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Total newbie here, having some trouble from a ex-boss.

I’m a dog walker in the UK I “worked” for someone else’s business as self employed. No contract, they give me a rota of dogs to walk, I invoice them at the end of the month. I’ve had to set up my own dog walking business as they’re not giving me enough hours. They’ve said I can’t use the photos of the dogs that I took while “working for them” on my website or Facebook page. I took the photos, so own the copyright? Do they have a leg to stand on?

Thanks in advance Sian

  • I've deleted my initial answer as that was B2C this is B2B... this is a legal grey area at the moment due to the whole 'gig culture' way of working there is a massive movement to stop. I'll copy and paste some bits from my answer as a comment that may be relevant though. – Crazy Dino Jul 3 '18 at 14:30
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    Be careful when taking legal advice from random strangers on the internet. Always aim to see advice from a certified legal professional. By being upset they can make your life difficult, especially in the 21st century. They can leave negative reviews on business pages, spread gossip using word of mouth (as you were walking their dog, I presume you're local) and you could end up losing an otherwise paying cutomer. I would think twice about antagonising them, as it could be more trouble than it is worth. Just avoiding using the pictures and using some from another client instead. – Crazy Dino Jul 3 '18 at 14:30
  • IANAL, but you most likely own copyright (varies by jurisdiction), but that doesn't necessarily mean that you can use it any way you like. I would definitely contact a lawyer if you really want to use it, or simply take some new pics. – Robin Jul 3 '18 at 16:30
  • As I already commented on Crazy Dino's now deleted answer: I do not know UK or English law on this subject, but I could assume that there is an issue if you took these photos during working hours paid by your previous employer and now are intending to use them as promotion for a competing business. You may own the copyright to the photos, but that does not necessarily mean that you have the right to use them for any purpose, when they in reality have been paid for. – jarnbjo Jul 3 '18 at 17:42
  • @jarnbjo no, he wasn't paid for the photographs, he was paid for walking the dogs. Problem here is if he has permission from the dogs owners to use the photographs. – roetnig Jul 4 '18 at 9:45
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I am not a lawyer. If you have a serious legal question, consult a lawyer. The following is for entertainment purposes only.

The purpose of lawyers is often simply to resolve conflict. It is not really about who is right or wrong. Often, cases are decided based primarily on who has more resources to throw at it. You need to decide whether this is a battle worth fighting. Some things you might consider:

  1. Is this a relationship you want to keep? Do you expect to continue working with this person?

  2. Although you state they are not your employer, they appear to be acting as one. Could they be liable for taxes, minimum wages, and other benefits?

  3. Why is there no contract?

  4. How did the issue about the photos come up in the first place? If you brought up the topic by asking them for permission to use the photos, you should respect their decision, even if you may not be obligated to do so legally.

  5. Why do they have access to your Facebook page?

  6. Do you fully understand their concerns? Perhaps your use of the photos is not actually in conflict with them? Or perhaps the owners of the dogs are not aware they are outsourcing the job?

  7. Perhaps you can sell them usage rights to the photos?

  8. Can you get model releases from the dogs' owners?

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Disclaimer. I am not a solicitor, be careful when taking legal advice from random strangers on the internet. Always aim to see advice from a certified legal professional

Yes you are right, you are the copyright holder of these photos, and more importantly the intellectual property holder.

If you’re self-employed, you usually own the intellectual property even if your work was commissioned by someone else - unless your contract with them gives them the rights.

As there is no enforceable contract they can only be upset about it, as you were providing them a service rather than being an employee (presuming you filed your own taxes for being self employed, and they didn't give you payslips) they would not be able to make a case to say otherwise (at least not a strong enough one to come at you legally). However they could potentially launch a counter claim about the fact you were working for someone else (your new business) whilst you should have been doing work for them.

That said. By being upset they can make your life difficult, especially in the 21st century. They can leave negative reviews on business pages, spread gossip using word of mouth (as you were walking their dog, I presume you're local) and you could end up losing a business who at the moment is happy to give you work. I would think twice about antagonising them, as it could be more trouble than it is worth. Just avoiding using the pictures and go out and take some more instead.

  • I do not know English law on this subject, but I am not sure if the answer is that easy. If you turn the facts a little bit around, OP seems to have been using working hours presumably billed to his last employer to produce marketing material for a competing business. To me, that sounds at least a little bit dodgy. – jarnbjo Jul 3 '18 at 14:23
  • @jarnbjo you're right, they were contracted by another business rather than an individual... – Crazy Dino Jul 3 '18 at 14:26

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