Record label blasts photographer after stealing her photographs

Apr 30, 2018

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Record label blasts photographer after stealing her photographs

Apr 30, 2018

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Join the Discussion

Share on:

Copyright infringement is all too common these days. It seems especially so in the music industry. One would think that fellow creatives, like musicians, would understand copyright and know better. But it turns out that they often don’t. Typically, when the photographer contacts them about it, the ensuing conversation is quite amicable. The images are taken down, or credited, and occasionally a fee is paid.

In this instance, however, not so much. When concert photographer Adrienne Row-Smith recently discovered some of her photos were being used by the band and its record label, she reached out. And while the band were being quite pleasant about the whole situation, their record label most certainly was not. DIYP reached out to Adrienne to find out more.

Adrienne had been shooting the concert for an article on the MonkeyGoose Magazine magazine. We asked Adrienne how she first discovered that her images had been used outside of this article without her permission…

When I go to post images on my social media, I spend a lot of time looking up who the artist is, and whom exactly I’ve got in the photo. From there, I make sure to tag them in it, not only so that the artist will see the image but so that my followers and potential followers can see my work.

In this case, when I went searching for their social media tags I found that 2 of my images had been downloaded from the article. The images themselves appeared to have had a black and white filter put over them, and the exposure increased so that the image looked blown out.

Furthermore, my watermark was partially visible, but it was very clear that they had intended to crop it out (which is why I use such a large watermark, as it makes it more difficult).

For some photographers, seeing your work posted elsewhere without your permission is like a punch to the gut. But Adrienne was not surprised that this had happened. What did surprise her, though, was how hard she had to study the images to confirm that they were indeed hers.

When I saw it, I wasn’t surprised that the photo had been taken. Social media is a tricky world to navigate, and I find that at this point you either have to just ask for credit when the photo isn’t tampered with or you don’t post at all. However, this was one of the first times that I had to really sit down and compare the images because it had been edited to the point that I almost did not recognize my own photo.

This was where Adrienne followed her usual protocol in such instances and attempted to contact the band. She described for us the series of events that happened next.

Generally, when I find my photo reposted and I have to get it taken down, I try to be nice about the whole affair simply because a lot of people (even though they should be aware) are not knowledgeable about the law regarding copyright. So, I reached out to them and explained the situation and how this is not a problem for my brand but also an illegal thing to have done.

Whomever I was talking to initially was understanding and was willing to have a conversation about it and said that they would work on getting the photos taken down.

I also stated that if they wanted high res copies I was more than happy to sell them to them, but they could also wait and share the ones I posted (by using repost or sharing on Facebook). When they asked how much I would give them for the high-resolution copies, I told them my price for per photo and that was the last interaction I had with them.

Usually, even if there’s no more contact, this is where one sees that their images have been removed from the offending social media platforms. In this instance, though, they were still up, and this is where things turned nasty. Adrienne told DIYP…

After seeing that they hadn’t removed the photos, I gave them a final notice to remove or I would be escalating the situation. That’s when I was sent those unpleasant messages by the record label owner.

Adrienne has allowed DIYP to post the screenshots of the conversation, with the names obscured.

Somehow, they seemed to think that by stealing Adrienne’s work and then reposting it to 400K followers without telling them who created it, they were doing her a favour. Obviously, for anybody else looking in on this situation from the outside, that was not the case.

While such infringements are sadly quite commonplace these days, they do seem to be most prevalent in the music industry. One example of this was The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, who clearly don’t understand how copyright works. Even huge names like Motley Crue aren’t immune to a little copyright infringement (even if it was their employees who did it, they’re ultimately responsible).

Given the backlash against apps like Napster, back in the day, one would think the music industry would not only understand copyright law by now but also know exactly how it feels to have your hard work ripped off.

I don’t think I would’ve kept my cool as Adrienne did in her responses to this record label. Obviously, this is not the way she expected them to respond, nor is it the way copyright infringers should respond when contacted about such matters. But it’s a calm reminder to keep our heads when conversations take a turn like this.

Adrienne offers some advice to other companies who find themselves in similar situations.

First, I am going to be honest and say that if you’re looking to photography to promote your business in any form you should know the law. You probably should not be running a business if you think its inconvenient or not worth your time to pay people for their work.

That being said, if a photographer reaches out to you for stealing their work apologize and pay them, or if they merely ask for it to be taken down do so. Do not try to argue with them, do not be mean to them.

Photographers put a lot of time and effort into creating, editing, posting and cultivating their work, so if you really like the work then just pay for it.

To their credit, most infringers don’t realise they’ve even done anything wrong, so they often respond respectfully. There’s a lot of misinformation out there on the web when it comes to copyright. People often believe that if they’re not profiting from the image (ie, selling products that include it) and they provide a credit, that that constitutes permission. In reality, it does not. But they don’t learn this until they’re told this by the photographer upon whom they’ve infringed.

And even if this was how copyright worked, which it isn’t, they are still profiting from the image. They post images like these for marketing purposes. Marketing sells albums, downloads, concert tickets and merchandise. That’s profiting. Even though it’s a moot point, it shows just how silly their reasoning can sometimes get.

We also asked Adrienne what advice she would offer to photographers who find themselves in such a situation.

To other photographers, I know I sounded like a bit of a pushover, but when you see your work being reposted or used to promote a brand, say something about it. Get yourself involved with a lawyer or firm that is willing to fight for you and your work.

Furthermore, if you’re thinking of becoming a photographer make sure you know your rights and to be willing to fight for them

So, if you find yourself in a similar situation as a photographer, remember to be like Adrienne. Keep a cool head when you respond. Don’t outwardly show anger or hostility toward them, even if you’re raging inside. Because if something does go to court, they’ll only use that against you. Remain calm, collected and professional, no matter how belligerent the other side of the conversation becomes.

Adrienne has asked that the band and record label not be “named and shamed” in this post so their names have been obscured. If we see anybody calling them out in the comments, those comments will be deleted.

The point of this post is to help educate. To educate would-be copyright infringers, as well as to help photographers figure out how they should respond to them.

In closing, Adrienne told DIYP…

I want to thank all those who have reached out in support or to give advice. I really appreciate the feedback and interest in this. I just hope that this will help educate and help to stop this trend.

Thank you, Adrienne, for taking the time to chat with us.

If you want to see some of Adrienne’s work, head on over to her Instagram. And, of course, you can see it illustrating some of the articles over at MonkeyGoose Magazine.

Filed Under:

Tagged With:

Find this interesting? Share it with your friends!

John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Join the Discussion

DIYP Comment Policy
Be nice, be on-topic, no personal information or flames.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

16 responses to “Record label blasts photographer after stealing her photographs”

  1. Anthony Guerriere Avatar
    Anthony Guerriere

    This is how everyone should respond.

    1. Anthony Guerriere Avatar
      Anthony Guerriere

      I should say I did not make this cartoon or own any rights to it. I have no clue where it came from so I can’t give credit. (Just throwing it out there after reading the article). ?

    2. Christopher Teague Avatar
      Christopher Teague

      Anthony Guerriere but at least the author is getting exposure, right?

    3. Virginie Ivy Dubé-Ménard Avatar
      Virginie Ivy Dubé-Ménard

      The Oatmeal is the creator. Check him out for more hilarious cartoons. You’re welcome!

    4. Virginie Ivy Dubé-Ménard Avatar
      Virginie Ivy Dubé-Ménard
    5. Anthony Guerriere Avatar
      Anthony Guerriere

      Virginie Ivy Dubé-Ménard ah thank you so much! So they get credit for the cartoon above! ?……PLENTY OF EXPOSURE! ?

  2. Motti Bembaron Avatar
    Motti Bembaron

    Next time when the jerks in the music industry suing someone for stealing songs….

  3. Paul Ford Avatar
    Paul Ford

    Send court summons and claims thousands, Copyright infringement ie theft.

  4. Erie Patsellis Avatar
    Erie Patsellis

    If you really want to make photography your profession, you need to approach everything you do as a professional. You should always register every image you shoot in book form with the USPTO monthly, then don’t even have the conversation, just have your attorney send a letter threatening file a copyright infringement case. At $150k per infringement it adds up quickly. In 35 years of shooting professionally, I have never lost an infringement suit if it gets that far, most have settled for 8-10x my usual licensing fee.

    1. Erie Patsellis Avatar
      Erie Patsellis

      Ignore USPTO, should be copyright.gov.

  5. Ibo Avatar
    Ibo

    Last Text : aloud to charge. Aloud ? Allowed maybe ? Ohh my god, english is like my 4th language and this bothers me…

    1. Ibo Avatar
      Ibo

      Should have google it before commenting…

  6. Sean Avatar
    Sean

    Maybe she should have said something like “Oh, OK, so i can take one of the bands songs and distribute it on my website for free then by your reasoning.”.

    1. Paul Tobeck Avatar
      Paul Tobeck

      Especially if it’s a crappy song, obviously they shouldn’t be charging for that before they “perfect their craft”.

  7. timothyf7 Avatar
    timothyf7

    They deserve what they are obviously going to get!

  8. Brent Soule Avatar
    Brent Soule

    Seems that photographers need an all encompassing nonprofit advocacy(like a PhotoACLU) to take these thieving moochers to task. Legally bitch slap them into realizing if you steal from one of us, you steal from all of us. They devalued this photographers work by stealing, which in turn devalues all our work.

    What if the camera manufacturers agreed to tag on $5 to a camera with a matching $5 to go to said organization. When you registered the camera it automatically made you a member. With 50 mill cameras sold in 2016 that would be $500 mill to sue the crap out of these companies for 2016.