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ownership of photographs

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Maya Nays

What is the name of your state? Washington State, but I currently live in Japan

My sister asked me in writing 7 months ago to go to Seattle to take photos of her homebirth. I returned from that trip yesterday after attending and photographing the birth. I paid for the airfare, car rental, cell phone rental, and all other incidentals, as well as the cost of the cameras, film, developing, and picture printing. My sister has given me no money for any of my costs, although she is offering to pay for just the film.

After the birth, during which I took about 250 photographs, my sister asked me to leave the pictures with her so she could decide which pictures she wanted to have copies made of for herself. On my last day in that area, I asked for my negatives back so I could bring them back to Japan with me. She then told me that I had taken the pictures only for her and that I could keep only copies of certain pictures of her choosing. She also refused to return my photos or negatives to me.

I believe I have a copyright on all those photos under intellectual property rights and that I own the photos and negatives. I temporarily surrendered possession of the negatives (I let her BORROW them), but I want them back. I want them because they are mine, I want to use them for personal photo album use, and I have been planning for 7 months now to use them in photo contests.

What are my chances of getting her to return the negatives to me? I am more interested in getting the negatives back than I am in getting any kind of monetary compensation.

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