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Images and Reports – Who Owns Them?

May 27, 2024

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Images and Reports – Who Owns Them?
Tip written by: Infraspection Institute

It is said that, “Possession is nine tenths of the law. When it comes to infrared data, ownership is often not that simple. In this Tip we explore the frequently misunderstood topic of infrared data ownership.

Images and Reports – Who Owns Them?

Thermograms and hardcopy reports are commonly produced for infrared inspections. Like proud parents sharing photographs of children, thermographers frequently share images, data, and reports with others. During these demonstrations, it is not uncommon to hear thermographers refer to this work product as “my images” and “my reports”. For the purposes of casual conversation, referring to work product in the possessive sense is acceptable; however, the actual owner of such data is often someone else.

Under a principle known as ‘Shop Rule’, data produced by thermographers as part of their duties as an employee belongs to their employer. In general, Shop Rule will always apply unless there is a written agreement to the contrary. For thermographers who work as consultants, a principle known as ‘Works for Hire’ may apply. Under this principle, any work product generated belongs to the client and not the thermographer.

Thermographers who work as consultants should be mindful that contracts and written agreements often have ‘Works for Hire’ clauses. These clauses may appear in the body of a contract or purchase order or be incorporated by reference. Thermographers who wish to retain ownership should address this issue prior to the commencement of any work.

Prior to using infrared data for any purpose other than its original intent, always obtain permission to do so. Employers and clients are frequently willing to grant permission to use imagery provided it does not divulge a trade secret or jeopardize confidential information.

Capturing imagery and preparing reports are two of the many topics covered in the Level I Infraspection Institute Certified Infrared Thermographer® training course. For more information on upcoming classes, call 609-239-4788 or visit us online at www.infraspection.com.

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