My brother and I own a data recovery company in NYC that we just started up about 1 year ago. We are now facing our first legal trouble and would like some advice on the matter as we do not have deep pockets to hire an attorney.
We had a wedding photographer (client) who needed photos recovered from a hard drive. The client agreed to proceed with a $4500 quote to recover the data. After a succesful recovery, we made several attempts to contact the client to pay the outstanding debt. After sending numerous letters and emails we learned that the client fled the country. The contract that the client signed stated that his property would be ours after a certain amount of days if he did not claim it.
About a week later we received a call from one of the brides whose photos were on the recovered disk. She said she knew the other brides and would contact them to gather the sum owed.
A few days later her father who happens to be an attorney in NYC sent us a letter that basically stated that her daughter does not know the brides and she is willing to pay $1000 of the total amount owed. He gave us by Friday to respond or he will be taking "further action" to obtain the photos.
Who lawfully owns these photos? What are our legal options?
2 Answers from Attorneys
It is likely that the photographer owns the photos (unless the photographer's agreement says that the client owns the photos) and you may have a lien on the photos. Your contract with the photographer needs to be reviewed to see whether in fact you have a lien.
Furthermore, if the bride has ownership under the agreement with the photographer and therefore has the right to demand the photos, it would still be unclear whether she would have the right to demand the hardrive itself. And likely she will not have the right to demand the recovered photos as the recovered photos are your work product.
Your agreements ought to be reviewed first and based on that I believe that a deal can be struck with the bride(s). It should not be all that expensive to retain an attorney to straighten this mess. I'll be happy to chat with you at your earliest convenience.
Roman R. Fichman, Esq.
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I don't agree with Atty. Fichman.
I think you own the photos now since you had a contract with the photographer which gave you the right to own the hard drive and the photos by his default.
I think the brides have to go after the photographer since they did not have a contract with you. However, they may have a third party interest in the photos. I don't think they should be able to acquire the photos without you getting paid the full amount. (since no one would have the photos but for your work)
Regardless of what the contract says between the brides and the photographer, I do not believe that contract can be enforced against you since you were not a party.
The best solution that I see (to avoid litigation) is to have all of the brides share equally in the cost, they all get their photos and you get your $4500.00.
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