A company began using the services of a professional photographer. The photographer would provide the company with requested photos and an invoice containing the following provision, “All photographs and rights therein, including copyright, remain the sole and exclusive property of photographer. Any additional uses require the prior written agreement of photographer on terms to be negotiated. Unless otherwise provided herein, any grant of rights is limited to one (1) year from the date hereof.”
The photographer later discovered that some of his photographs were being used by the company more than a year later without permission. The company claimed that the terms of the invoices were never discussed between itself and the photographer, and that the company never understood or agreed to the terms outlined in the invoices. Under these circumstances, the company claimed that the invoices could not constitute a binding contract. The court disagreed. It concluded, “It is well settled that affixing a signature to a contract creates a conclusive presumption that the signer read, understood, and assented to its terms …. Contract law clearly binds the signors to the terms of the invoice, absent some fraud or duress, which has not been alleged here.”
This case is directly relevant to any church that has contracted with a company to produce a pictorial directory. In most cases, churches are required to sign a contract that strictly forbids the unauthorized use of photos that are taken by the company producing the directory. As this case illustrates, the unauthorized use of these photos can result in copyright infringement. Greenfield v. Twin Vision Graphics, Inc., 268 F.Supp.2d 358 (D.N.J. 2003).
This article first appeared in Church Treasurer Alert, April 2004.