold during their lifetimes and they don't get any share of that[*]. If would be very uncommon to forbid resale. It could even be impossible in some countries; some judges could see it as an unfair clause, unless the artist offers to buy it back at its market price.

However the artist keeps the copyright, so you cannot make (and even less sell) reproductions of the art without the artist's consent.

[*] which isn't a problem for them, if their past works are worth money, their new ones also are and they make a decent living selling new works.

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    I think it's nice how you clarified difference between resale of original and sale of copies – Ruslan Aug 15 '18 at 15:58
  • Basically this is why it's called a copyright - it's not a salesright (though a lot of companies are confused on this point because there is such a thing as exclusive distributorship which is a first-salesright but not an outrught salesright) – slebetman Aug 17 '18 at 3:42

At least in the UK:

  • If there's no transfer of copyright, you don't have any rights to reproduce the photo, so no problem. This is just like if you buy a book from your local book store, you can't make a copy of the book.
  • In general, you can't restrict the right to resell a physical object. The important case here is the ECJ case UsedSoft vs Oracle (so actually applicable EU-wide) where Oracle's attempts to prevent resale of physical copies of their software was ruled null and void.

I believe essentially the same principles apply in the US as well.

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    In the U.S., the second bullet is known as the doctrine of first sale. – Blrfl Aug 15 '18 at 12:51
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    Not posting this as an answer because it's really just an addendum: if for some reason it's important to the artist that the pieces not be resold, then there may be two options: (1) execute the deal as a prepaid lease, valid for the recipient's lifetime, with the pieces reverting to the artist's estate or a designated other party; (2) sell the piece normally but concurrently execute a binding contract which guarantees the artist the right to buy back the piece at some agreed-on price. I believe this would be an "options" contract. – CCTO Aug 15 '18 at 14:41

If so, any links to a template or boilerplate doc we could use?

There's no such template/boilerplate because such a document is not needed. Unless the owner of the image specifically assigns rights to you, under the laws of most countries, including pretty much all countries who belong to either the Berne Convention or the Universal Copyright Convention (or both), you have no right to reproduce or sell copies of a print (or electronic file) of an image. You only have purchased a single use of the image.

When you purchase a print or an electronic copy of a photo, you are paying for that single copy of the image, not for all of the rights to the intellectual property contained within that image. It's the same as when you buy a DVD or BluRay movie - you are not buying distribution rights or rental rights to the movie, you are only buying the rights to watch that one copy in the privacy of your home.

In general, you can sell the single copy you purchased to someone else. This is particularly the case with physical media.

Some purchase agreements, particularly those sometimes used when downloading electronic files containing intellectual property (images, movies, computer software, etc.), will specify that you are not purchasing anything except the user key that gives you the right to use the file without actually owning it. How well that will hold up depends on the jurisdiction in which you are located. In any case, if your sell the electronic file to someone else it must not remain in your possession as well, or that is considered unauthorized reproduction.


In theory she should sell her works under limited license. If you want to see how an EULA is you can check the EULA (end user licensing agreement) Getty Images is using in your country. I refer you to the EULA for Getty Images in the UK.

But if the pictures are really valuable, I would hire a good and well known intellectual & copyright lawfirm to properly analyze the circumstances under which are going to be made the sales and make a custom contract for those circumstances.

In any case, I want to advise you that prosecuting copyright or licensing infringement is really costly and many times impossible in countries that aren’t signatories of the multilateral treaties on the matter.

And unles you suffer a large damages, a great loss in your net income, and are able to prove it in court, most, doesn’t pay pursuing them which would require hiring an lawfirm to handle the cease and desist communications and to represent you in the infringement lawsuit.

PS As with software or any other intangible asset it should be sold under an EULA. What happens it’s that many people don’t realize when they are agreeing to the EULA by just opening package, because the EULA is included within the package and states that by opening it you adhere to them or in the case of downloads (streaming) you have already agreed to it when you signed-in to the store and agreed to their more encompassing Terms & Conditions.

  • The question is about a print, not usage rights. – Robin Sep 6 '18 at 16:08
  • A print is a reproduction, derivative work, from the original film, slide or digital negative. Eventhough these restrictions are legal and bounding, it would be a challenge finding a buyer that will agree with them, agreeing to a provision for the print to remain for the buyer to view in private or any other restriction with regards to where and how the print being sold will be exhibited in the future, it’s a tough pill to swallow. Especially when there are huge tax cuts related to the cession of work of art to museums for medium and long term to display it to the public. – abetancort Sep 7 '18 at 21:20

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