Who owns the rights to your WDW vacation pictures? You or Disney?

Can you sell your personal pictures taken at WDW or DL for a profit? Can you use them in, or on a product that you are trying to sell for a profit? Such as glasses, lunch boxes, napkins, clothing etc. What does Disney have the rights to and what is actually yours? Can you sell your picture of a Disney character (cast member performing) while they were working at WDW or DL? What about an animal picture taken at AK? Or a fireworks picture?

Short answer, no. You have a variety of situations listed, involving trademarks, copyright, and models. I’m not a lawyer, but I believe you can print and display all you want, but once you try to sell something the trouble starts.


You can print the pictures yourself, but I was told at Walmart that I could not print pictures there without a release.

Yes but when you first download there is a release from Disney. It is easy to miss, but it is included in Memory Maker.

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Yes but if you take the photo yourself on your phone or camera you won’t be able to print them at Walmart without a release.

Sorry Joe, that’s not how copyright works. You take the photo, you own the copyright.

Not when what you take a photo of a copy written product

That is Walmart’s policy the way it was explained to me

Calling intellectual property attorneys! Anyone?

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I think it comes down to this: If you have taken a photo without breaking any laws to get it, you own the copyright.

If you take a photo of copyrighted images (architectural drawings, logos) you can step into problems IF you are selling them. Even if by the letter of the law Disney could block individual photos because of, say, a logo on it, I’d bet that in a personal, non-commercial use that it falls under Fair Use.

Getting your own vacation photos blocked by Walmart is an overzealous reading of copyright law, especially given the fact that Disney themselves gives everyone who buys MM the right to print the ones they take themselves.

I wouldn’t go around trying to sell giant prints of their Intellectual Property, but I would just use another print house if Walmart gave me guff about it.


I have had no issues printing a gazillion Disney pictures at Target.

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I agree with you on this I can see them saying I could not print the MM without my release, because a professional photographer took them and they own the copyrights. My father was a Professional photographer and in his contracts he held the copyrights. What I’m not sure but I thought when you purchase a ticket to WDW you wave your rights to your photos or is it your likeness in photos. Example when they take a MM photo there are other people in those photos besides you. In theory they should ask permission from those other people to use them in the photo that they sell you.

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Walmart is a NIGHTMARE to print photos. I tried to print some portfolio photos there once (never again!) and they wouldn’t give me the photos I paid for without a release from the photographer. They claimed “these were taken on a DSLR camera and only professionals use this Miss”.

First of all, I own and operate a Nikon D90 on a regular basis when I’m working (I do weddings and events.) In fact, my clients sign a release for me to take photos at their event for my portfolio. I don’t HAVE a release to print photos because THEY ARE MY PHOTOS.

Omg, I went round and round with her. She refused to get a manager. She then said I should get my mother so she could explain the situation to my MOTHER. I am 30-something years old! I pulled out my ID (because now I am out to prove a point), and my business card AND my business CREDIT CARD. She insisted I was trying to steal photos with my “fake” documents.

Finally I stood there, pulled out my phone and took a photo of her name tag. Then I proceeded to thank her for not helping me and stated I would be back.

See, she started something with the wrong person. I just happened to have the number of the stores general manager. And so I promptly called him, and 20 minutes later we were back in the Photo department. And I had my photos, with a full refund.

I never saw that girl there again. I’m sorry, I hated to have to do that but she was SO rude and SO condescending, people like that should find another profession. I mean, she was practically yelling at me at one point arguing “copyright law”. (She couldn’t have been a day over 25. Honestly she was probably 21-ish because she was insisting she was older than me, and telling me when I got to college I would understand “grown up stuff”)

Anyway. I print photos at costco. I actually printed up a copyright release with my company letterhead on it and had it notarized. I’ve had to show it a few time, but it’s never been like the story above. Costco doesn’t ever question it because I actually have a business account. (And the word “weddings” is in my business name. So it’s kind of obvious when professional wedding photos come up!)

The memory maker CDs you order have a release you can use.

I think the takeaway here is? Don’t try to print any photos at Walmart EVER!!!


i’m not an attorney, but we have worked in the photo / print industry for 15 years and copyright comes up now and again.

Copyright law can be very subjective and open to interpretation. When we’ve come up against this particular subject before: things like buildings, architecure, landscape, etc. it actually falls under 2 categories.

In general, if you can take the photo from a public area (not private property) it is pretty much fair game.

If you take a photo from private property (especially if you’ve paid for the right to be on that property) it is a much different scenario.

Now, in any case, if you are only printing your photos for personal use (photo albums, sharing with grandma) there are absolutely no issues at all. @JJT was correct that Walmart’s policy regarding copyright is typically well on the side of caution and how it is applied varies from store to store and even between employees.

But coming back to selling them, if you’ve taken the photos from inside the parks, or on Disney propety, you are certainly exposing yourself to potential copyright / trademark / intellectual property issues.

All that said, if you are just selling them locally at a craft fair, church fundraiser or something along those lines, you’d probably not garner any negative attention (however, still potentially breaking the law)…put them up on Etsy, for instance, much different story.

Given that Disney is probably one of if not THE most agressive company when it comes to such issues, I’d suggest being very careful.


at the risk of “beating the horse”, see here:


about 1/2 way down under Prohibited Activities:

f. Photography, videotaping or recording of any kind for commercial purposes.

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Thank you for your honest non-legal opinion. From what I have read, Disney pretty much has everything covered. Most likely they use selective enforcement when they choose to tell people to cease and desist. I believe I am right when I say people can buy items at the Disney Character Warehouse and mark them up and sell them anywhere they want. Perfectly legal. I of course was wondering if all the successful WDW and DL photographers were selling there post processed images on Adobe photoshop etc… Seems a very logical step that they could make and sell their beautiful images on coasters, posters and clothing etc.

My mind starts to wonder who owns your beautiful birds in flight pictures taken on public property? You or the government? Can I make or sell my animal pictures in the form of coasters or posters etc., if they were taken on Federal or State property. What about birds in the air overhead? Who has the air rights? What about Space Launch pictures taken at Kennedy Space center? I know a photographer who sold a picture of a Corporate sign taken while standing on that Corporate property. That very same company paid him $500.00 for the image.

We personally own a print of a famous movie actress that was given to us by a friend who had bought a collection of negatives from a famous photographer. Those negatives have since been sold again. But he had the print made for us while he owned those negatives. As far as I know, we can frame the print, make a poor man’s copy from the print for family members; but we can never sell the original print or any copies.

When we damaged the original print, we had a very hard time getting the print digitally repaired and then re-printed. All of the major photography stores in NYC were afraid to print it. Much the same as Walmart printing Disney Pictures.

Even more interesting, is an experience we had with someone who owned a personal effect of the late John Lennon. A major company wanted to put it on display. Yoko Ono owns the rights to everything John Lennon ever owned. Even though the person legally owned the item, (they) could not allow it to be displayed anywhere. Even if it was without compensation.

Copyright laws are incredibly strange. Items can be legally bought and sold, but the buyer cannot then make any money on them. Not only that, but items cannot even be displayed or sold for charitable purposes.
I can just imagine the ironclad copyrights Mickey’s team of lawyers oversee!

Sorry for the long winded reply. Just another million dollar idea I had down the drain.


The irony is Disney has violated copyrights over and over again. But they they buy out the company to cover it up

Take Lion King. It was stolen from an Asian copyrighted piece called Kimba The White Lion. When they tried to sue Disney for infringement, Disney bought the company that owned it so that they couldn’t be sued. They have done this a lot over the years.


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@disneydude copyright is a tough subject and certainly when applied to photography.

People often get mad at us for turning them away for potential copyright reasons. I typically tell them it’s not that I don’t want thier money - it’s why we’re in business - but the law is the law.

I’m sure you can see that taking a great picture of a bird in flight at a national park or a beautiful sunset over a lake and selling it on a tshirt or coaster is dramatically different than taking a picture of a castle that a private company spent a billion dollars to build and that private company sells imagery of that castle on its own tshirts and coasters. They aren’t going to be too happy with you doing it. Not after they spent a billion dollars to build the thing.

I’m sure you can also see that you would stand to sell far more of the “Disney” product than you would of the bird or the sunset as a result of the billions of dollars Disney has spent making their imagery desirable. This would be almost completely independent of your photography skills and more about what the subject matter is. The creative equivalent of fishing in a barrel.

One avenue you might explore is a relatively recent development in copyright law as a result of the digital age called “transformative use”. This is where you could take a photo and change it some using filters or other art styles. Even something as simple as a silhouette. This is how all those Etsy t-shirts you see in the parks with the castle or the ears don’t fall prey to copyright claims.

How and how much you need to modify an image so it qualifies as a transformative work are very subjective and you probably wouldn’t get an answer on that question until you are standing in front of a judge and he was issuing his decision but it’s something to consider. Do some searches on copyright and transformative use. At the very least, it’s interesting reading for anyone in creative arts.


Agree! Years ago a local independent kids clothes shop was pursued by Disney for calling itself Tinkerbell and having an image of Disney’s Tinkerbell on their store front. According to the local papers, Disney were adamant that they had to change their name and pay mega bucks in damages. Apparently it turned out after a long legal battle that they did indeed have to lose the Tinkerbell image, but the name Tinkerbell did not belong to Disney. It did in fact belong to the name’s creator J.M. Barrie, who had bequeathed the copyrights to Great Ormond Street Hospital. So Tinkerbell the shop, removed the image and sought permission to keep the name from GOSH, who were happy for them to continue trading as Tinkerbell for a modest donation. That’s what the local papers reported at the time anyway. I haven’t personally verified any of this information!


I think in this context they’re also incredibly irrelevant. Can you afford to defend yourself against Disney in court if they decide to come after you? That’s the first question you have to answer. Disney understands that disputes like these are more often contests of finance than contests of law, and they rely heavily, for good reason, on that answer being no.

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