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Threatened with legal action by an unsigned band.

i am a professional music photographer and from time to time I shoot sessions for unsigned bands as favors for friends etc and charge them a small fee for production which is 10% of my normal fee. I enjoyed working with unsigned bands and limited my sessions to two per month. Although I sign some serious contracts with record labels I don't ask the unsigned bands to sign a contract

My session includes online contact proofs of the session and I provided the band with 15 retouched final images of their choice. This is explained upfront before the shoot. I have always had great experiences with unsigned bands. However.......A band has just demanded that I provide the whole session fully processed. This is over 400 images.

I don't want to hand over unfinished images on a disk. Its not the way I work They are now threatening legal action...LEGAL ACTION! if I don't hand over the full session. In all my years as a photographer I have never experienced such anger and they threatened me personally saying they would come to my studio and take my hard drives.

Now I'm not afraid of the empty threat from a bunch of cowards but legal action from kids with nothing to loose is a bigger issue. I have mentioned to them that I actually own the images and I am giving them limited license to use them for press shots. I am making sure all our discussions are via email to give me a legal case. From now on all unsigned bands will be given a contract.

Any thoughts?

Am I the one being unreasonable?

Just a quick point to add.


Can you imagine the band wanting prints from every single negative shot from the session.


I shoot medium format digital and it would take a lot of work to provide over 400 processed shots.





I provide a license agreement with all of my images. This includes even the local cover bands who periodically pay me to shoot their shows. Like you, my fee for them is minimal, but I always have a written license agreement on the disk containing the images. And I never provide ALL of the images. Like any other artist, I choose which are made available and which are not. My work is my reputation in visual form and it is at my sole discretion to decide which images will convey my reputation and which will not.

And as you stated, the images are yours. Make sure you register them with the copyright office if you are in the USA. That will pretty much seal it up for you on the legal front. They can have no claim to your work unless there is a written agreement in advance stating so ("work made for hire" requires advanced written agreement before the work is executed). SInce there is NO written agreement in your case, you will have no legal problems with holding on to or releasing any number of the images you took of this unsigned band.

I do recommend having a written agreement even for unsigned bands. It will protect you and them in the years to come.

Founder, MusicPhotographers.net
Columbia, Maryland - USA

Walter Rowe said it all. What I might add based my my decades of experience is that they can threaten all they want. Unless one of their Mom's or Dad's is a lawyer, they'd have a hard time finding a lawyer that would take a case like that. When you pressed the shutter and either converted silver halide crystals or created a long string of numbers to form an image, the images are yours. You can demand that they never use one of your photos you will sue them for copyright infringement. I wonder how they'd feel if you asked for all their music files, demos and test tracks, and also the master  tracks of whatever they've recorded. While they're at it how about if they perform every song they ever knew at your next party. Let us know how it turns out

I agree totally. I now have a contract in place for all unsigned bands.