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The Fine Print

Paying for photos doesn't always give you the right to use them.

This story appears in the June 1998 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Suppose you hire a photographer to shoot photos of your products. You order prints and pay the bill. But the first time you use the photos in a brochure, you get a letter from the photographer's attorney saying you have no right to use the images; you must stop or answer for it in court. What's going on?

"The photographer has the copyright," explains Portland, Oregon, attorney Leonard DuBoff, author of numerous books on copyright law for small business. "The mere fact that your business commissioned them doesn't give you the right to use them." Unless you have a contract with the photographer that gives you the right to publish the photos, doing so might cost extra--and the more often you want to use them, the more it'll cost you.

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