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Copyright and ownership of originals/negatives?


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#1 Spacker

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Posted 14 September 2007 - 12:10 AM

This is probably bit different from what's normally asked on here. Closing down a small media company that specialised in online, live streaming videos. We've found a cabinet full of colour slides / negs that one of the ex-employees left behind when he quit (before being fired for being useless) a couple of years ago.

What can we do with them? He's obviously abandoned them but some shots would be of interest? I refuse to track him down and inform him - the guy was a conman, thief and helped bring the company to it's knees similar to several companies he'd been involved with previously.

#2 scorpio_fish

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Posted 14 September 2007 - 01:27 AM

The property was abandoned. As tangible property you are OK to toss them. As intangible property (copyright) you would be foolish to use them.

If someone tosses a manuscript in the trash bin and you dust it off and put your name on it, I think you have a problem, eh?
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#3 Spacker

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Posted 14 September 2007 - 02:22 AM

If you tried to claim that it was your own work then I'd imagine there would be a problem, anyway I'd regard that as unethical. But if you simply sell them on, assuming these have value, in the same way you'd sell on a painting would there be a problem?

In fact I'm liking this painting example. It seems to fit the situation?

#4 bmemike

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Posted 14 September 2007 - 03:54 AM

In the case where the company is closing, are you in a position in which the company may be transferring rights of material to you, as an individual? If so, then everything starts with determining what rights the company has first.

What you'll want to do is look at the employment contract/agreement that was signed when this employee began working there. This should spec out who owns that property - the individual or the company.

If the company owns that property, then they should be able to use it as they see fit. If they only own specific rights (e.g., able to use it in digital form in certain circumstances, etc.) then it may be within your rights to scan the slides and negs for future use by the company.

If there's no such agreement, then everyone's probably better off if they get destroyed.

#5 Spacker

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Posted 14 September 2007 - 07:29 AM

I believe this is personal property that was left in the office - it's been there for at least 2 yrs after the guy left. Essentially I was a director of the company but left as employee in 2002. I'm helping them dispose of their kit, studio lights, Canon xl1's etc and these items were found in a filing cabinet - I have no personal interest in gaining from these items but the owner just needs to know what options we have with them.

#6 bmemike

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Posted 14 September 2007 - 09:05 AM

If it's determined that it's solely personal items, then the only two options are 1) returning it to the individual or 2) considering it abandoned. Both seem valid given the amount of time it's been there and the apparent lack of effort to retrieve said items.

If the abandoned stuff is hardware, then I guess they can either keep it or toss it. If the stuff is copyrighted material, then those copyrights still exist for the individual despite the physical pieces being seemingly abandoned and they can't be used without their permission. In the case of negs and prints, I think it's safest to toss it.

#7 Spacker

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Posted 15 September 2007 - 02:58 AM

Cheers. These will probably end up in storage if we have the space. I don't particulary like binning material that can't be replaced - although it has to be said it is quite odd stuff. thanks for the replies.