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An ex-friend of mine and I were trying to sell my puppies so she took a couple photos for us to post online. We also used to live together. A falling out occurred and now she wants me to remove the photos that she took of my dog or else she will sue. Does it matter that she took it without my permission? Does it matter that it’s my pet on private property not public property? Does it matter that she didn’t mind me posting it online originally and then changed her mind? Will any judge even take this seriously in California?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Under UK law, yes. The photographer owns the copyright, irrespective of subject or permission. There are a few exceptions and contracts mentioning copyright will take precedence. \$\endgroup\$
    – Chenmunka
    Mar 16, 2022 at 9:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ Realistically here, is it that important to you that the photos stay online? Sure, you can all get into lawyers and whatever else, spend lots of money and time, and make yourself stressed and unhappy while it all goes down, but what are you gaining from it? Keep some personal copies of the photos if you want to, but other than in exceptional circumstances the value to keeping them online is pretty low. \$\endgroup\$
    – Philip Kendall
    Mar 16, 2022 at 10:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ Why are you asking for free legal advice on a Photography Q&A site? This site is to help people with photography problems. If you have a legal issue, consult a lawyer. Sorry to be blunt about it, but I think it's important that people understand this. \$\endgroup\$
    – osullic
    Mar 16, 2022 at 12:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is obviously ridiculous. I would ignore it, unless she is a lawyer herself and could be crazy enough to actually go to court over this. \$\endgroup\$
    – Orbit
    Mar 17, 2022 at 17:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ This question is the subject of the Meta question Why do we tolerate legal questions here?. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 27, 2022 at 7:15

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There are such things as legally binding verbal contracts, and implied contracts. This would fall into that (very messy) category.

She took the picture of your pet on private property with your permission. How do I know that? Because of your acceptance of that fact (no compliant/suit); and your acceptance/use of the photos implies it.

And the intended purpose/use of the photos was the marketing of your puppies for sale. I know that because you told us. But also because it's implied that's why you allowed (would allow) the pictures to be taken. And that use of the pictures, w/ her knowledge and w/o complaint, implies she agreed to it.

Since neither of you have any evidence (e.g. a written contract), neither of you can prove anything other than what the situation implies. If you both testified that what was said/agreed too is the same thing(s) then that portion would be considered a verbal contract. Arguing in court will probably get you nowhere...

But it sounds like that implied contract is complete; the use is no longer about selling those puppies. If you were given possession of copies you can keep them (e.g. for sentimental/personal use), but you cannot use them in any manner you like; because she owns the copyrights. Those four exclusive rights are:

  • To make a copy (by any means)
  • To make a copy and change it notably (a derivative work)
  • To distribute a copy to the public (transfer possession/"publish")
  • To display a copy publicly ("publicize")

So, your continued use of the photos on your website (social media, etc) is a violation of her copyright.

A judge would take it seriously; that's their job. But they would almost certainly think you are both being petty and silly. The most probable outcome is that you are told to take it down from public display; get a new picture taken if having one up matters that much to you. And if she were suing for damages she would get whatever financial losses she incurred directly from your infringement; which does not include time/costs of bringing the suit in this instance (i.e. none).

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    \$\begingroup\$ "But they would almost certainly think you are both being petty and silly" <- this \$\endgroup\$
    – Philip Kendall
    Mar 16, 2022 at 14:51

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