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Wedding Photographer... Stealing my Rights?
John Perkins, Photographer
Elizabethtown | KY | USA | Posted: 9:18 AM on 06.19.09
->> Some background info:
This past month I was invited to the wedding of my girlfriend's cousin. I am not the "professional" photographer. The "professional" photographers package with the bride and groom includes a CD of his imaged with all printing and web-posting rights, and at least 3 prints, yes "3". The "pro" also lost the wedding contract and asked for the bride and groom's copy. The "pro" isn't a pro, as his day job, schooling, experience, etc. is concerned.

The situation:
My and my girlfriends plan was to take some photos as our wedding gift to them. So, I had been taking candid photos before and during the ceremony. The "pro" photographer was fully aware of this and came to me with no issue. I didn't get in his way or direct anyone to distract from his "job".

After the ceremony I hung out in the back, as my girlfriend was one of the bridesmaids, again not causing any distraction, the photographer fully aware of me, and i'd snap some candids in-between poses. I step out of the church for a moment to grab some fresh air when my girlfriend comes out and informs me that the "professional" photographers battery has died and he has no backup. The wedding party didn't want to wait for his battery to charge up, so they asked me to finnish up the handful of pictures they had left. I asked the "pro" if he was OK with this to which I received a positive response (out of embarrassment of his equipment malfunction for sure).

After the portraits were finished the "pro" and I spoke casually and exchanged business cards, as I do shoot weddings professionally too. I informed him that I'd probably just post these images to my online proofing site so that the family could order (at cost). He had no objection to this. I put my camera up, and headed to the reception where after his battery had charged he started shooting away again.

Weeks later, I had not posted anything to the web yet because I was trying to be curious to the "pro" because I was going to let him have his first rights to sales on his proofing site. Just me trying to be respectful of his job. Now remember, the family has gotten a CD of his images so they can print wherever they want, so he's not necessarily loosing or gaining sales from online proofs. The day came when his card said that the pictures would be up online - they were not.

I had not finished editing all of my photos at this point and just happened to be in the same place as the bride and groom this past weekend. I offered to show them some of what I have finished up (and they don't know that we were planning on giving them a set of prints anyway). They had a positive response to my images butt...

The problem:
The bride informs me that I cannot post any of my images to my website or proofing album. When I asked why she said the "pro" photographer told her, that in his contract (that he lost) that he retains all rights to ALL IMAGES taken at her wedding, his pictures, my pictures, her pictures, aunt martha's pictures - absolutely every image, especially if he posed the shots. And that technically no-one could distribute, print or publish any of their own images. Also, since I didn't not have a contract with her that I couldn't use any of my images for anything, even though at the wedding they asked me to shoot and he didn't have a problem with it.

Now there was no disclaimer anywhere (the bulletin or sign or oral announcement) at the wedding site to this so called "policy". I know that many wedding photographers pre-empt guests from taking pictures or even having cameras, but he did not.

It doesn't stop there though. He informed the bride and groom that if I took any such action as putting the images online to proof (even in a PW protected gallery) or used them in my portfolio that he would sue THEM, not me.

So, after me being completely professional, and respectful to his position, he's coming back (after he's seen the quality of my work on my site) and acting, well, at the very least foolish.

My thoughts:
First, If I know my copyright law like I think I do...

If I take an image with my camera, that is unique and wholly original (meaning that he doesn't have a shot "exactly" like it, pixel for pixel) and there are no outstanding agreements such as a work for hire, that I own my rights to my images.

Now I know it gets tricky when it's a "private" event - as who is hosting the event can (but didn't in this case) retain the rights to the images, but as such he wasn't hosting the wedding the family was. Also, because there was no disclaimer to his "policy" he has nothing to fall back on. The worst part is that I can't convince the bride that what he's threatening holds no legal weight.


Because he didn't pre-empt guests from taking pictures, does he have the right to claim he owns my rights?

What's with him suing them if I post their images, and not taking it out on me? I mean - the only people that could really sue me are the bride and groom right?

Even if his "policy" was in his contract, would that give the bride and groom the legal right to sign-away all guests rights to him? Should I be worried of his "lost" contract that he may get them to sign a new, modified, one after the fact?

If he does press the claim that he owns the rights to my images, should I invoice him for my day rate?

The "pro" hasn't spoken to any of this to me, only to the bride. Is this just a scare tactic to get them to not "buy" anything from me - even though that wasn't the plan? I mean he's already gotten paid.

Thank you so much for your input and advice.
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Bob Nichols, Photographer
Tipton | IN | USA | Posted: 9:27 AM on 06.19.09
->> You own the rights to your photos.

Burn your images to a CD, give it to the bride and groom and WALK AWAY. Let them do what they want with them.

Why risk hurt feelings between the bride & groom, your girlfriend and you?
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John Perkins, Photographer
Elizabethtown | KY | USA | Posted: 9:30 AM on 06.19.09
->> Well, I agree, but the rest of the family wants to see them posted.
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Eric Canha, Photographer
Brockton | MA | United States | Posted: 9:37 AM on 06.19.09
->> Your questions are good and most likely you own the rights to the photos. The 'problem' arises from the fact that the bride and groom are facing the potential of being sued or having the 'professional' hold out on delivering the photos based on your actions. There is nothing that YOU can do to prevent the photographer from claiming a breech. The 'pro' hasn't communicated with you because he has no contract or arrangement with YOU.

As for billing him your day rate, I'd guess that it would be passed on to the bride. My old wedding contract passed on any additional costs, legal fees, etc to the B&G. I don't remember the language but the bottom line was that if the couple did something that incurred additional fees or costs during the wedding that they would be billed prior to and PAY prior to delivery of the proofs.

So the real question here becomes do you stand your ground at the risk of having your friends face either a suit or a delay in getting their photos? The are 20 other issues that I'll sidestep for now. The first and biggest one is do you respect the friendship enough to do as the bride has asked and not use the photos beyond your personal use? That's the FIRST bridge to cross.

Let the B+G decide whether or not to post them to a smug mug Facebook or whatever. That leaves you out of the loop.
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John Perkins, Photographer
Elizabethtown | KY | USA | Posted: 9:53 AM on 06.19.09
->> The bride and groom have received all the work from the photographer by now. The thing is - the only reason they care what I do is because the photographer is threatening them. The suit should be with me, if in-fact he claims to own those images, right?

As for his contract, I don't have a copy of it but couldn't the bride and groom claim breach as soon as he was unable to fulfill the responsibility of taking the portraits?

Whatever I do, there won't be hurt feelings on the family, I just don't feel I should be bullied around by nonsense.
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John Perkins, Photographer
Elizabethtown | KY | USA | Posted: 10:00 AM on 06.19.09
->> Also, I have a responsibility to myself to have my images re-produced with consistent, reliable quality. This is why the only thing I'm asking of them is to use my lab, at my cost, which they are ok with, and they are ok with online ordering, they are just scared.

I understand how they feel, but I hope you understand how I feel too, The drug store won't give you the same quality as a pro-lab, and so much of this business is by referral, word-of-mouth, and the quality of your product.
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Jim Colburn, Photo Editor, Photographer
McAllen | TX | USA | Posted: 10:13 AM on 06.19.09
->> " his contract (that he lost) that he retains all rights to ALL IMAGES taken at her wedding..."

Even if the bride and groom signed such an absurd contract it doesn't mean that YOU are beholden to it. They cannot sign away your copyright. If they signed such a contract AND HE CAN PRODUCE A SIGNED ORIGINAL then they have to abide by it. They should ask to see his copy...

OTOH you're being a bit of a [fill in the blank] with your insistence on them using only your lab and its on-line ordering. Can they drive to the lab to order prints? If the bride and groom are your fiends than give them a CD with the photos on it and wish them well.
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Doug Keese, Photographer
New Orleans | LA | United States | Posted: 11:47 AM on 06.19.09
->> First of all, i don't think you're being a bit of anything by asking the family to use your lab to produce your work. You've stated you're giving the couple a disc or copies of prints as your gift to them, so there's nothing wrong with wanting the family's images to look the way you intended them to.

This whole contract seems outrageous at best, as I tend to agree with everyone that you took the images thus you own the copyright. The only thing i would really avoid is posting publicly (your website, etc.) any images you took while the groups were posed that he set up. I have a 2nd shooter at my weddings doing side angles of the group shots (zoomed in, the moments inbetween shots, etc) and those often end up better than the boring shot I have to shoot.

If you're a member of PPA you could inquire with them about the legalities of all this. I'm about to join mainly to have access to that asset. That being said, if the couple has everything from the photographer then give them their gift, post everything on a protected site that the other photographer won't be able to find, and call it a day. And remember to have more than one battery at all your events :)
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John Perkins, Photographer
Elizabethtown | KY | USA | Posted: 11:59 AM on 06.19.09
->> "The only thing I would really avoid is posting publicly (your website, etc.) any images you took while the groups were posed that he set up. I have a 2nd shooter at my weddings doing side angles of the group shots (zoomed in, the moments inbetween shots, etc) and those often end up better than the boring shot I have to shoot."


Why is this? Because my images may be better? The compositions I have are completely different than what he has, and if i do own the copyright, where's the harm?
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Dominick Reuter, Photographer, Assistant
Boston | MA | USA | Posted: 12:25 PM on 06.19.09
->> Legal advice from photographers... always scary. here's mine:

From what I learned in my Intro to Law class in undergrad, I don't believe the B&G had any authority to act as your agent, or agent to any of their other guests--agency being the legal capacity to enter into agreements on your behalf.

That said, those clauses in the contract-that-the-guy-can't-find aren't exactly valid, especially in a situation that deals primarily with the first amendment. So, I'd say YOU STILL OWN THE COPYRIGHT.

I won't meander into your commercial rights, since that is a briar patch all of its own, but on that front, as my Media Law professor liked to say, "In America anyone can sue anyone. The question is, 'Can they win?'"

Hell, why not threaten to counter-sue the "pro" for something?

- D
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Ian Solender, Photographer
Palm Beach Gardens | Fl | USA | Posted: 12:35 PM on 06.19.09
->> I would contact PPA, if your a member or not, and ask them. I'm sure this isn;t the first time this has happened..

As to this schlock photographer. If he didn't infrom you of the rules or guidelines of his contract, then he's SOL. I have never heard of a photographer being able to hold ALL rights of ALL photographs, his or by guests, taken at an event or wedding. In a contract or not! Your camera, you took the picture, You didn't have a contract with anyone, that's your copyright!

Then he asks you to finish up shooting for him after his gear fails, then threatens a suit. That's balls! If it was that big of a deal, then send an assistant up for batteries at a CVS or Walgreens or maybe ask you to borrow your flash or batteries. If he was so worried about his job then maybe he should have had backups to his backups...

I'm only taking your word for what happened, I'm sure he has a side. BUT, it doesn't matter what side is the truth. His gear failed and he said it was OK to do some shots, didn't discuss compensation or any term, then he gave up any rights to those photos!

Sound like you tried to do the right thing for friends and you and they are getting shafted.

Good luck and keep us updated on what happens. This is better than fiction!!

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Eric Canha, Photographer
Brockton | MA | United States | Posted: 12:41 PM on 06.19.09
->> Ian just to clear things up, from John's original post....

The wedding party didn't want to wait for his battery to charge up, so they asked me to finnish up.......

From the post the hired photographer didn't ask for john to step in.
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Dave Doonan, Photographer
Kingston | TN | USA | Posted: 12:43 PM on 06.19.09
->> Bill the photographer for the time you worked covering his unprepared a**.Maybe that will get his attention.
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Steve Allen, Photographer
Concord | CA | USA | Posted: 12:55 PM on 06.19.09
->> This is rediculous.

What - nobody at the wedding or wedding party was allowed to take photos?

Was there a posted sign saying NO CAMERAS ALLOWED and a security guard checking hand bags etc?

* That said, out or respect for your friends, I would not make waves, I would just make a CD and hand it to them and others have advised.

What they do with it is their business. Just ask them to call you with the image IDs they want you to print, sizes and quantities etc. and do it. I wouldn;t post anything on your website etc unless you are just trying to rub something in the hired guns nose.

--> I don;t shoot weddings. But every wedding I have ever attended, I had at least some of my gear and ran around taking photos. I have never got in the way of the [hired] photographer nor have I ever verbally asked anyone to move here or there, look over here etc as that would distract the hired photog etc and could ultimately affect/effect my friend's wedding photos etc.......
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John Plassenthal, Photographer
Vandalia | OH | USA | Posted: 1:27 PM on 06.19.09
->> It is possible to put anything into a contract, it is completely another thing to enforce an illegal clause. The offical photographer has no legal claim over any photographs taken by any other photographer. In either case, any suit he would bring on them would be dismissed outright as you are not a party to the contract, and they have no authority over you to prevent you from doing anything you want with your photos.

For all intents and purposes the only one who could have prevented you from taking photos is the church as it is private property. Given that you had tacit permission to be on the property, and to photograph there, you need no one's permission to use your photos in any editorial (the legal definition) use. Posting them on your site for print sales is in that classification as a matter of law.

Yes, he could be sued for failure to perform and breach of his contract because his battery failed and was not able to complete the assignment. The bride and groom should double check the contract and verify that there was something quoted and stated that he would do that was not in fact delivered. They should take a tough line with him and request a partial refund.
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Jeff Mills, Photographer, Photo Editor
Columbus | OH | USA | Posted: 1:46 PM on 06.19.09
->> Wedding photography is certainly an intresting market.

A couple pays a very good day rate for a photographer to provide a service for them, and then because your then looking to make money off print sales (with an absurd markup) and anyone else taking images at that wedding could cut into your sales, you can stipulate that no one else can take photos and you own the copyright to the whole event, even though your just a hired vendor there to provide a service.

What a brilliant business model.

I'd sure love to charge a couple $2500 for 6 hours of shooting and then if any of the bride or grooms family/friends dared snap a pic at "my event" I'll sue the pants off the couple who paid me to come in the first place.

Who cares if they paid me to be there, who cares if they paid for the church, I own the rights to all of it!

The fools though I was there to provide a service and cater to their needs! (manical laughter)
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Jeff Mills, Photographer, Photo Editor
Columbus | OH | USA | Posted: 1:52 PM on 06.19.09
->> Oh, can't let this go without mentioning the my favorite wedding contract line, from an ex girlfriends sisters wedding a few years back.

Wedding photographer was to be provided the same catered dinner as the rest of the invited guest, or otherwise be compensated a price of $50 and 1 hour of billed time to provide himself with eqivilent meal service.

When I'm on a job I'm happy if theres some lukewarm hot dogs and flat soda in the media room I can stuff my face with for 5 minutes during halftime!

This guy needs to go have a 4 star white tablecloth dinner on the clients dime or else he'd be too weak from hunger to shoot the cutting of the cake.

Must be nice is all I can say.....
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Clark Brooks, Photo Editor, Photographer
Urbana | IL | USA | Posted: 2:06 PM on 06.19.09
->> LOL....

It took me a while to write this because I had to keep chasing my ass...I kept laughing it off.

Do what you want with the images. You shot them, you own them. You were under no contractual obligation with the bride/groom nor the photographer.

Damn...I'm still tickled ..... A wedding photographer rights grab ....

As Steve Allen suggest above, do what makes your friend happy. After all, they are your friends. You can do whatever you want with the images, which includes giving them away to marking them up to $1,000 per 4x6.

Was the photographer in breach of the contract between he and the couple? Possibly, but without seeing the actual contract there is no way to determine that.
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Geoff Miller, Photographer
Portage | MI | USA | Posted: 2:20 PM on 06.19.09
->> I'll toss my two-bits in too...

As other have noted, the B&G cannot sign your copyrights away. It's 100% certain that you own the photos you took at the wedding.

As far as the "pro" suing the B&G instead of you, he can't sue you because there's no contractual relationship between you and the "pro"... only between him and the B&G. If the contract (assuming he can find it) states that the B&G grant him exclusive rights to sell photos of the wedding and the B&G are expected to make a reasonable effort to stop others from doing so at the wedding, then the B&G could be "in breech" if they don't make an effort to stop you from selling prints. This would be like the language in contracts with youth sports leagues that require the league, if they want their 10% of the sales, to police the grounds and stop any other photographer from taking photo if they believe they are being taking to be sold.

I also agree that the "pro" may be opening up a can of worms if he decides to sue and may expose himself to a counter-suit for "breech" due to his inability to perform. It all depends on the wording of his contract. I believe many photographers use language that limit their liability due to things like equipment malfunctions. I had a friend who won a battle with a bride when the lab's equipment "ate" the negative of the her coming down the aisle with her father. His contract limited his exposure to a re-shoot of the damaged image. (She on the other hand wanted him to refund most of the his fee.) It would probably rest with a jury/judge to determine if, there was such protective language, would be extend to a dead battery.

Another issue would be the discussions between you, the "pro" and the B&G at the wedding and might they be considered verbal alternations of the contract. Verbal contracts can also be just a legal as written ones. Of course the problem is proving what was said, but if it's you and B&G vs. him, your odds would be better. If you received his permission to step in and "save the day" when his battery failed, then a judge may decided that the "pro" would have no leg to stand on in court.

I think the chances of him owning your images is 0%. I also think it's unlikely that he'd prevail in court against your friend. But as mentioned, if you think he's serious and would cause a legal headache to your friend, just burn them a CD and be done with it.
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Eric Canha, Photographer
Brockton | MA | United States | Posted: 2:53 PM on 06.19.09
->> Clark good to see you posting! It's been a while.

Coming to a wedding near you......... terms and conditions on the back of the invitation. Guest credentialing !!! Lanyards with lace or satin stripping to match the tuxes or dresses.......

Jeff fwiw a meal clause was very standard for wedding contracts in the 80's and 90's and I'm sure it's still printed on boilerplate contracts. Most halls and caterers are well aware of the need to feed the photographer. In my case an all day wedding meant a 14 or 16 hour day. While being served the 'same' meal as the guests is common only because the food is already prepped one of the Hyatt hotels that I would shoot at had a special contractor meal that they provided to the photographer(s) and band or dj. I believe it was off the bar menu.

John P. The church is private property as is the hall. Not having seen the contract, a single line that states that the bride and groom will not allow anyone to photograph the 'event' is very legal. I'm not saying that I agree with it, or that for that matter 99% of the brides would either, but it IS legal and IF agreed to and signed it's up to the B+G to run around telling people to put their cameras away. At that point if someone did snap a picture the B+G would have failed to prevent something from happening at an event that they DO control.

You may have something with the claim of errors and omissions in that he didn't shoot all the groups, BUT at the same time he was willing pending the battery recharging and the wedding party ASKED John to shoot. So did he fail to shoot or was he preempted?

......In either case, any suit he would bring on them would be dismissed outright as you are not a party to the contract........

I wouldn't be so sure. It may get dismissed, but not out of hand. The fact is that the B+G can be held accountable for the actions of their guests. If for example the B+G sign a contract with me that states that no alcohol will be allowed at the reception, then turn a blind eye or worse participate in drinking games, I would hold them responsible if a drunk guest damaged my gear. Likewise if they are signing a clause that reassigns the rights to photos then it is up to them to get such assignments from their guests. It's not that big a reach. The fact that they didn't secure the rights that they are giving to the contractor could be a breech on their part IF that was what they signed. See lots of questions before something gets thrown out. So much of this depends on that contract and what it really states.

I'll add one more thought.... I have to wonder if Bobby Flay shows up at a wedding with a rib roast as a gift. Or does Duff bring cupcakes to a wedding knowing that there's a cake ordered from another bakery?
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Marvin Gentry, Photographer
Birmingham | AL | USA | Posted: 3:45 PM on 06.19.09
->> Hey John, You didn't read the back of the guest list that stated that stated he retained all rights to all photographs taken at the wedding. I know one thing that I have noticed in ALabama that alot of photographers are operating without a business license and sale tax number. Check him out. if he doesnt have one I would post them and then let him go to the extent of getting a lawyer. No lawyer is gonna take it pro-bono so he is going to have to come up with money to pay him. Also wasnt his contract null and void when his battery went out and he was unable to finish the job? I think I would have to call him and have a chat with him.
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Samuel Lewis, Photographer
Miami | FL | USA | Posted: 3:45 PM on 06.19.09
->> Unless you authorized, in writing, the bride and groom to sign away your copyrights, you own the copyrights to your images. The wedding photographer can claim what he wants, but there is no basis for him to claim the rights to your images. Period.

Assuming the wedding photographer's contract has a clause providing that he will own all of the photographs taken at the wedding, and assuming that the bride and groom were foolish enough to sign such a contract, then the wedding photographer may very well have a claim against the bride and groom. Unfortunately, this is America where anyone can sue anyone else for just about anything, regardless of whether there is merit behind the claim. Thus, the wedding photographer could sue you--either with or without the bride and groom--and while it would cost you something to defend the case, you would likely prevail. Winning under these circumstances will not feel like winning; more likely, it will feel like losing.

At this juncture, I would be careful about posting or otherwise displaying your images from the wedding. I would probably also require the bride and groom to sign a model release so that they can't come back after you for violating their right of publicity/right of privacy by posting the photographs (even if they ask you to; it's amazing how fast people are to change their tune when they realize they're going to be sued).

If the wedding photographer makes demands on you based upon his ownership of the images, you should get yourself a local lawyer who knows enough about copyright law to explain, in no uncertain terms, that the bride and groom could not, as a matter of law, assign the rights to your photographs to the wedding photographer because they do not have a signed writing as required under 17 USC Sec. 204. If you have insurance, you may also need to put them on notice of the potential claim (the lawyer you see should be able to guide you on this point).
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Clark Brooks, Photo Editor, Photographer
Urbana | IL | USA | Posted: 4:34 PM on 06.19.09
->> "Coming to a wedding near you......... terms and conditions on the back of the invitation. Guest credentialing !!! Lanyards with lace or satin stripping to match the tuxes or dresses......"

Eric: I was thinking the same thing while I was typing my response. The picture of wedding guest wearing lanyards with one color, wedding party with another, videographer/photogs/pastor with big plastic holders and church personnel with another. The biggest headache: keeping the church security people with orange vest and white reflective stripes out of my backgrounds.
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Eric Canha, Photographer
Brockton | MA | United States | Posted: 4:53 PM on 06.19.09
->> Sam once again you bring up a GREAT point. John's insurance.

IF (again with the if's) John were to simply give the B+G a CD of images that he took as a guest or upload them to a private PERSONAL site, the contract photographer would only be able to name John the person in any action. And lose any action as it would be a gift and not subject to the (assumed) restrictions.

IF John were to place the images on his studio's site to sell, he risks being named as John Perkins DBA, or Halftonexxxxxx llc or whatever structure his business has. At that point EVEN if or when John were to win a claim he or the studio would have to answer YES to any question of whether the studio had been sued in the last 5 years, or whatever period underwriting sets..... This in turn could raise his premiums the following year. So after all is said and down the victory is in spirit only. As you have rightly alluded to.

There are just so many ways to come up the winning loser on this one.

Clark I can see it now..... You cross the velvet sash before the kiss and two of the orange vests wrestle you and your cameras to the carpet. In the morning 3 cellphone videos get posted to YouTube of Clark Brooks on the ground with a 300# orange clad church lady sitting on his chest.
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Bill Mitchell, Photographer
Tempe | AZ | USA | Posted: 5:46 PM on 06.19.09
->> John, I don't want to oversimplify this, but I really believe this whole thing is being over-analyzed. You were trying to do something nice for the bride and groom. It hasn't worked out because of this photographer. You weren't in it for the money so you aren't out anything. Why not just walk away from the whole thing?

Instead of giving them photos for their wedding present, since they are concerned about this other photographer suing them, change your strategy and buy them a toaster instead (or some other comparable gift). Just move on. You've already burned enough time that you won't get back in your lifetime.
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Jeff Blake, Photographer
Columbia | SC | USA | Posted: 5:52 PM on 06.19.09
->> Jeff Mills, have you ever worked 8-9 hours straight on your feet without eating? I have a clause in my wedding contract that requires they provide me a meal, not because I'm trying to get a free meal, but because I would pass out if I didn't have a chance to eat. And if I were to leave the event to eat, I would miss that cake cutting.
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Eric Isaacs, Photographer
Santa Barbara | CA | USA | Posted: 6:14 PM on 06.19.09
->> Sorry if I am being redundant by not reading through the other posts but I'm guessing they can get said "professional" to repeal his ridiculous demands by the following tactics:

If they have not already paid him, don't. If they have, either have the credit card company reverse the charges or demand he return their money as he did not abide by the terms of his contract (he didn't photograph the entire wedding as he agreed to do) It certainly isn't an act of god that his batteries died and the B&G shouldn't be penalized for his lack of preparedness.

If he agrees to allow your photos to be used any way the B&G deem useful they can release his payment (or not as he still did not abide by the contract) If he does not agree make sure they tell him they will share their experience with as many people they can both online and in person, perhaps even a letter to the editor of the local paper and some craig's list posts. The negative publicity will cost him far more than any perceived losses from allowing your photos to be posted online.

Just my random thoughts...

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Mark Peters, Photographer
Highland | IL | USA | Posted: 8:13 PM on 06.19.09
->> Standard disclaimer - I'm not an attorney, and this is just my opinion, not advice......

As many others have suggested, you don't have a contract with him. It's your copyright.

Have your friends read their contract. If it includes a clause which makes them pay his legal fees if he sues and wins, there MAY be some pause before action here. If it doesn't - F*** him, let him sue. There are two parts to a successful suit - 1) proving someone did something "wrong" and 2) proving damages. Where are the damages? Even if he proved breach of contract there is no rational argument that he was damaged - he got paid a fee and delivered a CD of fully licensed for reprint images. Any argument that this cost him sales is laughable.

I'm baffled as to where he would have a cause of action.

On the other hand, perhaps your friend should remind him of the value of good will - that being that if he insists on being a raging prick, then she will have zero hesitation before discussing her utterly unsatisfactory experience with his services with everyone she knows - and via various wedding service forums, those she does not.

His threat is hollow.
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Jim Pierce, Photographer
Waltham | MA | usa | Posted: 8:18 PM on 06.19.09
->> I have read all the posts and am looking at it and thinking simply, "wow" wedding photography is going the way of youth sports T&I and event coverage. "we" sports photogs in general have given into the leagues etc and in general terms are paying the leagues for the "opportunity" to make money. Many youth sports photogs advertise offering better "fund raiser $$" $XXX per order XX% of online sales etc for leagues and need to limit who shoots.... and based on this thread we may be starting to see this on the wedding circuit.

This might be a sign that wedding photogs are feeling threatened that *wc will get better shots and will not sell any/as much if someone else is shooting. This is no different than doing an "event" Soccer/baseball/hockey tournament and having parents shooting with a DSLR.

I sure hope this is not the case but you never know.

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Manuello Paganelli, Photographer
Los Angeles | CA | USA | Posted: 8:59 PM on 06.19.09
->> John I dont do weddings and since this is a lazy summer Friday afternoon I will tell you how I see it. This was too juicy to pass it. Love, drinks, friends, lovers, fight, romance, enemy, more drinks, more fights…

Right off the bat whatever you do from now on I think that you already have 2 strikes against you. In fact if you push it you may not even have a girlfriend or that young married couple as your friends.

Sometime trying to be nice can get you in deeper trouble specially if you did have other intentions.

I read what you wrote and was rooting for you then read it again and I saw it differently. So correct me if I am wrong.

You said that you wanted to go there, be nice and give some photos from you and your girlfriend.

But the more you try to justified your actions re some of the things that you wrote a blurry photo comes out.

Red flag, you having your biz cards and exchanging it with the hired wedding photographer. Right now the photographer sees you as a competition. Not a member of the wedding who is just snapping away, getting drunk on champagne and eating cake.

Colburn said it well so don’t be so adamant on requiring that they go to your printer etc give them a cd and let them take it anywhere. Otherwise you are acting like if this was your gig..

Then this tossed me over board

“The drug store won't give you the same quality as a pro-lab, and so much of this business is by referral, word-of-mouth, and the quality of your product..”

Sounds like you were working your ass off for other reasons? Each wise advice that you keep getting here from other wedding shooters then you come back with an answer as if this was a commercial shoot and you had been mistreated and wont let go.

Excuse me while I kiss the sky but this sounds to me that you also wanted to post these images on your website for commercial benefits specially once you thought they were good images. Even better than the hire pro. Now it seems that very little of this has anything to do with just “…little me been nice to my girlfriends cousins.”

YOU said that the wedding party, NOT THE HIRED PHOTOGRAPHER, asked you shoot some as to not slow the moment of the wedding. This came from them and not from you, right? Still, to you that was the perfect moment to capitalized. Again I am saying this on you saying“so much of this business is by referral, word-of-mouth, and the quality of your product.”
IF I was taken some snap pix at a family member wedding I would not be too worry about the final results. Is just a present and I am there to relax, have fun and shoot some cool images but never feeling as if I am the main shooter and thinking “I must put these images on my website so I can get other clients.” Yet you wrote , “the rest of the family wants to see them posted.” And your reasons?

I could be wrong but the fear that this photographer sees is not on the mom&pops and their college cousins taking photos but you who are also a wedding photographer, passed your biz card around and for sure are shooting like not other member ANY wedding would be shooting.

John you are not going to like this but I think that he was able to sniff your intentions a mile away. He saw another wedding photographer pushing his way around. And yes you own your © but that is something else.
IF the PR or publicist of any of my celebs pulls out their iphone or digital camera while I am shooting they know better NEVER to post those images for any commercial usages.

I am sure that up to the start of the wedding and its early stage you REALLY wanted to shoot and give them those images as a present and nothing else. But somewhere along the way that changed. NOt only is he threaten that you may make some money selling those images, EVEN IF YOU WOULD NEVER DO SO, but still he is protecting himself from you posting ANY of those images on your site to “by word of mouth” you can get other clients.

When you folks see it this way then ALL HIS DEMANDS, pertaining to this wedding, are not that far out of this world. This was his wedding yet you also became the hunter.

SO this maybe the reason that he is saying, which I gotta tell you I would too, dont put your images on your commercial site..PERIOD.

Why would I want someone else images from my wedding on another’s photographer site? With contract or without contract.
The fact that, according to you, he may work in an unprofessional manner, no having xtra batteries etc, is something else and not for you do get involve. IF the bride and groom were not happy with his work that is something else and is up to them to get a refund. Again, I don’t know what is in the contract or if they already approve of the proofs and were happy when they saw it. Or that your images are "better" than his doesn’t mean that they didn’t like his work. BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU SAID ABOUT ANOTHER PHOTOGRAPHER ON AN OPEN FORUM!

YOu are getting some ill advices here, which I would not pursue. This could all end badly.
Do any other pro wedding photographers see it my way?

John, just let it rest for the longer you push it the further away your girlfriend will run. YOu may think all is peachy with her and the young marry couple but when the shit hits the fan it will land all on you. And they may see you as an opportunist. Is not worth it. Grow and learn something about people and about yourself.

Like someone said, jut BUY A PRESENT INSTEAD.

This whole thing reads like a perfect script for a telenovela.

More 2 Come

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Eric Canha, Photographer
Brockton | MA | United States | Posted: 10:24 PM on 06.19.09
->> Jim you've been studying my website closely I'm flattered ;)

Seeing as I was a wedding photographer LONG before sports I'll shed some light on the wedding biz. Long before digital, Uncle Harry had a TLR and was more than happy to prove to the couple that they 'wasted' their money hiring a pro when he could have done the same job at 'cost'.

Most (myself included) wedding photographers work in the form of 'packages'. These included the album for the B+G as well as 2 companion books for the parents. In the days of proofs, we would provide all the proofs to the bride with the understanding that any proofs not returned would be billed at $xx each. So in most if not all cases there was very little to 'sell' after the fact. Sure you would sometimes upgrade the couple to a larger book or a wall print, but the real wedding shooters were never worried about losing a sale to a *wc. All my weddings were paid in full 30 days prior to the wedding. And before anyone pipes up, the caterer is paid in full before a single chicken gets breaded. Ditto for the limo and the DJ. Anyone who has ever shot a wedding and heard the line "Oh we left the check in the hotel, we'll have to mail it to you" has learned to get paid upfront.

In my case as in the case of several other wedding shooters that I know/knew we closed the formal portrait session because keeping everyone focused is a HUGE job. As time marched forward the time frame for shooting formals has shrunk to about an hour. By way of example when I started shooting weddings in New Bedford the typical wedding had the church service between 11 and 2 then a 3 hour window for shooting before the reception which typically started at 6. The wedding party would go to the studio for formals then to a garden for a few more shots time. Now-a-days 60 to 90 minutes is luxurious.

What I'm struggling to understand is why ONLY photographers or aspiring photographers seem so ill mannered as to show up at a wedding to one up the hired shooter. I mean its not like someone shows up with their cd collection and asks to spin a few for 30 minutes to impress the bride and groom. No one shows up with THEIR version of a wedding cake to one up the bakery. So the real question remains while we tolerate it when it comes to the photography.

BTW one of the studios doing T&I in the region is offering $400 for each additional year a league signs on for. So if a league signs a 3 year deal they get a $1200 bonus at signing. PLUS the commission that they would normally get...
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Jim Pierce, Photographer
Waltham | MA | usa | Posted: 11:06 PM on 06.19.09
->> Eric,

Flattered, why? If you are saying that you promote to pay for the "opportunity" to make money with a league then so be it, I did not post this at you but at what I come across from current and potential clients. I tried to relate this to the OP as it seems to me that the youth model might be moving into the wedding area. I have no desire to go into this arena (weddings) as it is no fun for me.

I have heard it all from photogs willing to doing a whole years T&I for free for a 2 year contract to "you will make $10K in a weeks tourney, we just want $3000 but they don't want to talk about the % of net actuall sales they just want $3000, I walk away. 3 year deal does not surprise me at all, it's just another photog that probably will not be around in short time.

I just see weddings might go the speculation route as youth sports, you never know.

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Eric Canha, Photographer
Brockton | MA | United States | Posted: 11:46 PM on 06.19.09
->> The $400/yr bonus is coming from a company that has been in the area 20 or 30 years. Not much danger of them not being around next year, they're a 'school' studio doing all levels of schools with a decent size staff. I've been hearing numbers all the way to 50/50 splits.

I don't see spec weddings catching on. At the low end the 'economy' shooters just burn the files to disc and wash their hands of the gig within days. Then again I haven't shot a wedding since 05 so I really don't know what is normal and customary in today's arena.
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David Hague, Photographer, Student/Intern
Pittsburgh | Pa | USA | Posted: 12:36 AM on 06.20.09
->> There is this website I ran across once when I was looking for an answer to a legal question. There is contact info on the site I might suggest using it and seeing what the reply is. It helped me out...
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Samuel Lewis, Photographer
Miami | FL | USA | Posted: 7:57 AM on 06.20.09
->> David, what John needs is a local attorney who can provide him with specific advice and guidance, not someone to answer general legal questions.

Moreover, when it comes to finding an attorney, I'd look for an attorney who has obtained the highest peer review rating, as opposed to someone who has a website or a blog (they can have those things, too, but peer review rating helps establish that the attorney knows what he or she is doing). If you need to find an attorney, look for a local attorney at If you can, you want to find an attorney who has Martindale's AV peer review rating (their highest rating).

The most important thing, however, is finding an attorney who knows Kentucky law (or the law of your state if you're not in Kentucky). John needs advice specific to his situation, and the only way such advice can be properly and efficiently rendered is if the attorney knows his local law.
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John Perkins, Photographer
Elizabethtown | KY | USA | Posted: 10:29 AM on 06.20.09
->> Manuello,

I don't think you fully understand the situation. I was doing this as a gift, but on the same token, as I'm a pro, and as the bride and groom were accepting of my services, there is no reason I can't use the images for my purposes as well. It's a win-win for both the B&G and me. The only reason I'm pressing the issue, not with the bride and groom by the way, but with the other photographer and his false and illegal claims.

I did not pass my business card around to guests, just the other photographer. I wasn't promoting my services to anyone at the wedding.

"Sounds like you were working your ass off for other reasons?" - No, why would you assume I'd work any less hard if this is something I want to invest my time and effort into.

Besides, if I do own the copyright as others agree that I do, as long as the b&g are ok with it I have the right to use them on my personal portfolio site. This isn't about wether it's right or wrong to do this, I haven't taken any action as of yet, this is me just trying to get opinions on wether I have the RIGHT to do so.

As far as “the rest of the family wants to see them posted.” - They want them to be in a PW protected gallery, non-public, to order from - they have complete access control over this. Why make it difficult to the point that they have to call me to order prints? Not even the other photog can see the gallery.

We ARE going to give them a set of prints, I just want the rest of anyone who wants any prints to be of the same quality... what's wrong with wanting my work to be presented with professional quality? Remember, the GIFT is the set of prints and my time, the rest of the family would like some too, online ordering is the most efficient way of doing this.

The only person who is taking issue with this is the other photog and the bride. If the ridiculous claims of copyright and legal action were not threatened the bride wouldn't have an issue either.

So, it comes down to the question, Do I have the right to do with my images as I see fit? I may not decide to put them on my portfolio site, for obvious confusion on the marketing front, but as far as a private gallery goes, I believe I have the full right to do so.

Just as I'm typing this, the mother of the bride has called me and are wanting to see the gallery up. They have been unsatisfied with the "professional" they have hired.

I thank everyone for their input.
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Jack Howard, Photographer, Photo Editor
Central Jersey | NJ | USA | Posted: 10:46 AM on 06.20.09
->> All I have to say is, there's a reason I usually just bring a pocket point-shoot to friend's events to make some happy snaps for our photo album.
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David Ahntholz, Photographer, Photo Editor
Cleveland | OH | USA | Posted: 11:43 AM on 06.20.09
->> Why not call (don't e-mail) the photographer, rather than relying on communication through the bride and groom.

If it were me, I would tell the bride and groom that you are going to call the photographer and see what the problem is. Maybe there's some miscommunication, and the photographer will be more understanding of your polite and professional explanation that the bride and groom can't sign away the rights to your images.
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Eric Canha, Photographer
Brockton | MA | United States | Posted: 11:50 AM on 06.20.09
->> John from your website...

For those who want the ultimate flexibility for use in their images, Halftone Studio offers digital files for sale. Pricing is based on resolution. With this option you can take your files anywhere and have them printed. However, color and quality cannot be guaranteed using 3rd party services.

It would seem that for a price you are willing to do the very thing that most posters here are advising. To burn a CD and be done with the whole affair. Based on this statement from your own site you don't hold much fear of what a 'drugstore' print will do to your reputation, at least not if the price is right.

I don't know, the term Guestzilla is starting to seem appropriate. This isn't so much about RIGHTS as it is about doing what is right.

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Tim Cowie, Photographer
Davidson | NC | USA | Posted: 12:04 PM on 06.20.09
->> John -

For the most part I have to agree with Manuello. Perhaps I read your post with the wrong glasses on. I will not go line by line and over analyze your situation or your intentions.

If everything is as described, the B&G did a poor job selecting a wedding photographer. That however is a done deal and between them and the photographer.

At some point in this process I think your desire to give the B&G a nice gift crossed with your professional eye and need to give the customer a good product, despite the inefficiencies of the hired hand. I think you need to pull away from that need and the emotions tied to that.

Give the B&G their CD of photos and/or a book of prints. Walk away. Don't post on your site, don't be concerned about where other family members may take your shots from the CD and have them printed.

I'm sure it will be very difficult to turn and look the other way, but either buy them that toaster or hand them the photos and wash your hands free of the other concerns.
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John Perkins, Photographer
Elizabethtown | KY | USA | Posted: 3:36 PM on 06.20.09
->> I understand what everyone is saying, but my question has never been what to do, although I value everyone's input and understand where you are coming from.

The only thing I'm taking issue with is the photographer and his false claims. If the photographer didn't open this can of worms with hollow legal threats, there wouldn't be an issue.

The question I posed was one of legal nature, not ethical. I'm not going to do anything that will cause waves in the family. I want to make the family happy, and if that means creating a gallery for them to order off of then so be it, if I do in-fact have that legal right. That's what they originally wanted and are still asking for.

And yes, I do sell the digital file for the right price in my professional work. However, the prints I sell are much more cost effective for most clients.
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Jean Finley, Photo Editor, Photographer
Iowa City | IA | USA | Posted: 4:01 PM on 06.20.09
->> Dear Mr. my-battery-died Wedding Photographer:

Sue me, please. My counter-suit will rock your world.


Smarter-than-you-think BRIDE.
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Clark Brooks, Photo Editor, Photographer
Urbana | IL | USA | Posted: 4:02 PM on 06.20.09
->> John:

The advice and recommendations made in this forum SHOULD NOT BE construed as legal advice. As Mr. Lewis has recommended above, you need to seek counsel from a competent attorney in your state that practices intellectual property law. If you take the responses here as legal advice you have more problems than you think. The other photographer's claim may not be false (you don't have a copy of the contractual agreement) nor hollow (as he may take action, justified or not, to get you to cease and desist). See a real lawyer and not photographers for legal advice.
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John Perkins, Photographer
Elizabethtown | KY | USA | Posted: 4:08 PM on 06.20.09
->> Ok, I realize we are not lawyers here. I know that none of this advice will hold up in court, so don't worry.
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Eric Canha, Photographer
Brockton | MA | United States | Posted: 4:34 PM on 06.20.09
->> Jean I'd be VERY careful on the counter-suit notion, here's why, If James Doe D/B/A Dead Batteries Studio files suit for breech he may do so on his own behalf IF on the other hand he faces a counter suit he could invoke his insurance or if a member of the PPA their legal team. All of a sudden he's gone from a single 'tog in court to the law firm of Libby Libby and Banana.

Back in the 90's I had the film from a mitzvah get chewed up. Portions of the candle lighting etc. were gone for good. Period. I felt HORRIBLE and refunded the family in full AND offered to pay to have another cake made and to re-stage the lighting on my dime. At the same time I called the PPA to let them know that I may have a claim coming up. Mom was alluding that this $40k (no I'm not kidding) event was ruined because one segment was lost. So I had to play it safe.

Their law firm (PPA'S) called me that same day and I recounted everything. I will NEVER forget what I was told.... "The up shot is if they sue you, we'll have a local firm represent you, we will negotiate on your behalf, AND you will be covered for any additional loss. It will be a BETTER scenario for you as you will be able to take this off your mind and go back to daily business."

So filing a counter suit isn't always the best option IF there is a good chance that the person filing the original suit will lose. Sort of like splitting a blackjack hand, do it at the wrong time and you double your chances of losing. Pushing the envelope to the point that they seek additional firepower could take an easy loss and muck it up for weeks and months. Remember that at each hearing the bride or groom or BOTH will have to burn a day of work to hangout at court.
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Alicia Wagner Calzada, Photographer
San Antonio | TX | USA | Posted: 2:24 PM on 06.21.09
->> I don't think you have anything to worry about. Just because someone claims rights to your photos doesn't make it so.

A contract governs the parties who agree to it. I cannot sign a contract that grants your property to someone else when I have no rights to it. Period. If you can figure out how I can, let me know, I will get rich.
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Chuck Steenburgh, Photographer
Lexington | VA | USA | Posted: 8:00 PM on 06.21.09
->> Eric,

It is a well-known fact that anyone who can buy a fancy camera is a good photographer. Those other things you mentioned like DJing or cake making require skill and talent.


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John Tucker, Photographer, Photo Editor
Cordova | TN | USA | Posted: 5:09 PM on 06.22.09
->> Couldn't you saved yourself a lot of grief if you'd just have given them a crock pot instead? They should have hired you in the first place, but since they didn't, why even bring your camera? I always think about bringing my camera to weddings, but then I ask myself, "if you were a baker, would you bring another cake?".......then I leave my camera at home. You were there to save the day when the battery died (luckily for the bride & groom) but now look at all the time, buy a toaster and just smile when the happy couple hires someone else.
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Will Powers, Photographer
Denver | CO | USA | Posted: 1:41 PM on 06.23.09
->> Dominick is correct that no one has the right to sign an agreement for you unless you give them that right (power of attorney). I lost a case like this at the court level cause the judge had an agenda, but I took it to an appeals court judge/lawyer who said if I wanted to fight the ruling, I'd win hands down siting the fact that no one can make an agreement for me without my permission.
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Russ Isabella, Photographer
Salt Lake City | UT | USA | Posted: 11:44 PM on 06.23.09
->> Putting aside the "your rights" question for a moment, I'm wondering where "your ethics" might come into this picture. As a professional photographer, what is your motivation for posting and offering to sell photos you took at another photographer's contracted gig? I get the gift thing, but your argument doesn't seem to be about the gift at all, but about your right to do what you want, commercially, with the photos you took at the wedding. As far as I can tell, everything else about the story you've told (an interesting one, I'll admit) serves as distraction to this question (as I see it) of your motivation in infringing on this other guy's turf. And (again as I see it), none of the negative things you've offered about this other photographer (or the positive things you've offered about your own work) is relevant to this question.
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