In a letter to Tuoi Tre, Boer Sander, a Dutch lawyer, said he and his Vietnamese wife went to the MK wedding studio on Ly Tu Trong Street, Ho Chi Minh City, in December 2011 to have their wedding photos taken.
The shop’s owner, M.K., showed them an album of wedding photos of Duong Truong Thien Ly as a sample. K. promised the couple that they would have an album similar to the model’s, and that it would be created by a well-known photographer.
The couple then agreed to have an album made for US$1,200. They also chose to buy a wedding dress for $2,250 at the studio, which also provides bridal clothes.
The couple paid a deposit and received a receipt from the studio. No written agreement was signed between the two sides regarding the deal, the lawyer said.
In July 2012, the couple returned to the studio to have their photos taken. They did not meet any famous photographers, instead M.K. took the photos himself.
In addition, unlike the patterns in Thien Ly’s album, which consisted of gorgeous open-air landscapes, the couple simply had their photos taken in the shop’s studio.
The couple was shocked when the shop delivered their album, since the quality of the photos was far lower than the templates they had been promised.
In the face of such a situation, the young Dutch lawyer could do nothing other than blame himself for not requiring a signed contract for the service.
In addition, MK provided them with files of photos that are not high enough quality to be enlarged. When the couple asked M.K. to provide them with the original photo files, they were asked to pay VND5 million ($240) more.
Although the couple raised the argument that the original files should be provided without an additional charge, the studio refused, insisting on what they said were their ‘regulations’. “By then I was fed up with everything,” lamented Sander.
“I don’t know where in the world has such a rule,” Sander bitterly said. The young couple then decided that they would rather give up the files than pay the extra fee.
Tuoi Tre has phoned M. K. to find out more about the issue, but he said he would only dealt directly with his client about it.
A cartoon by Tuoi Tre illustrating the case
An issue has emerged from the case: Do clients have the right to own their wedding photo files created by a studio?
In talking with Tuoi Tre, a number of studio owners said that if the issue is not included in a contract, then delivering or not delivering photo files is an issue of their choice.
They said they usually keep photo files created in deals worth VND3-5 million, so that they can charge clients who want their photos to be enlarged.
But as for deals worth VND6-8 million for an album made within the studio, or VND10-12 million for an album made outdoors, the delivery of photo files to clients is no great matter, many studios said.
Of course, prices are subject to negotiation, but the price of $1,200 for an album made inside a studio is not cheap at all, they added.
The case also gives rise to another issue: Do photo service providers have the right to keep client’s personal photos?
It is advisable that the couples require a written contract made between them and providers of wedding photo services so as to avoid suffering the same fate as the Dutch groom.
Sander’s ownership violated
Commenting on the case, lawyer Bui Quang Nghiem said the MK studio has violated the Dutch man’s ownership rights.
A civil contract can be made orally, in writing or by specific acts; unless a specific form for such type of contract is provided for by law, according to Article 401 of the Civil Code, Nghiem said.
In the case, M.K created an original photo file based on an oral verbal agreement with Sander, but a written contract for the service had not been signed. Therefore, Sander is at a disadvantage in claiming that the studio had not provided services in accordance to the agreement, Nghiem said.
However, as defined in relevant laws, such a photo file is a type of photographic work, and under Article 39 of the Law on Intellectual Property, “an organization or individual that contracts with an author who creates a work, shall be the owner of the rights as stipulated in Article 20 and paragraph 3 of Article 19 of this Law, unless otherwise agreed.”
Meanwhile, all the rights mentioned in Article 20 are those on property. Therefore, the original files created by M.K belong to Sander, Nghiem said.
As there was no bilateral agreement in which Sander agreed to transfer his ownership over the photo file to M.K., the fact that M.K. refused to hand the file to Sander is a violation of his ownership rights, Nghiem concluded.