In the beginning of April, Sydney-based photographer Rohan Anderson found himself embroiled in a nasty back-and-forth with the band Red Jumpsuit Apparatus over a photo of his they had used without credit or permission.
Often, when you let someone know they’ve infringed on your copyright, you get an apology and an offer to make things right. This is not what happened to Anderson.
The story begins with Anderson running across one of his images — cropped, lowered in quality and filtered for Instagram — posted without credit on the Red Jumpsuit Apparatus Facebook.
You can see the cropped version above and the original below:
In most circumstances, Anderson explains in a lengthy blog post about the ordeal, most bands who post his photos on social media without first asking credit or thank him and so he will just let it go. But given that the photo had been altered, the watermark cropped out and the quality degraded, he requested via email that the band take the photo down or pay to use it.
He and some of his friends also commented on the image — comments that were quickly deleted — which led to this minor change:
This was not enough in Anderson’s opinion. Adding credit wasn’t what he had requested and he still hadn’t heard back from his previous email. So he tried again and, for good measure, sent a Facebook message to the band as well.
Here’s his message and their less than professional reply:
This was followed by a reply to his email that read:
You have no legal claim as the photo is credited and is not posted for a monetary gain and features our likeness and image not yours. Also you have just got your self banned from any festival or show we ever play again in that region for life! Congrats!
Sent from my iPhone
Anderson was stunned. “Usually I receive an email saying something along the lines of ‘Sorry! We weren’t sure of the original owner, we’ve taken it down for you.’” he writes on his blog. “The fact that they decided to “ban” me from any future shows simply for standing up for my intellectual property absolutely stuns me.”
He wrote the band back pointing out that this wasn’t how copyright for an image worked, asking that the image be removed and they apologize for their unprofessional conduct thus far, and explaining that he would be taking legal action if those things didn’t happen.
He was greeted by this response:
We welcome the “lawyer” and his response. As for the lol it was funny, life is funny. If you want to take it any other way that’s fine with us. As for the “tables turning” remark our music is everywhere illegally and we let it go like all other “professionals” try it out sometime. Most unknown photographers are happy to have world wide known bands use their photos and consider it an honor, you are clearly an example of the opposite.
Don’t send anymore threats or you’ll be hearing from our Lawyer!
Have a nice day
Sent from my iPhone
The back and forth — which you can read in detail on Anderson’s blog — continued in this manner. The image was eventually removed, but at that point Anderson felt he was well within his rights to demand an apology and payment, to which he received a threat of legal action.
The band also got in touch with the editor of the publication he had photographed their show for and presented a less-than-accurate version of events to try and get Anderson in some sort of trouble. This was cleared up fairly quickly when Anderson sent the editor their entire e-mail conversation and the company instead blacklisted the band:
As I suspected, you have been entirely professional against a barrage of unprofessional and juvenile behaviour from the band… rest assured that the band is now blacklisted from (removed). It’s a shame that they’ve acted in this manner. (Removed) supports you 100% on this.
This is where the story stopped until yesterday when his blog post exploded on r/photography garnering well over 1,000 upvotes and attracting a lot of attention. Last night, we got in touch with Anderson for permission to share this story and his photographs/screenshots and emailed the band for comment before turning in.
We received no reply from the band, but it seems they did find out about Anderson’s post because they linked to it (yet another classy move) in the following tweet. The tweet has since been deleted:
Surprisingly, a few hours after this tweet went up, the band apologized and agreed to pay Anderson. We have no way of knowing, but based on some of the replies on their Twitter and the timing of it all, we would guess that their tweet that was meant to shame Anderson for protecting his copyright backfired at least in part.
Responses along the lines of “he should know that Instagram is going to crop his photo and should watermark appropriately #rohanisatool” did come in, but the band’s apologetic tweet — complete with a #sorryrohan tag — and agreement to pay seems to indicate that either the response wasn’t positive, or a PR manager finally got involved.
If you’d like to read the entire story from Rohan’s perspective and get more details (he has reproduced the email convo in its entirety) you can head over to his blog by clicking here.
As he himself said in an update to the post early this morning, “I think this is a big win for not only me, but all photographers around the world.” It’s nice to see the little guy win a copyright bout… especially one that started as nasty as this one did.
We are still waiting on comment from the band, and will update this post if and when we hear from them.
Update on 4/21/14 at 3:41PST: The band has responded, and argues that “all forms of digital art should be free.”
Image credits: Photograph and screenshots by Rohan Anderson and used with permission