… to try to swindle a well-meaning photographer out of reasonable remuneration. Think you won’t be sued for donating your time, equipment and expertise? Wrong answer when attorneys get into the mix and so-called friends try to scam you! Oh yeah, there’s money here, but nothing for us.
We try to be really careful with contracts and are sensitive to other artists’ copyrights, because of course we don’t want our own work to be scraped off the internet or used without permission and a fee paid. Everybody knows that photography has been one of the hardest hit of artistic professions, but we are loathe to believe that the honorable profession of photographer is so maligned, so poorly though of that we do not rate even the lowest common denominator of respect for the decades of skill and experience that we bring to bear in the service of our clients.
We’ve been shocked recently to discover that another artist, a painter and a formerly friendly acquaintance of many decades, is using threat of infringement lawsuit to force us to give up our copyright, our brand, our editorial privilege and the right to be paid for value received in the normal manner of providing services which are part technical, part intuitive, part art, part inspiration.
You won’t find us publishing any names here – we’re being threatened with a $150,000+ law suit, and all we did was give about 100 hours of free photo and video capture to an artist who
talked blue sky about possible eventual funding for a public television type short movie.
We, and our art, are being hit in the face just as hard as if police took batons to our bodies.
What we now see as a misguided effort to create a niche for one artist client was a big mistake of working with just verbal agreement and no contract – even though no money was to change hands. The artist needed a library of good imagery for PR about a special group of paintings – but, surprise, surprise he had no money to pay for top quality photo and video work, or any work for that matter. Yes, we heard lots of blue sky about future funding and agents who would eventually pay for the edit and use of the original capture.
How more wrong could we have been!
The moral for any provider of significant photo and video service is to put something in writing about the agreement – money changing hands or no. And get a signature – we actually did present several documents, but were never able to get one signed by the other party.,/h2>
We had good reason to be interested in helping on this project. It is very rare that any art project can be seen all the way from inspiration and commission to finished installation over a period of years. We could easily see the artist’s point that this capture would be unique and of inestimable value to him. We have always seen the photographer’s mission is to tell someone else’s story, not our own. This is far from the movie magazine scenario of trying to catch people in an unattractive light. When you do a great job, the client says you did a great job exactly according to what he wanted, you get good comments all around – how could this possibly be actionable?
When people get things for free, suddenly it seems they have a short memory.
Here are some excerpts from the newly engaged attorney’s threatening letters, which claim that by posting a PR animation on this artist’s behalf and at his request we are infringing on his copyright and his now supposedly copyrighted face:
“…it is within Mr. xxx legal rights to seek not only damages, but permanent injunction…”
“Removing the web blog … does not rectify the situation or absolve you from liability.”
“…there are serious consequences, such as an award for statutory damages up to $150,000 plus attorney’s fees and costs, for willful copyright infringement.”
So what’s the demand by the artist and his attorney to call off the dogs? Follow the money! Having gotten all the capture for free, the artist wants to possess all the imagery and footage we did for free!!! After he promised funding for the edited assets. In real guy terms the street value of what we’ve done for him to this point is (WAS) worth easily $100K. This attorney is bludgeoning aside the much longer existing repute and brand of our admittedly more prominent and longer existing art, and in the process she is corrupting the literal meaning as well as the intent of copyright law and 1st amendment editorial rights of the photographer.
Fortunately there may be a silver lining. A very experienced attorney who is also an accomplished photographer has stepped up to offer her services gratis to thwart this greedy man’s meritless abuse. If she permits, we’ll tell you how it all comes out.
In the meantime: do not work for free, but if you do decide to contribute your work, get a contract!