I was employed for a local glass company installing shower doors. When I was finished I would take a picture of it with my phone. My employer knew I was taking the pictures and did not object. I never signed anything saying I could not use the pictures.

Long story short I no longer work for that glass company and I've started my own glass business. I'm also now in competition with my ex-employer. I've posted those pictures to show my potential customers pics of my work. My ex-employer is threatening to sue me for using pictures that I took of shower doors that I installed while employed by them. My question is who owns the copyright of those pics me or my employer? Taking pictures was not expected or demanded of as part of my employment.


4 Answers 4


You probably own the copyright, since this wasn't an explicit part of your job. However, there may be other legal reasons which preclude you from using them anyway; copyright isn't all there is. Since you are in the middle of an active dispute, you should consult an actual lawyer (which I am certainly not) for legal advice.


I'm not a lawyer, and I'm not even a professional photographer, but using a photo you took to promote your own business is the very definition of commercial use. And commercial use opens you up to being sued by someone who can show they're affiliated with the image but do not endorse your business or business practices. Or by the owner of the work being ticked off at your violating their right to privacy (i.e., they would probably prefer choosing whether pics of their bathroom are splashed about the interwebz advertising your business). This is why professional photographers get location and model releases when shooting commercial work. You may also want to look up in your contract with your ex-employer whether it was work-for-hire, in which case they could own the copyrights to images you took while on the job.

Given that the work you're advertising as yours was done on someone else's payroll, presumably using their contacts, materials, and tools, and that you're setting up in direct competition with them, I think they may have a point, but you'd have to ask a lawyer.

Personally, I'd say it's not worth it to possibly antagonize ex-customers as well as an ex-employer in the same industry. Word gets around. I say drop the images from your time with your ex-employer, and start asking customers if you can use photos of the work you're doing for them, and use those. If you're good enough to stay in business, you should well be able to get the customers you're doing work for to endorse you with permission to use images of the glass you did for them.


Disclaimer; i am not an attorney and I don't have experience in court.

Photographically speaking, you OWN the COPYRIGHT to the IMAGES. So unless you signed a contract where you sign away your copyrights they are yours. On the other hand, this is about your ex employer. When you signed your contract there might be a secrecy clausule which would state that you're not allowed to sell or reveal trade secrets. He could sue you for that.

And it is also kind of stealing their work, since you worked for them and thus it is legally their work which you now claim as your own.

If I would photograph for another photographer and they didn't allow me to use the pictures in my own portfolio, and since im under contract my work becomes theirs.

I hope this helps and that you can work it out with your ex employer. Mostly, kindness goes a long way, so perhaps just remove and apologize, ask him or her for out for a coffee and talk things through. Maybe you can make them easier minded and have them give you permission. : )

  • I doubt that a photograph of an installed shower door could reveal a trade secret. What's secret about it?
    – phoog
    Commented Sep 8, 2016 at 20:16

You want to use pictures of work of company X to promote your own company. Presumably because company X did a good job. There are some problems there. One is: You took pictures of the inside of someone's bathroom. It is quite likely that if you got permission to do so, you got the permission under the assumption that the picture would be used to promote company X. You likely don't have the home owner's permission to use photos of their bathroom to promote your own company. If that was my bathroom, and the owner of company X called me and asked me to sign a letter written by their lawyer that I didn't give permission for these photos to be used by your company, I might very well sign it.

Another problem is that this is misleading. You are trying to use these pictures to make customers think your company has done a good job in the past. But it hasn't. It was company X doing the good job. So you are misleading the customer. Now if you mess up a job, the customer thinks about suing you, and then they find out that your advertisement photos were not actually showing your company's work, that can be a very expensive mistake.

In the end, you get sued not if you do something wrong, but if you annoy someone enough who is willing to sue. You reached that stage. Your decision whether you want to continue and go to court, which will definitely cost you money for lawyers and so on, and may cost you a lot of money if you lose. And even being right doesn't mean you cannot lose.

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