Ask April – I have a hairdressing salon and my ex-employee is using images of my clients in their portfolio. They can’t do this, right?!

Here’s what you need to know and what you can do about it.

Who owns the intellectual property in that photograph

When your stylists snap a photo of a client in your salon, who actually owns that photograph?

Usually, the salon (that’s you!) holds the intellectual property rights to these photos, particularly if the stylist took the picture during work hours, using products supplied by you and using salon equipment. However, this may vary depending on your salon’s specific policies and employment / contractor contracts. 

Make sure your employment contracts and policies cover off on the ownership of intellectual property. Consider implementing a particular policy which puts staff on notice that 1. You own the intellectual property in the photos that they take at your salon; and 2. They cannot use them after they leave your employment. 

The Buzz on client consent

The second part of this question relates to client consent.  Clients trust you with their hair and their image, and that trust extends to any photographs taken during their visit.  If you want to take photos of your clients, make sure they have consented.

We recommend that your booking terms and conditions (that the client has seen and agreed to) includes a clause allowing your salon to use their photos for marketing and promotional purposes.  We also recommend in addition to this that you always personally ask the client and obtain their informed consent at the time of taking the photograph.  It’s as simple as explaining why you’d like to take their photo and getting their ‘thumbs up’ before you click away. Using a client’s photo without their consent could lead to legal trouble and could damage your salon’s reputation.

Usually, this consent would only extend to allowing your salon to use the photos, and not the individual who takes the photo. This is another reason why your ex-employee shouldn’t be using the photo in his or her personal portfolio!  

What can you do about it?

If you find yourself in this hairy situation, what can you do? First, reach out to your ex-employee and have an open, honest conversation about your concerns. It’s possible they may not be aware of the legal and ethical implications.

If that doesn’t resolve the issue, you might need to get legal advice.

Finally, get some solid legal docs in place that make it clear from the start that this type of conduct is not on. Check out our Policy on the Ownership of Client Photos as a good starting point. Our booking terms also include some general consent language to enable you to use client photos for marketing and promotional  purposes (in addition to always obtaining the specific individuals consent at the time of snapping!).

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