Crossing a line...
I'm a giant bag of mixed reactions after some interaction I had with a recent client. My reactions aren't directed at her, but rather at Walmart and their practices when it comes to printing copyrighted material.
After a recent shoot, a client used one of my photos (with my permission - this is important) in a birthday invitation. It was printed via Snapfish and sent to Walmart for printing. Prior to arriving at Walmart, my client was called by the tech at the photo center letting her know that she was going to need a copyright release to have the printed cards placed in her hands.
Good on Walmart, right?
The photo tech recognized a professionally done photo and thought, "This isn't watermarked and might be violating copyright. I should question this" and did so. The client contacted me to obtain the release (which I normally give to my clients, but in the rush to turn these around, I was unable to do so in the 24 hour period from shoot to delivery) and I was able to email a copy of my release, from my email address (zegolf.photo[at]gmail[dot]com) that she could use.
This is where things turn a bit sour. Upon showing the release form to the Tech, she was informed that a manager would have to be brought in to approve it. The manager showed up and,
- Wouldn't accept the release unless it was in hard copy form
- Accused my client of stealing the photo
- Accused my client of lying
I should point out that this photo was done in the dining room of her in-laws, but the manager staunchly accused her of having the photos done in a studio. The manager would not accept me calling and saying that I took the photo, and my client was forced to leave her invitations, go back home and get a print-out, and go back.
My mixed reactions come from that fact that, on one hand I'm happy that Walmart is working for the Photographers that have had their IP ripped-off and violated, but on the other the line between copyright protection and outright rudeness was crossed. I get Walmart wanting to protect their own butt by not printing copyrighted material without the photographers consent, but I was willing to go out of my way to prove that this photo was mine, and the manager more or less told my client that it was going to take an act of God to get her invitations.
It really makes me question what would happen if I went into Walmart with my own photos, that looked "professional" and attempted to get them printed. Would telling them that I took them be enough?
Needless to say, I'll be a bit more hesitant to tell my clients to go to Walmart should they need something in a pinch, or not want to print through my print labs, instead sending them to a competitor.