Walmart, the world’s largest public corporation, already has a poor reputation as a company who pays low wages to their employees, lousy customer service, alleged mistreatment of the environment and community around its stores…the list goes on. And now, here’s another one to add to that growing list of PR nightmares.
The billion dollar retailer is suing Helen Huff, the widow of a photographer David Huff, demanding that she hand over the negatives, proofs, and prints of approximately 200 photographs from Bob’s Studio of Photography of Lafayette, Arkansas taken by Robert A. Huff and his son, David A. Huff (both deceased). The studio photographed the Walton family before Walmart became the giant it is today. Walmart now wants the six boxes of photos, claiming that the Waltons own the intellectual rights to the photographs and that the studio was holding onto them “as a courtesy,” a claim that Mrs. Huff refutes. Mrs. Huff ascertains that her husband and her father-in-law were independent contractors and not under a “work-for-hire” contract.
This case is now being moved to federal court (due to the copyright issue) and Mrs. Huff is countersuing Walmart to stop the retail giant from using the images without her permission. There are also unconfirmed reports from PPA that Walmart offered Mrs. Huff a paltry $2000 for the boxes of images. PPA claims that Walmart is bullying the small business (an accusation that isn’t new to Walmart), and has been working with Mrs. Huff as an advocate for photographer’s rights. PPA CEO stated, “We simply can’t remain idle and allow this to happen–it would set a terrible precedent. In our opinion, this obviously is a violation of copyright law and it is beyond question that Ms. Huff owns the photographs and if the Waltons want the photographs, they should pay for them.”
Walmart released the following 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.
What do you think? Who rightfully owns these photographs? Is this a classic case of bullying the little guy? Are the Walton family memories really only worth $2000? Comment below and let’s discuss.