The snowboard industry has just as many hard-nosed, penny-pinching snakes as any money-hungry industry, but when this is combined with the laid-back nature and characters of the sport, you come across some pretty interesting business dealings.
I recently came across the difficulties faced by a Canadian snowboard photographer, Chris Messervey. As you will see from his blog entry, he emailed a shot of Dustin Craven to him as a preview for his sponsors, which wound up being used on the Grenade Gloves website without Chris’ authorisation. Chris was annoyed as Grenade are a huge international corporation and should have known better – basically they should have come to some agreement with him first before using his shot. The emails go back and forth between Chris and Grenade with a heap of angry language and without any resolution. Chris has received a fair bit of internet press about this incident, and there seems to even be a bit of a backlash against Grenade.
All this reminded me of some equally angry correspondence I had with a snowboard retailer (I’ll call them “Boardstore”) at the start of the year. I was annoyed to find two of my photos used on their shop’s Facebook page without my authorisation. Yes, I know it is only Facebook, but in this day and age Facebook has become a legitimate promotional tool to promote an enterprise, just like an advertisement on radio, TV or in print. I don’t mind riders using some of my photos (preferably last season ones, because current ones may jeapardise their “exclusivity”, and hence likelihood to be published by magazine editors) for personal things like in their own Facebook photo galleries, or to show as previews to their sponsors. But as soon as someone uses a photo of mine for a business, even if it is a friend of mine starting up a small company, I want to be paid…and paid preferably in money, not product.
So for all those who misunderstand the law of photography, here is a summary: As soon as I press the shutter on my camera, I create an image, and “own” copyright in that said image (up until 70 years after my death). Copyright reserves all my rights to the usage of this image, and in effect, anyone who uses, reproduces, publishes, or prints any image of mine without my authorisation has broken the law under The Copyright Act 1968 (Cth), as well as the international treaties that back up this law overseas. I may “licence” you use the photo for free (as mentioned above with my snowboarder mates), however I deserve to be justly rewarded for the use of my photo otherwise. It is my business, and how I make money. Using a photo for free without authorisation is pretty similar to stealing a snowboard from a factory (minus the physical trespass): I created the photo, I own it, and using it for free is depriving me of my rightful payment for it. (For a more in-depth investigation of Australian photographer’s rights, click here and here)
And as for the snowboarders I take photos of, they agree, either implicity or expressly, to authorise the use their image in my photos for “commercial” means, ie for magazines, advertisements or websites. They are not paid for this, but they do so to increase their exposure, their personal “brand”, as well as their sponsor’s logos – that is the reward they get, hoping that their sponsors will in turn pay them in cash (and not just product) for helping to create this exposure with the photographer.
Take a look at the correspondence below with “Boardstore”. I could have probably been a little more explanatory and nice in my first email where I requested the photos be taken down…however I didn’t expect the backlash I received. But in the end, we sorted out our differences, and came to what seems to be an amicable end:
Sean ‘Radman’ Radich 03 January at 20:15
I happened to see that you have 2 of my photos on your Facebook team photo page. Can you please take them down?
The shots are:
“XX” Snowpark step up, and
“XY” Tahoe front board.
Cheers, that’d be great thanks.
“Boardstore” 03 January at 22:08
For starters mate you gave us permission to use the “XX” shot about 4 years ago in a mag ad plus we got the shots from the riders to use so take it up with them. How about you actually talk to us about it first instead of throwing orders about – are you for real mate get your head out of your ass we could have actually worked together where we would of supported your work & actually worked a deal out with you – so unproffesional radman … We will take the shots down gladly – you’ve come across like a dick now … Good way to do business .
Sean ‘Radman’ Radich 04 January at 11:43
Sorry, i thought it was a reasonable request? I’m a bit surprised by your reply.
You are right – taking it up with riders is where the problem lies, and it is hard to get a proper and professional outcome between photographer and a company when dealing with a middle man (ie the riders).
Re “XX”’s photo- he made representations to me that there would be payment/compensation for the use of that photo, possibly in the form of gear and/or money. That may have not been your understanding of how permission to use the photo was to be, but it was mine. And as much as you talk about ‘supporting my work and working out a deal’, I never heard any more about it those years ago and chalked it up as lost opportunity for reward. So there didn’t seem to be much intention to work out a deal previously, and so when you say you’re not going to support my work or work out a deal now, I don’t really feel like I’m losing much.
And nevertheless, even if permission to use the photo in an ad was given, that doesn’t give further permission to publish or reproduce the photo – this time on Facebook. If a photo is purchased ‘rights free’ for 12 months, then for that 12 months a company can use it as many times as they like. But any such arrangement is naturally more costly than a ‘single-use’ photo purchase.
Re “XY”’s photo – yes, I would have given him a copy of that shot for his personal files and use, to show to sponsors etc. It was a couple of years ago now too, but I’m sure I would have told him to check with me first before anyone is to use it.
It’s a difficult situation we are in, as riders want to show the fruits of their labour to the ones that hook them up, but in the digital age it is all too easy for those shots to then get passed down the line and published, reproduced or used without the photog’s permission. I can imagine lots of companies think they do have permission to use the shot, via the rider, but really, they should know better; professional photographers deserve reward for their work.
How would you feel if I came unannounced into your shop, took a snowboard from the shelf and walked out the door without paying? That’s how I feel about my photos getting used without my permission, and really the dollar value of a snowboard cost for shop vs a photo ‘single-use’ payment is about the same.
Ultimately a couple of photos on a team page on Facebook is not a huge deal, but honestly, I’m sick of seeing photogs get ripped off in the Oz Snowboard industry, so I’m starting to take a harder-line and not letting anyone, even friends, publish my shots without some sort of deal upfront. I hope you can understand my point of view on this?
I’m more than happy to discuss any of these issues with you further if you would like. And thank you for taking the two shots down.
Boardstore 04 January at 12:49
Mate you’ve never been into Boardstore once if you have you’ve never introduced yourself so how are we supposed to work out a deal , you’ve never even written to us or made any effort in contacting us to make a deal . Its a massive difference in just walking into a store and stealing a board that’s called theft eh, we asked the riders for photos we could use they gave them to us therefore we used them its as simple as that – again you need to have a better relationship with who you shoot.
The photos will be down by this afternoon and I will be telling our whole team not to shoot with you again. It works both ways, do you pay the rider you are shooting ? They are the ones putting themselves at risk so you can get the shot which makes you & only you get paid – kinda selfish eh.. You should be paying them not just giving them a copy of the shot, what good is that if they cant use it. We pay our riders to do the job they are doing you don’t pay them anything until you do you cant tell them what & what not to do with their images that copy of the shot is their income .. In the end without them your doing wedding photos.
Sean ‘Radman’ Radich 04 January at 14:59
Yeah, I’ve never actually been to Boardstore, but have always wanted to check out what your shop is like as I’ve heard good things about it. And I’m glad to hear that you also pay your team riders.
Look, the “XX” photo was water under the bridge – I had written off the loss of reward a couple of years ago, but really it probably would have been best if I chased it up in some manner back when it happened.
And as I said- a couple of photos up on FB is not a huge deal in the scheme of things, but I still don’t want them used without my authorisation. Other photographers might be happy to have their photos all over the web, but I don’t. It came to my attention, and we dealt with it. I’m just trying to protect my interests, and the product of my labour.
And I do agree – theft is theft…and there’s a little thing called Copyright Law and the Copyright Act 1968 which gives photographers complete control and ownership of when and how their photos are reproduced, copied or used from as soon as they have pressed the shutter on their camera. I give my photos to riders as a personal favour only for their portfolios.
I’ve worked with many of your team riders over the years, and had a good shooting relationship with them. You can tell them whatever you like, hopefully they can make their own minds up about who they need to be working with in the media in order to help promote your shop and themselves. I guess there are lots of wedding photographers who have had snowboard photos and articles published internationally for them to choose from…
Boardstore 04 January at 15:23
No probs lets just leave it at that then, I wont tell my riders anything, you just need to follow up on the deals you make . We were under the impression that “XX” gave you a board & bindings plus some cash as weve never met you or had any contact details for you ever. Weve done deals with alot of photographers before with never any problems.
Put it down to miscommunication then.
Sean ‘Radman’ Radich 04 January at 15:35
Yep – no worries.
So my advice for all other up-and-coming photographers:
- Stick with your friends. When you find some people you like working with, and that you can trust, try and work with them as much as you can. It just makes life easier, and the work more enjoyable.
- Don’t ever give a photo away for free to a company or business. Not only do you cheapen your work by giving it away for free, businesses will begin to expect to get things for free and baulk at paying for photos from other experienced and professional photogs.
- Stick to your guns on price/payment. Always have a bottom line that will keep you happy – that may be just a pair of gloves, or a snowboard jacket, or it may be $50…or $43,000. Whatever. The times when I have agreed to a sale of a photo for a price below what I really wanted (just to see the photo blown up big, or to help a rider out) I have always regretted it later. Now I prefer a photo not to get used if I am not happy with the price I have in my mind. It sucks for the rider that put so much effort into getting the shot…and it sucks for me too. But sticking to my guns has made me feel better about it in the long run, and has let me get paid what I want most of the time too.
- Always get something in writing regarding the use, and hopefully payment, of your photo. In the past I hadn’t done this enough, naively relying on goodwill and trust, and have been burned too many times as a result. So at a minimum, send the company rep an email confirming the agreement to use the photo, include the agreed payment, and explain their “rights” to use the photo under the licence you have given them. If you can, try and get some sort of contract, but this almost never seems to happen in snowboarding.
- Inform the riders of your rights. Make sure all the riders (and company reps, team managers and marketing managers) you send previews of your photos are aware they are not to be published commercially, and not to be put up on Facebook etc if you are hoping to get those brand new shots published by a magazine in the future.
- Include some sort of watermark and/or copyright into the photo “preview”…and only email low res versions that can’t be blown up big for a poster, until you have come to an agreement.
- And finally, beware the perils of iPhones and Blackberries…and trying to combine work with late-night drinking sessions:
||Saturday, 28 November 2009 2:34:10 AM
Well hello hello hello… how are you? And more to the point where are you in the world?
We are finalising the 2010 brochure with the last round of changes and after only two days off going to print you have seen the Olympic DPS which aims to highlight those athlese that call “YY” home and this will be a great spread.
THE afore mentioned offer os abot athletes and more so, the single image which align to current market trends and stainless good brands.
If you can’t even see the tiny phone keys enough in the dark to write “Thanks” and your name correctly (which of course, wasn’t “Alex”), you might want to save your work emails for Monday morning…not 2.30am on a Saturday…And what the hell is “stainless good brands”?