Any advice on what to do when you've discovered a photographer is selling cosplay pics of you without your permission?
This is a touchy subject, and I hope you don’t mind me answering publicly because I think all cosplayers should be informed of this stuff.
There’s a lot that goes into the rights of cosplay photos and most of it is situational.
For the most part: When the picture is taken, the photographer owns the rights to the copyright and you do not.
Regardless of you posing for them or you have designed and created the costumes, they own the rights to the photo and can distribute it how they like. Commercial (for profit) or not.
NOW you do have RIGHTS (but not copyrights.) In a private shoot or setting, he can really only sell the photos if you signed a release form or you two discussed what was okay and you consented. IF YOU DIDN’T DO THIS, and nothing was agreed upon, you do have rights to get them to stop selling. But you cannot have the rights to sell the photo yourself or to have them take it down from non-commercial areas. They could still feature it in a magazine, for example. This is called the right to publicity. And model release forms extend or waive these rights. But if it is commercial, they need your consent.
So my recommendation is to email them; calmly and concisely and say that while you understand he owns the rights to the copyright of the image, you did not consent to them selling anything in your likeness and you’d like them to stop.
Now here’s a few kickers:
If this photo was taken at a public setting, AKA A CONVENTION, and not a con? They get to sell the photo. Period. There is few exceptions. Going to a con and getting your photo taken at it in a non-private setting pretty much negates any right to publicity you have. :/ It gets a little grey in the areas of a photog taking you to a private shoot area of the con. You have right to publicity there, but your attendance to a public event favors the photog here.
If you paid them to take the photo, they must cease and desist immediately. Thats the only time everything favors you. AND EVEN THEN its usually best to back that up with paperwork, photographer release/model release photos. But in this case they are technically a hired employee to you.
But remember to always, always, talk to your photographers about whats okay to do with photos. And selling/or editorial releasing them. Because on the flipside, a photographer can tell you to stop disturbing a photo, even just on social media, if they wanted to. (And thats without a form being signed too.)