Im a freelance photographer and a part time sales associate for a startup worth more than 2.2 million with only 10 employees and no HR department. Last week my employer asked me to take "stock images to be used on the Instagram account." They did not offer any compensation for this. Under the belief the images were going to be solely used for the company's Instagram account I agreed to have a three hour photo shoot. Since I did not ask for payment our of fear of rocking the boat, I emailed them a usage contract for them to sign to secure that the pictures could only be used on Instagram in an unaltered state and with due credit in the comment section. The CEO emailed me back saying since there was no contract handed to them before the shoot they will not be signing the usage contract, will not be giving me any credit, and then also mentioned for the first time that the images are for potential use for ads on Facebook and press write ups. They said that since I work for them this task was done internally and therefor does not give me any right for compensation as a photographer, credit as a photographer, etc. they then concluded the email by saying, "let us know when you'll be emailing us the finished images." I'm wondering if there is any legal issues here as I was never given an official contract to sign stating my responsibilities as a "brand experience leader" but was rather sent a general group email stating what was expected of the four employees referred to as "brand experience leaders" - none of those expectations included the use of Trade skills associated with our jobs outside of the company. They also changed what they were going to be using the images for after our written email agreement. Is there anything I can do?
1 Answer from Attorneys
Yes, there are steps you can take to protect your interests. You already understand as a professional photographer, and statement regarding 'fear of rocking the boat', that you (and your employer) caused this situation by mutually failing to communicate your expectations.
That being said, I advise you to meet with an attorney, sort out the facts in detail, and come up with a plan of action. You can't do anything at this point without legal representation except take the spanking the boss in putting you through. Or, hire a lawyer to resolve this situation in a win-win fashion, or otherwise, if that's what's needed. A good lawyer can wrap this up quickly and with little pain by coming up with a solution where both sides come out ahead. This can be a great opportunity for you if handled properly; it doesn't have to be a disaster. Don't stress.
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