'Ensure copyright' of wedding photos

'Ensure copyright' of wedding photos

Wedding photos are meant to be personal memories that last a lifetime.

But if couples do not ensure they own the copyright of images of their big occasion, they could end up being used by other parties.

Lawyers issued this warning yesterday in the case of 35-year-old singer and actress Rosanne Wong - half of Hong Kong Cantopop music group 2R.

She discovered that pre-wedding photos of her and her fiance, dentist Derek Baram, were used at exhibitions by the wedding services agency she had hired, The Feline Bridal on River Valley Road.

The High Court this week dismissed one appeal and upheld another by the agency's boss, Madam Wang Choong Li, after Ms Wong successfully sued her for copyright breaches.

Last year, a district court awarded the Singapore permanent resident - whose full name is Rosanne Wong Wan Chin - $43,500 for the use of 29 pre-wedding photos taken in London, at $1,500 apiece. The lower court also awarded $1,000 to Ms Wong over copyright breach of her wedding day photos that appeared in a coffee table book placed at the agency.

However, the High Court allowed Madam Wang's appeal in the latter case after her lawyer B. Sham Kumar had argued that Ms Wong had not shown she owned the copyright.

Ms Wong hired Feline Bridal to provide services such as gown rental, photography and video recording for her 2009 wedding.

The couple flew to London for the pre-wedding shoot, and although Ms Wong wore the Feline Bridal gowns for the occasion, Judicial Commissioner (JC) Aedit Abdullah found that she owned the copyright of these photographs because she had commissioned her own photographer for the event.

However, Madam Wang's lawyer claimed his client was not acting as an agent for Ms Wong when Madam Wang hired a photographer for the wedding day.

Ms Wong's lawyers, from Tito Isaac & Co, disputed this, and countered that there was no agreement in the relevant form to permit Madam Wang to use the wedding photographs.

JC Aedit found the copyright of the wedding day photographs did not belong to Ms Wong. In judgment grounds released yesterday, he said that "in the absence of any evidence of an actual commission of the... photographer by (Ms Wong)", the copyright resided with either the photographer or Madam Wang.

The judge further lifted an injunction against Madam Wang on the use of the wedding pictures, as well as pre-wedding photos.

He added that copyright issues "may be far from the minds of most couples marrying, but as in many instances, the law intrudes when least expected".

He noted the relevant section 30(5) of the Copyright Act has "not attracted much judicial attention in Singapore". It provides for a person who commissions a photographer to be entitled to the copyright, subject to any agreement.

Lawyers told The Straits Times that copyright depends on the conditions of any agreement between the parties, within the framework of the Act.

Mr Wong Siew Hong of Eldan Law advised: "Read the fine print of the terms and conditions and settle the issues before the deal is inked."

Madam Wang told The Straits Times that her company now issues clients with a form they must sign to say whether they consent to any further use of their photographs.

She added: "I am sad and very disappointed, but we learnt a lot from this and we have to be very careful and move on."

vijayan@sph.com.sg

CLIENT SAYS

Cantopop singer Rosanne Wong discovered that her pre-wedding photos were used by the wedding services agency she had hired.

AGENCY SAYS

The agency's boss, Madam Wang Choong Li, claimed Ms Wong had agreed that she could use the pre-wedding day photographs. Madam Wang also argued that Ms Wong had no copyright on the wedding day photos.

COURT SAYS

Judge Aedit Abdullah said "in the absence of any evidence of an actual commission of the... photographer by (Ms Wong)", the wedding day copyright resided with either the photographer or Madam Wang.

This article was first published on May 20, 2015.
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