How do you deal with copyright infringement when it’s for “a good cause”?

Nov 9, 2016

Adrien le Falher

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

Nov 9, 2016

Adrien le Falher

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

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In about one week will mark the anniversary of the most traumatic and violent piece of history in France in the last decades. The 13th of november 2015, several coordinated terrorist attacks took place in Paris, less than a year after the attacks against the newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

Still today, Paris feels different. Much like the 9/11 attacks, Paris now has this air of danger, still lingering, and the attacks are clearly in the heads of every Parisian.

The news of the attacks spread very quickly, and soon, artists and other celebrities began to express themselves on the topic. The first of them was David Beckham, on instagram and Facebook, with this picture:

https://www.instagram.com/p/-DmJlMzWaO/?taken-by=davidbeckham&hl=en

Now, saying to pray for Paris is already a clear sign of the lack of understanding of the very secular culture of France, where we pretty much share the views of Anthony Jeselnik on the topic: it doesn’t help much.

The truth is, David Beckham is not just a football player anymore, he’s a celebrity, he’s a brand. And as such, the value of his brand goes up with publicity. And to me, this was exactly what happened. Also, the sun is not rising on that picture, as every Parisian new: the picture very clearly shows the west side of Paris, and therefore the sun is setting.

And then, another thing struck me: the picture he was using was mine. He didn’t contact me, he didn’t ask if he could use it, and he actually cropped it, along with the copyright notice. Being the first one to react to the events, his words and my picture got published in several international newspapers: the dailymail, the mirror, several French magazines as well. They all published the picture, cropped, without any credit whatsoever.

This actually happened to me before, although not to that scale. What I usually do is I contact whoever is infringing copyright, ask for credit, and in the case of commercial use, payment. People don’t always comply (or reply, for that matter), but some people do.

The day after the attacks, I was still hesitating on what to do: someone using a picture without my permission was absolutely NOTHING compared to what just happened. And yet, were it any other day, if someone used my picture for their gain, I would at least have asked for credit. So in the end, that’s what I did: I left a comment (turns out you can’t send him a PM) asking for credit, which of course never happened. I never even had an answer.

I felt disgusted. The credit, the infringement didn’t matter. But someone using my picture, and terrorist attacks, for their publicity? And it worked, when you looked at the millions of likes, shares, and articles. I felt helpless, and in the end, let it go. In the scheme of things, it didn’t mean much.

sunset-skyline-by-adrien-le-falher-800px

Dealing with art theft is usually pretty straightforward: thieves are wrong, you try to contact them and work with them for some kind of compensation. But this wasn’t a regular day, and this wasn’t regular infringement. And despite me not liking the message, you could say it was for “a good cause”. How do you deal with this? Is it the same thing as when Madonna used pictures with the artist’s authorization?

Still today, the question itches. What would you have done? Do you think it was wrong of me to stand for my rights?

About the Author

Adrien le Falher is a photographer, director, cinematographer and colorist. Born in Paris, he now travels the world, always seeking new adventures. You can find out more about Adrien on his website, follow his work on Instagram and Facebook, or reach out to him through Twitter. This article was also published here, and shared with permission.

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17 responses to “How do you deal with copyright infringement when it’s for “a good cause”?”

  1. Steven Avatar
    Steven

    It’s highly unlikely that he manages his own Instagram account. It’s more likely that it’s managed by a third party agency – who should therefore know better. The caption “as the sun rises” is clearly in reference to the picture and looks like an attempt to assert ownership over it – couple with the wilful cropping out of the copyright info. It’s big of you to let this pass, because if it was me… I’d be PISSED. It’s not for “a good cause” – or is Becks going to donate all those “likes” to the victims’ families or something? It’s using grief as a vehicle for self-promotion, and using someone else’s work to do it. Nothing right about this usage at all. Whoever is managing this account should be getting a slap on the wrist.

    1. Steven Avatar
      Steven

      …and if you consider how much celebrities make for “sponsored” posts endorsing brands to their millions of followers (for someone with as many followers as David Beckham, you’re looking at tens of thousands of dollars per post), it’s really not acceptable for them to use others’ work without credit or recompense. Two way street – and you’d quickly hear from his legal teams if you tried making money off HIS image.

    2. tomsimone Avatar
      tomsimone

      Yes, totally agree. Your photo hasn’t helped anyone except Beckham. You should sue, imo.

    3. Marijke Rawie Avatar
      Marijke Rawie

      Agreed!

    4. suruha Avatar
      suruha

      @Steven, I could not have said it better!

  2. Dan K Avatar
    Dan K

    . is one of the best photo blogs, PERIOD. Not just DIY, though I wish he’d post more hacks.

  3. Paul Stonehouse Avatar
    Paul Stonehouse

    I recently had a similar situation happen with The British tabloid newspaper, ‘The Sun’ digital edition in the UK. My photos were used in an online article not only without my permission, but they gave credit to another party. I contacted the newspaper and they quickly changed the credit back to me….But this article has now passed its ‘shelf’ life and the damage has already been done. Changing the ‘credit to’ now is not a fix, as nobody will see the article anymore. I will seek counsel.

    1. Will Knot B. Revealed Snr. Avatar
      Will Knot B. Revealed Snr.

      Mistakes can happen, especially when they set unpaid interns do a lot of the grunt work, but that’s no excuse. Don’t pussy foot with them Paul, this is The Scum after all >.<

  4. Stefan Kohler Avatar
    Stefan Kohler

    Tough question…

  5. Will Nicholls Avatar
    Will Nicholls

    Great thought-provoking piece. The response would no doubt be that it would be an insensitive thing to do, asking for payment/credit. But the principle is the same. It’s not like his post of your photo has achieved anything good. Plus, all the press photographers having their photos of people crying, covered in blood, dust etc – they got paid on the back of disaster.

    1. Marijke Rawie Avatar
      Marijke Rawie

      Asking for credit is the least you can do!

  6. catlett Avatar
    catlett

    Ask him if you can use a photo of him to endorse your photography as a trade for his willful copyright infringement (proved by cropping copyright notice). Either way he answers you have your answer. If he says no nail him.

    1. Marijke Rawie Avatar
      Marijke Rawie

      I think this a very funny and creative action to take!

  7. Nath Bala Avatar
    Nath Bala

    Funny. talking of copyright infringement and don’t talking freedom of panorama.
    But I’m okay it’s worst
    I’m living in Paris too but I don’t feel danger in the air, we don’t forget.

  8. Photography News Avatar
    Photography News

    We have to do more to assert our rights as photographers. The fact that this was ‘for good’ has no real relevance. If he’d used a picture from a big agency without permission do you think they would have let it stand? Its the thin end of the wedge, we have to support each other and work to ensure that images are never used without permission and when they are, we use all legal remedies to ensure we are compensated. If you then decided to donate that fee to charity then that’s your call. But it should be your choice.

  9. Will Knot B. Revealed Snr. Avatar
    Will Knot B. Revealed Snr.

    “a good cause” along with ignorance is no excuse in the eyes of the law.

    There
    should be no debate. This is flagrant theft and deliberate obfuscation
    of copyright. The context is no excuse, so far as to be irrelevant. If
    you do not proceed further with this it will be seen as okay for
    everyone and anyone to do the same thing. Naive bloggers are one thing,
    but those in the employ of news agencies or celebrities MUST understand
    the rules or deal with the consequences.

    Good luck Adrien and please let us know how you get on.

  10. pcsmith Avatar
    pcsmith

    This was the right move — let it go.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXZaOy3gMa4