Walmart, Widow in Nasty Suit Over ... Family Photos

Waltons sues photographer's widow for photo negatives

By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff

Posted May 23, 2014 11:44 AM CDT

(Newser) – Today in the ugly lawsuit department: Walmart and the Walton family are suing for the rights to photo negatives, some half-a-century old, in what has been classified as "a total David vs. Goliath situation." The story goes like this: Robert Huff—who owned a photography studio in Fayetteville, Ark., near where Sam Walton and his family lived—and son David snapped hundreds of shots of the Waltons over the years. Now, the Waltons want total control over them. They're suing David's widow, Helen Huff, for all negatives, proofs, and prints of the photos, dating from 1950 to 1994, to prevent them from being used for commercial purposes, the Washington Post reports.

Walmart and the family intend to use some of the photos—of its founder, the original Walmart board of directors, and the Walmart visitor's center—in the Walmart Museum, and argue the material was only kept by the studio "as a courtesy," the Professional Photographers of America notes. The Post and the Arkansas Times explain the question at the center of the case: When the photos were snapped, who was the boss? Huff says her husband and father-in-law were independent contractors who used their own equipment and managed all the aspects of the shoots and film processing; the Waltons claim the shoots occurred under their "supervision," making it an employer-employee relationship. The case will be heard in Arkansas federal court July 7. (Click to read about how Walmart is taking flak for the fees collected by banks that operate within the chain.)

In this July 7, 1984 file photo, the late Sam Walton, founder of Bentonville, Ark., -based Wal-Mart, talks to reporters in Little Rock, Ark.
In this July 7, 1984 file photo, the late Sam Walton, founder of Bentonville, Ark., -based Wal-Mart, talks to reporters in Little Rock, Ark.   (AP Photo/Danny Johnston, File)
In this  May 28, 2013, file photo, an outdoors sign for Walmart is seen in Duarte, Calif.
In this May 28, 2013, file photo, an outdoors sign for Walmart is seen in Duarte, Calif.   (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
In this  May 28, 2013, file photo, an outdoors sign for Walmart is seen in Duarte, Calif.
In this May 28, 2013, file photo, an outdoors sign for Walmart is seen in Duarte, Calif.   (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
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