So You Got An Invoice From My Lawyer Asking To Pay Up For The Photo You Stole…

Jul 31, 2015

Tiffany Mueller

Tiffany Mueller is a photographer based in Hawi, Hawaii. You can follow her Twitter here and her personal life here.

So You Got An Invoice From My Lawyer Asking To Pay Up For The Photo You Stole…

Jul 31, 2015

Tiffany Mueller

Tiffany Mueller is a photographer based in Hawi, Hawaii. You can follow her Twitter here and her personal life here.

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Dear Asshole Friend,

You’re probably wondering why I haven’t responded back to your emails asking me to call off my lawyers. You are, after all, just a well-intentioned corporation doing your best to help out me–the little guy, the starving artist.

I understand that photo licensing can get pretty expensive and may not fall within everyone’s budget. Certainly, with your company selling only $10,000,000 in product a year, how could you afford to pay the $275 my agency and I ask for to use one of my images. And you needed four of them! Gasp! I see why you thought it would be better just to take them from my website and use them without asking. The point of you even putting my photos up on your for-profit commerce site was “only to promote” me anyways, surely you wouldn’t be making any money off my work. Nah, no way. All those product links and advertisements to your own inventory were totally just on there for funsies. Your numbers speak for themselves, no one’s buying that stuff…

And, speaking of budgets, I totally get the need to stick to one. In this economy, we all need to work hard and spend wisely to keep the plate on the table. Throwing money at artists simply to use something they made seems foolish. Absurd, really–most artists have the luxury of trust funds or grants anyways, right?

That’s not exactly true, but I get how you can make such an assumption. My photos sure make it look like I’m having a jolly good time wherever I go. The truth is, and you may not have known this about me, but there have been times in my adult life where I have essentially been homeless—living in an old Volkswagen bus, or beating around the world in search of places where I can barter my services for a bed and meal, if I’m lucky, for a few months at a time.

To be honest, those have been the best years of my life. In fact, all of the photos you took from me were taken during that time—had I been paid for my work, I probably would have missed out on all the joys living in a borrowed van with two cats can bring a person.

And let us not forget the great amount of guilt I’d be carrying around knowing that you wouldn’t have my photos to use to help grow your own pile of money. I’m not sure I could bear that kind of weight.
So, I guess I really should be thanking you, dear photo stealer. Without you, I may have fallen victim to the status quo and bought myself a house and a car and food and all those other novelties most people can’t live without. But, not me, I’m an artist, I don’t need those things.

Actually, if you think about it, all these life experiences that not being paid for my work has resulted in, well, that’s just good character building. There’s no amount of money in the world that can buy you that kind of wisdom. I mean, do you see how cool I’m being about having lost the potential of selling a rights managed license because you “helped” me out?

I’m not even stressing about being sued as a result of you taking it upon yourself to use my photos in ways which are explicit violations of the model release attached to the image. That model, she’s so beautiful she probably gets plenty of work anyways and no longer needs to worry about who is using her face to sell what product.

Now that we’ve both got a clear understanding of just how “helpful” you’ve been to me (and I realize I may be really pushing my luck here considering how generous you’ve been in the past), but I must ask you just one last teensy weensy favor. It will even save you some time, too, I promise!

May I kindly ask you to please stop emailing me personally about the invoice you’ve received from my legal team? That’s why I have agents and lawyers–contact them instead, we both know you already have their info.

That being said, it’s good to see that my email does, in fact, work. I was kinda worried it was broken after I saw my photos on your web store, but had never actually received a message asking my permission to use them, nor acknowledging your great act of pilfery philanthropy. But, I guess that was just your humbleness shining through—a true philanthropist doesn’t seek recognition for their good deeds, everyone knows that…

Maybe someday I’ll grow to be as big of a person as you are. Unfortunately for you, that time is not now. I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to stick by my agents on this one. I can barely afford to pay my own rent, much less continue to support such an expensive hobby for the sole purpose of giving my work away to whoever wants to stake claim to it—oh, how I wish that I could.

Please don’t take this request as a personal attack against yourself. At the moment, there are over 300 other businesses trying to “help” me out, too–over 700 if you include those of you I haven’t gotten around to, or am otherwise unable to file a claim on. Businesswoman to businessman, I’m sure you’ll understand that I just don’t have the time to pick and choose who to be nice to.

Mahalo and have a great day,


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Tiffany Mueller

Tiffany Mueller

Tiffany Mueller is a photographer based in Hawi, Hawaii. You can follow her Twitter here and her personal life here.

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5 responses to “So You Got An Invoice From My Lawyer Asking To Pay Up For The Photo You Stole…”

  1. vov Avatar

    I understand the authors frustrations, but am i the only one who feels like DIYP has slowly lost its lustre as a good resource for DIY’ers with all these “open letters”.

    Anyway, OP, by posting your “letter” i’m guessing you want to get the word across. If you really want to be effective, start naming names.

  2. JP Danko Avatar
    JP Danko


    1. Tiffany Mueller Avatar
      Tiffany Mueller

      Haha! This is the best advice I’ve gotten so far. :)

      1. JonCoine Avatar

        Yeh, or maybe just show an example…(ie: evidence)… Otherwise it seems like your fictionally complaining about something that happened to a friend of yours…(like most of your articles)

        And please, “years living in a van with 2 cats” …that is your own fault. Learn how to budget responsibly. Cause your portfolio does not show that dedication…

        DIYphoto has become a joke.

        Deleted from my feed now.
        Thanks Tiff(not the good kind)

  3. artstyle329 Avatar

    Tiffany, were the infringed image/s timely registered? I check the US Copyright Office, but didn’t see any registrations filed under your name.