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My photo (an artistic shot of the downtown Los Angeles skyline, which shows part of the property where it was taken) was used without permission. The thief used it to make a website for the property where it was taken, claiming I have no photo release and no rights to it. I had a verbal agreement to take photos by the property owner. Is this legal? This was in a music studio where I was a tenant (although I didn’t have a contract) in Los Angeles, CA.

  • What country? Who owns the property? Who gave you verbal permission? – inkista Aug 18 '18 at 18:56
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    Ask a lawyer... we're photographers, not legal experts & whilst we all may have an opinion, it won't be one you could walk into court with. – Tetsujin Aug 18 '18 at 19:06
  • Did you sign anything while at the property? For example, a rental agreement or use contract (airbnb, hotel)? – Hueco Aug 18 '18 at 19:37
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    Luckily I was able to tell the property owner and web developer who used my photo to take it down or we’re going to court and that as a tenant, without any kind of prohibitive clause barring photography, I had every right to take a photo. For everyone out there, it’s no fun, but you need to get a release whenever there’s any chance (even if you think there isn’t a chance) of this happening. I wasted hours on this, which could have been much more lengthy. No fun. I got very upset and my day was wasted on something annoying. Protect your work. Thanks all. If anyone has more input, please share. – Neuropathy Aug 19 '18 at 4:02
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    Your resolution to the question would make a good answer, rather than as a comment. If you make it an answer, you can mark it as the accepted answer. Thanks! :) – scottbb Aug 19 '18 at 5:45
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For entertainment purposes only. For serious legal concerns, consult a lawyer.

Two separate issues seem to be confounded.

  • Copyright, which you own by virtue of being the one who took the photo, gives you control over what others are allowed to do with the photo.

  • Model and property releases give you permission to use representations of the subject for specific purposes. Without the release, you don't have permission, but it doesn't mean you don't still have copyright or are not allowed to use the photographs for certain allowed purposes.

Pretty sure have seen lengthy discussions on these topics somewhere. Will link to them when I find them.

As far as verbal contracts (spit and handshake) are concerned, I've been told, informally by a lawyer, that they are binding. Certain conditions, which I don't recall, do need to be met. (Again, consult a lawyer.)

  • The main condition that needs to be met for a verbal contract is an acknowledgement by the other party, or verification by a third party with no skin in the game, that such an agreement existed in essentially the same form that you contend. Absent that or any other witnesses that can document the verbal contract, it's one party's word against the others. Courts are reticent to enforce such a disputed verbal contract and usually operate under the assumption that there was no contract if both parties don't acknowledge it. – Michael C Aug 19 '18 at 8:52

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