Walmart sues photographer's widow for photographs

Picture this. Walmart is still a small company, and the Walton family go to a photography studio to take portraits. Lots of portraits. Now, many years later when their company has grown to a megacorp, with 2.2 million employees and almost half a trillion dollars in revenue, Walmart wants the rights - as in copyrights - to all of those portraits. According to the PPA (Professional Photographers of America ) Walmart are demanding that widow Helen Huff turn over the negatives, proofs, and prints of some 6 boxes of photographs.

The complaint states that they (the Waltons) seek to obtain six or more boxes of photos, negatives, and proofs, alleging that over the years, Bob's Studio retained those items "as a courtesy" to Walmart and their family (they didn't). The complaint further states that the Waltons own intellectual property rights to the photos (they don't). The fact is, under federal law, photographers own the copyrights to their own works

But Helen Huff is one tough cookie, and she has countersued Walmart , and since this is about copyright, the case has been been moved from state court to federal court.

She asserts that both her husband and her father-in-law, who co-founded and owned Bob’s Studio of Photography in Fayetteville, AR, were not under “work-for-hire” contracts but working as independent contractors when they took the photos and had given the Walton family copyright notices to inform them that the Huff owned the rights to reproduce the images exclusively.

Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove issued a statement to PPA, and I swear I hear tiny golden violins playing.

As you can imagine, many of the photos go back many years and commemorate the history, heritage and culture of our company. We believe that some of the photos that Bob's Studio has belong to Walmart. All we want is for the court to make it clear who rightfully owns these photographs. We tried very hard to resolve this without involving the courts. We never wanted the issue to reach this point and we've done everything possible to avoid this.

According to the Phoblographer the "tried very hard to resolve this" was a puny offer of $2,000 for everything.

AnonymousCoward's picture
fairuse's picture

Before I read the last sentence I thought, 'Jerks. Buy the negatives at market value.", or make a proper offer. $2000 for all? Right, I would sell the whole collection to a museum first (they might pay a fair price.).

On second thought the above speculation may not be legal. Say, Don't-F-With-A-Smart-Photographer & smile Wally-mart royalty.