Garbage Responds To Photographer’s Open Letter After Being Denied Free Use Of His Photos

Apr 3, 2015

Tiffany Mueller

Tiffany Mueller is a photographer and content strategist based in Hawi, Hawaii. Her work has been shared by top publications like The New York Times, Adobe, and others.

Garbage Responds To Photographer’s Open Letter After Being Denied Free Use Of His Photos

Apr 3, 2015

Tiffany Mueller

Tiffany Mueller is a photographer and content strategist based in Hawi, Hawaii. Her work has been shared by top publications like The New York Times, Adobe, and others.

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(Photo by jareed)
(Photo by jareed)

We were all expecting Garbage to reply to the open letter photographer Pat Pope shared yesterday, after he received a request from the band’s management company to use some of his photos in a book for nothing more than “proper credit”. In Pope’s letter to the band, he explained why he felt photographers were just as entitled to payment for their work as musicians were, and asked the band if they, too, felt the same. Check out this story from yesterday to read Pope’s original letter.

Today, the band shared their own open letter to Pope on their Facebook page. You can read at length, here.

Dear Pat PopeWe were all deeply saddened to read your Facebook post in which you admonished us for approaching you to…

Posted by Garbage on Friday, April 3, 2015

Amanda Palmer? Really?!

In my opinion, the band really missed an opportunity to produce a thoughtful counter to Pope’s very persuasive and well written letter. For starters, they should never have even mentioned Amanda Palmer. Palmer, as some of you may know drew a lot of negative attention when it was made public that she wasn’t planning on paying any of the musicians in her band after raking in over $1.2M in crowdfunding to support the album she was making at the time. Seeing Palmer’s name mentioned in Garbage’s letter is pretty much a deal breaker for many. So, to summarize…the individual Garbage says they are taking direction from is most notable for not paying artists. Let that marinate for a minute.

Another issues I take with the response is that the band brings up the fact they have already paid for the photoshoot back in the 1990’s. If they felt they already owned the photo, it’s not clear why they were asking for permission to use it again in the first place. Paying for a photoshoot doesn’t necessarily give you all future rights to an image taken during that shoot. I suspect there is a contract floating around out there somewhere that details this.

The Irony Of It All

Lastly, to say “we would never publicly admonish or begrudge a fellow artist for merely asking” seems a bit, I don’t know, untrue provided the sentence was being used to close out a letter which, essentially, was publicly admonishing and begrudging an artist for answering.

Of course, that’s just my opinion, what are your thoughts on the fiasco?

[ via Stereogum | Lead image by Jareed ]

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Tiffany Mueller

Tiffany Mueller

Tiffany Mueller is a photographer and content strategist based in Hawi, Hawaii. Her work has been shared by top publications like The New York Times, Adobe, and others.

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40 responses to “Garbage Responds To Photographer’s Open Letter After Being Denied Free Use Of His Photos”

  1. Jason Larkin Avatar
    Jason Larkin

    I’d be honored for a band such as Garbage to ask me to contribute to their book.

    1. Julia Avatar

      that is not the point

    2. Tiffany Mueller Avatar
      Tiffany Mueller

      Maybe, but I’d be more honored if they respected my work enough to actually pay me for it. I’m in the process of self publishing a children’s book right now, I know how expensive it is. But to that end, we’re talking about a band who’s members have a reported net worth upwards of $68 million…Shirley Manson (singer) – $8 million, Butch Vig (drummer) – $60 million…plus, however much the other two members are worth.

      How fancy is this self published book going to be?

    3. Howardo Mansfieldio Avatar
      Howardo Mansfieldio

      Honour doesn’t pay the rent.

    4. maloner76 Avatar

      I’d be honored if a band, particularly one I respect as much as Garbage, asked me to contribute as well.

      And as a photographer, I would politely tell them “No, thank you, but if you’d like to talk actual business, it would be a pleasure to work with you.” Much like Pope did, though perhaps not in his words.

    5. Me, Myself and I Avatar
      Me, Myself and I

      You would be honored that they valued your work so little that they felt they shouldn’t pay you for it’s use?

      Bands bitch and complain about pirating and how little they get from distributing channels (YouTube Music, Spotify …) but expect other creatives to work for free.

      That’s how much respect they have for us photographers.

      Would I have told them off as bluntly and publicly as pope did? No.
      Do I understand where his frustration comes from? Hell yes!

  2. Eric Williams Avatar
    Eric Williams

    im sure @garbage got paid for their studiorecording timewhy should they bepaid royalties for any future uses of their songs?

  3. Julia Avatar

    i cant wait for the answer to this! and i agree with you:why ask if they already thought they owned it? anda if i remember well they already used pictures without permission from pope…

  4. Zamfirescu Vladimir-Alexandru Avatar
    Zamfirescu Vladimir-Alexandru

    your thoughts* (sorry, but it drives me nuts)

    1. Tiffany Mueller Avatar
      Tiffany Mueller

      Sorry, big guy! My honest mistake, all fixed. :)

      1. Zamfirescu Vladimir-Alexandru Avatar
        Zamfirescu Vladimir-Alexandru

        All is now well with the universe. :)

        1. Tiffany Mueller Avatar
          Tiffany Mueller

          whew! *wipes brow

  5. Renato Murakami Avatar
    Renato Murakami

    If you distill the comment, it’s pretty much the same of other cases we’ve seen in the past:
    We don’t have the money, so we can’t pay you (shure you don’t);
    Others did it gladly, why can’t you do it (you should be thankful for the opportunity of slaving off for us);
    It’s a work of looove for our faaans, it’s not a for-profit work (u-huh), you should share the looove; :P

    All there. The reasons why things like these happens, and why professional photography is turning into a nightmare style job.

    People find it hard to understand why it’s offensive. You wouldn’t call someone to clean your house without compensation because it’s “for the fans” or a “non-profit work”, but it somehow became acceptable to exploit the work of photographers in commercial projects (because yes, it is a commercial project unless Garbage is planning to print and give away all books). In a way because of the misconception on photography as a hobby, and photography as a job.

    1. Did u know that Avatar
      Did u know that

      I totally agree. Everyone else involved in the process likely gets paid one way or another. Even the ones hired to beg for ‘free photos’.

  6. C. A. Bridges Avatar
    C. A. Bridges

    OK, two things about using Amanda Palmer as an example.

    One: she has a history of inviting local musicians to open for her, play outside for the people on line, or join her on stage, because she’s done that since she was nobody and making exactly squat. Her shows have always had a community cabaret, everybody-jump-in-on-this feel and she didn’t see anything wrong with continuing to do what she’d always done. Most of the musicians who have done this with her have jumped at the chance, generally for the fun of it, and have reported higher CD sales (since Amanda usually pimps their stuff for them from stage) and greater exposure. Her fans and her musicians friends knew this. Her mistake was in not realizing how it would sound to all the people suddenly paying attention because she made headlines for her then-record-breaking Kickstarter cash. She has a bad habit of assuming everyone knows what she means when she says or does something and she comes off as being incredibly tone-deaf.

    Two: The Kickstarter cash. Yep, her Kickstarter received a boatload. Of course, if you’ve ever used Kickstarter you know that you don’t just get handed cash. You pay Kickstarter a chunk. You pay the IRS a BIG chunk. And then you pay for all the things you’ve promised people who contributed because people aren’t just handing you money, they’re handing you money for early CDs or posters or art books or private events. All of that costs, plus shipping and handling, and she posted a list of her expenses after the outrage came out.

    Did she make money? Sure. I’d expect and want her to. Did she make $1.2m? Not even close.

    Was she incredibly naive? Sure. Was she intentionally taking advantage of musicians? I don’t think so. She just did what she’d been doing for over a decade, without realizing she wasn’t allowed to anymore.

  7. Wayne Palmer Jr. Avatar
    Wayne Palmer Jr.

    My only question is why this wasn’t handled in a private manner rather than “in the streets”?

    1. Tiffany Mueller Avatar
      Tiffany Mueller

      Because the internet, I think. :)

    2. Did u know that Avatar
      Did u know that

      Probably because the band has used his photos once before (for a best-of album) without asking. Read his original post.

  8. Rob Morris Avatar
    Rob Morris

    They can use one of mine if Shirley will tell me how the Sarah Conner Chronicles was gonna end :)

  9. Morgan Glassco Avatar
    Morgan Glassco

    I have to side with Garbage on this one. I didn’t get the Amanda Palmer reference but I do now and that was a poor choice. But Pope’s decision to post this to me is an assumption of their financial status. And it seems he got it wrong. I am not surprised that they are budget challenged and I don’t mean that in a bad way. I liked their songs back in the day but can’t remember hearing much about them lately. Makes me wonder if he is feeling the financial pinch and his response was part an emotional reaction in a time of need…

  10. Angela Paul Avatar
    Angela Paul

    I paid my wedding photographer for her to photograph my wedding. Now, I have to pay her if I want copies of those photos for anything else and I cannot and won’t copy those photos without paying her appropriately again. This is no different. A photographer’s work is no different than an artist’s or a writer’s. They should be compensated for the reproduction of their work that they OWN.

  11. Michael Leatherwood Avatar
    Michael Leatherwood

    Maybe they could’ve kept it private, but then again, this could be a publicity stunt for him or for the band or both! I don’t know..

    1. Wayne Palmer Jr. Avatar
      Wayne Palmer Jr.

      I thought the same thing.

  12. akshayjamwal Avatar

    Well I’m certainly never buying a garbage CD again. I mean, I paid for one in 1995.

  13. David Avatar

    As Michael Leatherwood mentions why did Pat feel the need to make this public? A private request requires a private response. It feels a little like “telling mommy”…

  14. Rex Deaver Avatar
    Rex Deaver

    I’m with Garbage on this one. It was incredibly unprofessional of Pope to make this an open letter. Apparently an earlier management company for the band screwed him over, so a bit of anger is to be expected. But airing it on the Internet is, and should be, as Pope himself said professional suicide.

  15. FRosario Avatar

    In the same vein, how about when photographers ask models, stylists and assistants to work for them for free? Especially when starting out or when they can’t afford to pay. I’ve heard so many horror stories from stylists or models, who spent their money and time for photographs they couldn’t use. I mean we do free things and ask for free help all the time.

    But I also agree that did should have been handled privately. He could have just said he wasn’t interested in working on the project instead of basically publicly shaming them.

    1. demosthien Avatar

      That’s not a very good example to compare in this case.

      Oftentimes models, MUA, and Stylists etc will work for “free” (but not really for free) on a project with a photographer. It’s not really for “free” though as usually it’s time in exchange for a licence to use the images to promote their own work (that licence has value as we’ve already established).

  16. Chinavol Avatar

    If Garbage paid for the shoot, and they have the copyright authorization in hand, why ask? The photo shoot authorized them for personal use. If they want to use them for business purposes that is a different story entirely. Thats why they asked. I am doing a low budget media page, wonder if they would allow me to use their music in the background at no charge. Its a free site? I already purchased the album should I not be able to use the music as I see fit?

  17. John W. O'Brien III Avatar
    John W. O’Brien III

    Dear shirley…. i’m downloading all garbage and angelfish songs for free….. don’t worry…. i’ll give you “proper credit”

  18. Steve Kotvis Avatar
    Steve Kotvis

    It all starts, of course, with the contract. If the contract says the band has the rights to use the images for any and all other purposes, then of course they do. But given the band asked for permission, this does not sound to be the case.

    What seems unfortunate is that if indeed the band had an altruistic intent for this book and were as such creating it through borrowed treasures, then they would have done everyone better by saying so upfront. People, perhaps artists especially and including photographers are often more than happy to participate in helping make something happen if they understand the purpose behind it. If context was shared, the band could have honored the work of the photographer by asking them to collaborate and be a part of a bigger mission, instead of making it sound like a taking. Not doing so, unfortunately, sings a bit too loudly as a band that actually did not value the photographer as a collaborating artist, but rather as an afterthought or a presumption that photographer offered marginal value.

    Which leads me to my final point that in some ways I find repeatedly concluding thoughts about situations like this. It always seems to come down to this. Is it that people value art, but not artists? They love the work, whether it’s photography, music, performances, architecture, painting, sculpture, writing, etc. but the person who conceived and created it is perhaps undervalued. As much as anyone who creates will tell you that it is always all about the work, establishing the value of the artist continues to be something artists need to keep working on as well.

  19. David James Young Avatar
    David James Young

    Just one small error:

    “Palmer, as some of you may know drew a lot of negative attention when it was made public that she wasn’t planning on paying any of the musicians in her band after raking in over $1.2M in crowdfunding to support the album she was making at the time.”

    This isn’t actually true. Palmer simply put the call out for some musicians to join her on stage for a couple of songs on various dates of the tour. This is something she has done for years, including back in the day with the Dresden Dolls. She did end up paying the people that joined her on stage for a few songs, anyway. Her actual band, The Grand Theft Orchestra, were indeed paid, as well.

  20. Jim Johnson Avatar
    Jim Johnson

    Why are we photographers so whiny these days? I get that copyright infringement is an issue, but really…? They asked, he said no. Why all the hurt feelings? I could never operate in this world if I felt insulted or disrespected every time someone acted in their own best interest.

    If they do something legally wrong, sue the crap out of them. But, if all they did was hurt your feelings, stop already!

  21. JennPrine Avatar

    It is a world where people feel that because they are either famous or close friends that they feel they can ask for your art for free. Guaranteed that having a photo in their book will do little to generate more work for Pat. It just rarely happens this way. More power to the photographer for valuing his work and saying no and also setting a precedent for other artists and making this public. It is something that needs to be talked about more often. We are waaaaaaaaay too overly politically correct these days. Screw being PC and much respect for taking a stand for your art Pat.

  22. Me, Myself and I Avatar
    Me, Myself and I

    This message by the band on Instagram doesn;t help their case.

    (Explaining why they are posting images without permission on Intsagram).

    Garbage: Why? Because we can. And because we want to. And because there is no point waiting to get permission because no one is going to give us permission. So we will do it anyways.

    That… right there … doesn’t mesh so well with …

    “Over the years we have happily compensated many photographers, filmmakers and other kinds of content providers for their work and will continue to do so in the future. We believe completely in the concept of the artist being compensated fairly whenever possible.”

    1. Tiffany Mueller Avatar
      Tiffany Mueller

      whoa, interesting find

  23. pincherio Avatar

    I’m with the band on this one. They asked permission if they could use the photo for free just like they did with several other photographers who they had worked with in the past. He could have said no. End of story. Instead, he acted like a douche and tried to make the band look bad for asking. Let’s get things clear: the picture was NOT USED YET. Since when did it become wrong to ask permission first?

  24. Stereo Reverb Avatar
    Stereo Reverb

    We all have jobs that we collect paychecks on. Should we all work for our companies for free- in lieu of feeling good for contributing to a job well done, all the while helping our company succeed (and make profits)? Can we take photos and let anyone who wants to use them do so- even for things that will make these people money- and their compensation to you is a “Thanks for letting us sell our wares with your photos, you’re great!”.

    The barter system is nice, but it doesn’t pay the rent or for your time and energies. And that is the point the original author was trying to make. Should Garbage give away all past and future albums for free? Yes. Should they spend their own money to tour and not charge for tickets and let people see them for free? Sure! (You can see how illogical this is).

    Writing an open letter puts this issue (which happens quite frequently) out in the open for public discussion. This shouldn’t be a dirty little secret, should it? I applaud the photographer for doing what he did.

    1. Tiffany Mueller Avatar
      Tiffany Mueller

      Beautifully said!

  25. Ralph Hightower Avatar
    Ralph Hightower

    Geez, Garbage was a struggling band in 1995 and they are still a struggling band in 2015?
    Has Garbage considered “Hey dudes, you haven’t made it in 20 years! Has the band considered disbanding and finding bands that have hit the big-time?”