Forums > Photography Talk > Pitched a client and they stole the idea

Photographer

Shot By Adam

Posts: 6549

Las Vegas, Nevada, US

I have a bit of a love/hate friendship with a local entertainer here in Las Vegas who has an extremely bad reputation so over the last few years I've been keeping him at a bit of a distance. About a year ago he was telling me that he was getting a new show and that he wanted to hire me to do a photo shoot for promotional materials for it. I met up with him and I came up with a creative concept on a shoot that would involve multiple models, lots of unique angles, and a bunch of Photoshop post production. It was truly a unique concept for his style of entertainment. He LOVED the idea and asked me to put together a written quote for him, which I did. He said it was fine and that he would cut me a check in a few weeks when he got some time to do the shoot. A few weeks turned into a few months and then he kept telling me how he wanted to do the shoot real bad but to just be patient and wait a bit as he was having to renegotiate for a new showroom location. This dragged on and on and eventually I just gave up trying to get him locked-in. The last I spoke with him on the topic was about six months ago.

So yesterday, on his Facebook page, he posts a rough shot of what will be come his new promo photo and it is EXACTLY as I proposed it to him. Everything down to the angles, the poses of the models, EVERYTHING. The only exception was that the photographer he used to shoot it did an extremely bad job with it and the initial retouching of the image looks like shit. He's getting tons of negative comments on it too but it seems he's going to use the image anyway. My bet is he used a low budget photographer to do the job who was in way over their head and just cannot accomplish the job the way I would have.

Anyway, I know this is an armchair attorney kind of question but do I have any actual recourse in this since it was completely my original concept on this shoot? I actually have notes on this and my proposal etc. What do you guys think?

Feb 24 13 10:46 pm Link

Photographer

DaddyDPhotos

Posts: 65

Salinas, California, US

I am no attorney, but if you have dated e-mail I think that would help.

Feb 24 13 10:50 pm Link

Photographer

Josh Yu Photography

Posts: 206

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Unfortunately not likely. You gave him an idea. You can't technically own an "idea" no matter how original it is (except by patent which you must register) so bad luck. Just do the shot better with someone else and make the guy regret his choice wink

Feb 24 13 11:01 pm Link

Photographer

SayCheeZ!

Posts: 18419

Las Vegas, Nevada, US

You're sOL unless the other party signed one of these:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-disclosure_agreement

Feb 24 13 11:22 pm Link

Photographer

Shot By Adam

Posts: 6549

Las Vegas, Nevada, US

SayCheeZ!  wrote:
You're sOL unless the other party signed one of these:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-disclosure_agreement

Yeah, I know, an NDA would have been the best move and knowing this doucheba....I mean "person" I REALLY should have known better. Oh well, my bet is his new show is going to fall flat on its face and this horrible photo he had done is just a disaster. I guess on that level I'm getting the last laugh and I suppose that makes it worth it in the end.

Feb 25 13 01:16 am Link

Photographer

Robert Jewett

Posts: 2504

al-Marsā, Tunis, Tunisia

Had this exact thing happen to me recently.  I chose to just let it go.  I'll always have more ideas, and it just wasn't worth it.

Feb 25 13 01:45 am Link

Photographer

Al Lock Photography

Posts: 16531

Bangkok, Bangkok, Thailand

Situations like this is why I have a "consulting fee" built into my contract for the pre-shoot conference. It doesn't apply if they choose me for the job, but if they don't? It means that I make something for them picking my brains.

Feb 25 13 01:48 am Link

Photographer

RKD Photographic

Posts: 3265

Iserlohn, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

A long, long, lo-ooong time ago my Brother and I used to run a small graphic design company. We pitched for a job that a number of other design companies had bid for, didn't get it and lo and behold, four months later the cheapest bidder did the job using our design.
Since we had our original designs and drawings filed we were able to claw some money back for copyright infringement, but it almost wasn't worth the effort as the design was altered 'almost' enough to make it appear to be a coincidence... the court eventually found in our favour as the client had made copies of our proposal and passed them to the other company 'for reference', but the damages were still negligible and it cost us more than we made back in legal fees.

Unless you have some documentary evidence filed of your concept, including sketches or test-images, I doubt you'll have any luck as it's a case of "he said, she said"...

Feb 25 13 02:06 am Link

Photographer

R A V E N D R I V E

Posts: 15867

New York, New York, US

yeah I usually push for an agreement with remedies for competing with the idea discussed, as well as remedies for unauthorized disclosure

Feb 25 13 02:09 am Link

Photographer

-The Dave-

Posts: 8697

Las Vegas, Nevada, US

It's Vegas... Either he will use crap shots like so many of the other losers do or he will come backing asking you to do it right, if he does that, double the bid.

Feb 25 13 02:09 am Link

Photographer

Steve Lim

Posts: 63

Falls Church, Virginia, US

Forget it and move on. Don't let it drag you down. Be prepared with NDA next time. smile

Feb 25 13 04:18 am Link

Photographer

In Balance Photography

Posts: 3372

Boston, Massachusetts, US

Find his competition and come up with a better idea for them smile

Feb 25 13 04:31 am Link

Photographer

Dan Howell

Posts: 2528

New York, New York, US

What exactly is a 'unique angle'?

Feb 25 13 05:43 am Link

Photographer

Chronos Creations

Posts: 353

Benidorm, Valencia, Spain

Dan Howell wrote:
What exactly is a 'unique angle'?

+1 I was thinking that too! An angle that one hast never used before!

Feb 25 13 06:18 am Link

Photographer

Leighsphotos

Posts: 2986

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

LMAO...recourse??

Because you had discussions with someone and they used your idea (badly) or so you say?

Litigation happy world we live in...next people will want to be paid for every little suggestion they dream up.

Feb 25 13 06:22 am Link

Photographer

KMP

Posts: 4834

Houston, Texas, US

Shot By Adam wrote:
I have a bit of a love/hate friendship with a local entertainer here in Las Vegas who has an extremely bad reputation so over the last few years I've been keeping him at a bit of a distance. About a year ago he was telling me that he was getting a new show and that he wanted to hire me to do a photo shoot for promotional materials for it. I met up with him and I came up with a creative concept on a shoot that would involve multiple models, lots of unique angles, and a bunch of Photoshop post production. It was truly a unique concept for his style of entertainment. He LOVED the idea and asked me to put together a written quote for him, which I did. He said it was fine and that he would cut me a check in a few weeks when he got some time to do the shoot. A few weeks turned into a few months and then he kept telling me how he wanted to do the shoot real bad but to just be patient and wait a bit as he was having to renegotiate for a new showroom location. This dragged on and on and eventually I just gave up trying to get him locked-in. The last I spoke with him on the topic was about six months ago.

So yesterday, on his Facebook page, he posts a rough shot of what will be come his new promo photo and it is EXACTLY as I proposed it to him. Everything down to the angles, the poses of the models, EVERYTHING. The only exception was that the photographer he used to shoot it did an extremely bad job with it and the initial retouching of the image looks like shit. He's getting tons of negative comments on it too but it seems he's going to use the image anyway. My bet is he used a low budget photographer to do the job who was in way over their head and just cannot accomplish the job the way I would have.

Anyway, I know this is an armchair attorney kind of question but do I have any actual recourse in this since it was completely my original concept on this shoot? I actually have notes on this and my proposal etc. What do you guys think?

It happens all the time and has been going on for years in advertising.  You'd have to ask an attorney about it.   Typically in cases like this, they aren't worth the money paid.

What always gets me is 99% of the time a concept is stolen the execution is terrible.  Mainly, I believe,  because the person/people who stole it have no idea of why they were doing what they did and don't have the insight of the person who initially came up with the idea.

Good luck.

Feb 25 13 06:27 am Link

Photographer

salvatori.

Posts: 3962

Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, US

Shot By Adam wrote:
Anyway, I know this is an armchair attorney kind of question but do I have any actual recourse in this since it was completely my original concept on this shoot? I actually have notes on this and my proposal etc. What do you guys think?

As there is no signed agreement, you have no recourse. Further, you can't copyright an idea or concept, so you have no recourse there either. If things are as you say, you have no recourse except to be pissed off. Sorry 'bout that.

I will say that one thing in your OP sounds a bit catty. You say he is receiving tons of negative feedback? On his own FB page?

Seems like he would delete that kind of shit (which, if it's his page, he certainly can). So that part sounds like a bit of sour grapes to me. Don't get me wrong, you have a right to be angry, but keep it in perspective. You didn't really like the guy in the first place and it sounds like he would've tried to get your price down.

As this is a Las Vegas type of project, I would recommend doing some portfolio shots for some dancers... lol

Feb 25 13 06:27 am Link

Photographer

Select Models

Posts: 36284

Rancho Cucamonga, California, US

Dan Howell wrote:
What exactly is a 'unique angle'?

My thoughts also as I have a tendency to shoot many 'unique angles' that I've noticed have been duplicated by some photographers on MM.  One specific photographer noticed my angles, bought the exact same lens and camera configuration I use, and even had the nerve to shoot those same angles at a shoot I hosted... roll... lol  They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery... wink

Feb 25 13 06:38 am Link

guide forum

Photographer

Giacomo Cirrincioni

Posts: 21549

New York, New York, US

Illuminate wrote:
LMAO...recourse??

Because you had discussions with someone and they used your idea (badly) or so you say?

Litigation happy world we live in...next people will want to be paid for every little suggestion they dream up.

I agree that there is little to no recourse and I don't know the details of this case in full, however your statement is a bit bothersome to me as someone who dreams things up for a living.

I spent a solid week last month doing nothing but that for an agency to pitch an advertising client.  I didn't do it as a favor I did it because dreaming stuff up is how I get paid.

Feb 25 13 06:41 am Link

Photographer

Fotografica Gregor

Posts: 4126

Alexandria, Virginia, US

That's what non-disclosure and non-competition forms are for

Feb 25 13 06:42 am Link

Photographer

M K

Posts: 251

Athens, Attikí, Greece

It has happened to me as well as for model make up set idea, but I kept the angles to myself smile
Do not bother with people who steal, they are cheap

Feb 25 13 06:52 am Link

Photographer

GER Photography

Posts: 8307

Imperial, California, US

In Balance Photography wrote:
Find his competition and come up with a better idea for them smile

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Devious perfection!! I love it!!:-))

Feb 25 13 06:55 am Link

Photographer

Poison-Photography

Posts: 3

Belleville, Ontario, Canada

Shot By Adam wrote:
I have a bit of a love/hate friendship with a local entertainer here in Las Vegas who has an extremely bad reputation so over the last few years I've been keeping him at a bit of a distance. About a year ago he was telling me that he was getting a new show and that he wanted to hire me to do a photo shoot for promotional materials for it. I met up with him and I came up with a creative concept on a shoot that would involve multiple models, lots of unique angles, and a bunch of Photoshop post production. It was truly a unique concept for his style of entertainment. He LOVED the idea and asked me to put together a written quote for him, which I did. He said it was fine and that he would cut me a check in a few weeks when he got some time to do the shoot. A few weeks turned into a few months and then he kept telling me how he wanted to do the shoot real bad but to just be patient and wait a bit as he was having to renegotiate for a new showroom location. This dragged on and on and eventually I just gave up trying to get him locked-in. The last I spoke with him on the topic was about six months ago.

So yesterday, on his Facebook page, he posts a rough shot of what will be come his new promo photo and it is EXACTLY as I proposed it to him. Everything down to the angles, the poses of the models, EVERYTHING. The only exception was that the photographer he used to shoot it did an extremely bad job with it and the initial retouching of the image looks like shit. He's getting tons of negative comments on it too but it seems he's going to use the image anyway. My bet is he used a low budget photographer to do the job who was in way over their head and just cannot accomplish the job the way I would have.

Anyway, I know this is an armchair attorney kind of question but do I have any actual recourse in this since it was completely my original concept on this shoot? I actually have notes on this and my proposal etc. What do you guys think?

Your profile pic is using batman and robin suits  even the bat sign in the sky. Are they suing you for using their idea? lol just pointing out the obvious

Feb 25 13 07:00 am Link

Photographer

Shot By Adam

Posts: 6549

Las Vegas, Nevada, US

Chronos Productions wrote:

+1 I was thinking that too! An angle that one hast never used before!

It certainly wasn't unique in the sense that it's never been done, but it was unique in composition for anything that's ever been done in the context of his show or shows like it. It was a highly complex series of shots we'd shoot in a studio and then composite together for the final photo. It's something that couldn't be done with one photograph and it's something that isn't just as simple as posing people together.

Feb 25 13 07:21 am Link

Photographer

Francisco Castro

Posts: 1842

Cincinnati, Ohio, US

Read this:

http://www.today.com/id/15641336/site/t … SuCaFHWq7Q

then Google, "Intellectual Property Litigation".

Feb 25 13 07:25 am Link

Photographer

Mortonovich

Posts: 5769

San Diego, California, US

Adam,
Very interesting semi-related story ran on APE a while ago:

http://www.aphotoeditor.com/2010/03/26/ … r-artists/

Don't know that it helps directly with your situation but check it anyway.

Sucks ass for sure.

Feb 25 13 07:26 am Link

Photographer

Mark Laubenheimer

Posts: 8887

Seattle, Washington, US

ChiMo wrote:
Adam,
Very interesting semi-related story ran on APE a while ago:

http://www.aphotoeditor.com/2010/03/26/ … r-artists/

Don't know that it helps directly with your situation but check it anyway.

Sucks ass for sure.

great read.

Feb 25 13 07:40 am Link

Photographer

Bobby C

Posts: 2075

Portland, Oregon, US

"Good artists copy, great artists steal." Picasso

Wouldn't hurt to look to see if you have any copyright infringement recourse. If not, revel in the fact that the "copied" work is pretty bad and getting  negative reviews.

Feb 25 13 07:41 am Link

Photographer

Bobby C

Posts: 2075

Portland, Oregon, US

Something interesting on the topic.

Steal Like An Artist: Austin Kleon at TEDxKC
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oww7oB9rjgw

Feb 25 13 07:44 am Link

Photographer

Jay Lee Studios

Posts: 1238

San Diego, California, US

With a nondisclosure agreement your screwed....

Feb 25 13 09:22 am Link

Photographer

Farenell Photography

Posts: 18275

Albany, New York, US

Shot By Adam wrote:
Anyway, I know this is an armchair attorney kind of question but do I have any actual recourse in this since it was completely my original concept on this shoot? I actually have notes on this and my proposal etc. What do you guys think?

This isn't the legal advice you're looking for but more business advice.

Your situation is all the more reason why you charge people a shoot consultation fee before you flesh out your ideas, especially if you're going as in-depth as you did. That way if things fall through you get something for your troubles.

Feb 25 13 09:53 am Link

Photographer

A Morris Photography

Posts: 56

Derby, England, United Kingdom

Chalk it up to experience and move on. At the end of the day, while its a bloody annoying thing to happen, take what you can learn from it and don't let it eat you up. If you waste time and money trying to get justice, you will probably end up with nothing and the douche wont care either. You knew he had a bad rep to start with so maybe in hindsight agreeing to work with him wasn't so wise.

Sorry this happened to you!

Feb 25 13 09:54 am Link

Photographer

Shot By Adam

Posts: 6549

Las Vegas, Nevada, US

A Morris Photography wrote:
Chalk it up to experience and move on. At the end of the day, while its a bloody annoying thing to happen, take what you can learn from it and don't let it eat you up. If you waste time and money trying to get justice, you will probably end up with nothing and the douche wont care either. You knew he had a bad rep to start with so maybe in hindsight agreeing to work with him wasn't so wise.

Sorry this happened to you!

Agreed. The truth is I'm really not going to pursue this legally but it just sure is frustrating. Karma has a weird way of biting this guy on the ass and I'm sure his new show is going to fall flat on its face within 60 days so I'll get a good laugh when it happens knowing I was not attached to the project.

Feb 25 13 10:24 am Link

Photographer

Jean Renard Photography

Posts: 2157

Los Angeles, California, US

next time you have something that specific, make a sketch and have the clients sign it.
Register the sketch and you have a bit more protection.

There have been lawsuits when photos were duplicated by others.  The Black Book used to be theft central as art directors would make look books and bring them to shoots saying, do this and point to an image.

Feb 25 13 10:34 am Link

Photographer

M Pandolfo Photography

Posts: 12117

Tampa, Florida, US

Shot By Adam wrote:
The only exception was that the photographer he used to shoot it did an extremely bad job with it and the initial retouching of the image looks like shit.

Unfortunately, there is no copyright on ideas. And they hold little value until they are executed.

You even proved that point yourself. He took your exact description and it was executed terribly. It's not the idea that makes the final product successful or unique, it's the execution.

He thought he could save a few bucks using your great idea and using another photographer. Didn't work out too well did it?

But, no, you would have no legal recourse on that idea unless there was the unlikely situation where you had him sign an agreement at the time you presented it that he wouldn't use that or any variation of the concept. That would be virtually impossible to enforce as well though.

Feb 25 13 10:44 am Link

Photographer

M Pandolfo Photography

Posts: 12117

Tampa, Florida, US

Jean Renard Photography wrote:
next time you have something that specific, make a sketch and have the clients sign it.
Register the sketch and you have a bit more protection.

There have been lawsuits when photos were duplicated by others.  The Black Book used to be theft central as art directors would make look books and bring them to shoots saying, do this and point to an image.

Yes, but this wasn't a duplicated photo, just an idea that was duplicated.

But I do like the idea to storyboard it out and have all parties sign it. That would offer a bit more protection and convey there was an agreement between the OP and the client.

Feb 25 13 10:46 am Link

Photographer

Hero Foto

Posts: 878

Phoenix, Arizona, US

Shot By Adam wrote:
I have a bit of a love/hate friendship with a local entertainer here in Las Vegas who has an extremely bad reputation so over the last few years I've been keeping him at a bit of a distance. About a year ago he was telling me that he was getting a new show and that he wanted to hire me to do a photo shoot for promotional materials for it. I met up with him and I came up with a creative concept on a shoot that would involve multiple models, lots of unique angles, and a bunch of Photoshop post production. It was truly a unique concept for his style of entertainment. He LOVED the idea and asked me to put together a written quote for him, which I did. He said it was fine and that he would cut me a check in a few weeks when he got some time to do the shoot. A few weeks turned into a few months and then he kept telling me how he wanted to do the shoot real bad but to just be patient and wait a bit as he was having to renegotiate for a new showroom location. This dragged on and on and eventually I just gave up trying to get him locked-in. The last I spoke with him on the topic was about six months ago.

So yesterday, on his Facebook page, he posts a rough shot of what will be come his new promo photo and it is EXACTLY as I proposed it to him. Everything down to the angles, the poses of the models, EVERYTHING. The only exception was that the photographer he used to shoot it did an extremely bad job with it and the initial retouching of the image looks like shit. He's getting tons of negative comments on it too but it seems he's going to use the image anyway. My bet is he used a low budget photographer to do the job who was in way over their head and just cannot accomplish the job the way I would have.

Anyway, I know this is an armchair attorney kind of question but do I have any actual recourse in this since it was completely my original concept on this shoot? I actually have notes on this and my proposal etc. What do you guys think?

SIGNED NDA? DEPOSIT? ... life lesson learned ... TRUST NO ONE ...

Feb 25 13 11:43 am Link

Photographer

Hero Foto

Posts: 878

Phoenix, Arizona, US

Select Models wrote:

My thoughts also as I have a tendency to shoot many 'unique angles' that I've noticed have been duplicated by some photographers on MM.  One specific photographer noticed my angles, bought the exact same lens and camera configuration I use, and even had the nerve to shoot those same angles at a shoot I hosted... roll... lol  They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery... wink

Dude, I luv the models, compo and angles you capture ... they're bada$$ ... if you would like to share your lens choice and subject to focal plane distances that would be a BONUS ... wink

Feb 25 13 11:49 am Link

Photographer

Kelvin Hammond

Posts: 17376

Billings, Montana, US

This kinda makes me want to see his FB page....

Feb 25 13 11:54 am Link

Photographer

MC Photo

Posts: 4144

New York, New York, US

Shot By Adam wrote:
I have a bit of a love/hate friendship with a local entertainer here in Las Vegas who has an extremely bad reputation so over the last few years I've been keeping him at a bit of a distance. About a year ago he was telling me that he was getting a new show and that he wanted to hire me to do a photo shoot for promotional materials for it. I met up with him and I came up with a creative concept on a shoot that would involve multiple models, lots of unique angles, and a bunch of Photoshop post production. It was truly a unique concept for his style of entertainment. He LOVED the idea and asked me to put together a written quote for him, which I did. He said it was fine and that he would cut me a check in a few weeks when he got some time to do the shoot. A few weeks turned into a few months and then he kept telling me how he wanted to do the shoot real bad but to just be patient and wait a bit as he was having to renegotiate for a new showroom location. This dragged on and on and eventually I just gave up trying to get him locked-in. The last I spoke with him on the topic was about six months ago.

So yesterday, on his Facebook page, he posts a rough shot of what will be come his new promo photo and it is EXACTLY as I proposed it to him. Everything down to the angles, the poses of the models, EVERYTHING. The only exception was that the photographer he used to shoot it did an extremely bad job with it and the initial retouching of the image looks like shit. He's getting tons of negative comments on it too but it seems he's going to use the image anyway. My bet is he used a low budget photographer to do the job who was in way over their head and just cannot accomplish the job the way I would have.

Anyway, I know this is an armchair attorney kind of question but do I have any actual recourse in this since it was completely my original concept on this shoot? I actually have notes on this and my proposal etc. What do you guys think?

You're only recourse is to keep giving him ideas until he decides to hire you. Then you charge a super premium rate.

Feb 25 13 01:43 pm Link