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Walmart Goes After Photographer’s Widow

by Hrag Vartanian on May 22, 2014

If you needed another reason to wonder why Walmart might be one of the world’s most evil companies, then the recent story pitting the retail giant against a family of photographers may fit the bill.

(image courtesy PPA)

(image courtesy PPA)

The world’s largest public corporation, with 2.2 million employees and almost half a trillion dollars in revenue, is demanding that widow Helen Huff turn over the negatives, proofs, and prints of some 200 photographs taken by Robert A. Huff and his son, David A. Huff (both deceased) at Bob’s Studio of Photography of Lafayette, Arkansas. The photo studio was founded by Robert A. Huff in 1946 and he took a series of portraits of the Walton family before their Arkansas company ballooned into the behemoth it is today.

The nonprofit Professional Photographers of America (PPA) claims Walmart is “bullying” the small Arkansas photographic studio over rights to the images, and their blog explains how ridiculous the suit sounds:

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.

The Photoblographer has published an unconfirmed report from PPA that Walmart offered Helen Huff a paltry $2,000 for the items, which she turned down. Now the retailer seems to have gotten more than they bargained for and a “straightforward case in their favor has now been moved from the state to the federal court. She is now countersuing to stop Walmart from using the photographs without her permission.”

Walmart released a statement about the case:

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.

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  • http://www.christinesoccio.com Christine Soccio

    walmart is more evil than evil itself. In 50 years I hope it will be reduced to negative adjective instead of a retail chain.

  • Barb

    Photographers own their work, and this would be a horrible precedence. What a bunch of self-important greedy would be aristocrats.

  • Chris Egan

    Walmart is going to lose!

    • http://firstproofprints.com/ J Redmann

      Hopefully. But they can inflict a lot of financial and emotional damage on the owner of the negatives, photographs in the process. It’s a terrible thing to do, but it sounds like that’s what they plan on doing.

      It would be nice if she won.

  • PhyllisO

    Sorry Walmart but who ever has the negative owns the rights.

  • votejoel

    Well, I like Walmart and buy most of my food there. However, they are very wrong on this issue. The photographer owns the negatives. But unless he has a signed model release probably could not use them.

  • J Hill

    Amazon’s latest patent is sillier than the peanut
    butter sandwich patent By Future Feed – Posted on May 8, 2014 3:11 pmBy Joe Silver
    Patent #:US008676045 for “Studio Arrangement.”
    USPTO
    Thoughtthe peanut butter sandwich patent was a joke? That one doesn’t even
    register a chuckle compared to a patent recently granted to
    Amazon.com. The e-commerce giant now can claim a legal monopoly on the
    process of photographing people and things against a white backdrop.
    The patent, issued by the US Patent and Trademark Office, is making
    some folks in the photography community do a
    double-take. Amazon’s patent, called Studio Arrangement, details a
    specific arrangement of elements in a photography studio that the company
    believes helps foster the production …read more
    Visit the original article here: Ars Technica

  • jim cowan

    If only people would just stop shopping there !
    “We have met the enemy and he is us !”

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