Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Photography Copyright Theft - Part II

The Plot Thickens

I got a telephone call at 8.40am, this morning, from the comedian whose photograph was appearing on her agent's website, without my permission, accreditation or payment (see here for back-story). I say was appearing, because it had been taken down by the company the day after I emailed them. I have had, to date, no contact from the management company themselves, no request to use the photograph in the first place, no apology for its illegal usage and no offer of payment.

What I got this morning was, at least to begin with, a fairly pleasant conversation in which the comedian told me that I had actually given her permission to give that image (and others) to her agent for free use on his website.

I told her that I did not remember that conversation at all. I only remembered a conversation where I agreed that she could have the photographs for private use - including in her own portfolio (if she had one - which she doesn't apparently). This did not include usage by a third party, who were using the image to make money for themselves (and her). I explained to her that I made a living, in part, by charging people for the secondary use of images that had been taken for another purpose. Editorial photographers, generally, get so little money for a job that third party use (and payment for that use) is a very important income stream.

While I was saying all of this to her, the thought "I'll drop this matter - reluctantly" was definitely in my head.

But the conversation suddenly became less pleasant. She started swearing and telling me (amongst other things) that I had "f***** up the relationship" between herself and her agent; that I had "frightened" her agent, that she didn't get anything from the magazine shoot for which the photos were originally taken and that she had to suffer 4 days working with certain people on that shoot; and that "this fri***** issue" was causing her all sorts of problems. I told her (not very calmly, I have to admit) that she had no rights to speak to me in that way and although I was just about to drop the whole matter, I was now giving it more thought. And then I hung up.

It never ceases to amaze me how tables that seem to be laden with all of the odds stacked in my favour can suddenly be turned over - making me the villain of the piece.
I had genuinely been ready to let this matter drop, but now, I'm really not so sure. I have just telephoned the agent, and left a phone message telling him about the abuse I received from his client and seeking an apology from both of them.

More importantly, for me - at least right now - I'm wondering about my place in a business where people feel that not only do they have the right to take your work and use it for free, but then abuse you when you stand up for yourself against it.


  1. Stephen, I would certainly persue this matter further. Who do these people think they are that they can use an image that is yours (without paying for its use!) and then feel that they have the right to abuse you when you stand up for your own rights? I most certainly WOULD NOT let this matter go. Maybe it's also a lesson learned in so much as you may need to sign off on the image usage for EVERY client (no matter whether it's for personal use or professional use). I hope you are paid what you deserve for the right to this image. Please keep us posted.

  2. Stand firm Stephen - generally people get aggresive and absuive if they know they are in the wrong. Good luck and keep us updated.

  3. Yikes, Stephen. That whole story sucks. Entertainers, especially "low level" ones are nearly always a pain in the you-know-what.

    My very sincere kindest thoughts are flying your way. Best of luck.

  4. Keep with it Stephen, I would not let it pass, especially when you were being reasonable on the first instance and there was perhaps a good chance that the parties involved could have all come to an agreement on this ocassion. When its starts getting nasty and being verbally abused for work after all that is yours, I would not back off!

  5. Hi Stephen,
    Your story is of great concern to me. I would definitely pursue the agent for the money owed.I was just thinking how might the comedian react if another performer was stealing her jokes/using her material. As for her not getting anything for the magazine shoot, that's between her and the magazine.She did get the publicity.Keep us updated and I wish you a successful outcome.

  6. "More importantly, for me - at least right now - I'm wondering about my place in a business where people feel that not only do they have the right to take your work and use it for free, but then abuse you when you stand up for yourself against it."

    *sigh* I feel EXACTLY the same way. Unfortunately, copyright theft is as much as part of the Art & Photography worlds as the Art & Photography itself; although, that NEVER excuses it. I hate that copyright theft seems to bring out the worst in us all; the dishonesty & lack of respect in the thief and the hyper-vigilant-shrew in me, the artist. I, too, have never received an apology when I've caught someone red-handed. I wouldn't loose too much sleep over that (although I know it's infuriating)...for now, at least, just be thankful that you found the theft and that it was removed. I'm thrilled for you on both counts. :)

  7. What gets me is that these are people that work in an industry that deals in copyrights as a matter of course. These people will try to play the ignorance card when in reality they are not ignorant. I would persue the the matter further.


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